A majority of voters approve of farm sales to foreigners only
when it brings a significant advantage over a New Zealand
buyer such as jobs, according to the latest Herald-DigiPoll
Nearly a third believe farm sales should be banned altogether
and 13 per cent believe there should be no restrictions. The
survey was taken between August 14 and 20.
The question was asked in light of the controversy over the
proposed sale of the 13,800ha Lochinver Station near Taupo to
Shanghai Pengxin, the company that bought the Crafar Farms in
a joint venture with Landcorp.
The application for Lochinver is before the Overseas
Investment Office which will deliver a recommendation to the
Government. Labour has promised to block the sale unless it
is approved before the September 20 election.
Labour finance spokesman David Parker said Labour's position
sat somewhere between answers one and two in the DigiPoll
It would stop land sales over 5ha except in very rare
circumstances. Land sales to foreigners did not increase
output, he said.
He was not persuaded by the argument that some sales could
release capital to be reinvested by the New Zealand owner to
create new jobs - which is the argument the Lochinver Station
owners are making.
"That from our point of view is not a very strong argument,"
Mr Parker said. " The key to having deeper pool of capital in
New Zealand isn't selling our land. It's actually saving more
through a universal work-based savings scheme."
He said the criteria for farm sales was tightened after the
Crafar Farms sale but it had been negated by the Government
directing the Overseas Investment Office to favourably
consider farms up to 10 times the size of the average farm.
Finance Minister Bill English suggested the first answer
reflected Government policy and the poll confirmed the
Government has its policy settings about right.
"The Government has struck a balance between ensuring New
Zealand is open for business with the rest of the world to
support jobs and higher incomes, and also tightening the
rules for overseas investment in sensitive land compared to
those introduced by the previous Labour Government with the
support of New Zealand First."
He said the rules were further tightened by the courts during
the Crafar Farms sale process, when they demanded an even
higher threshold for overseas buyers.
"So overseas buyers must now show they will bring substantial
and identifiable benefits to New Zealand over and above what
New Zealand buyers would bring. This is a high hurdle and
under the National-led Government, the amount of rural land
approved for sale to overseas investors each year is
averaging less than half of what it was under the previous
Conservative Party leader Colin Craig, who opposes the sale,
broke the story of the application to buy Lochinver.
He told the Hot Seat interviews for the Herald website the
answer could be to break up the station or lease it.
"There is absolutely no problem with taking a creative view."
It already had residences scattered all around it .
"It is not a far-fetched proposal whatsoever to suggest maybe
create farms with one residence on each."
Act leader Jamie Whyte opposes the restriction on farm sales
to foreigners and said sales created a net gain for New
"Foreign investment is resources that have been created
overseas being directed into New Zealand. Why on earth would
you want to stop that?
"There is actually a net gain because the land owner would
only sell to the foreigner if it was a higher price than
could be obtained from anybody in New Zealand."
He said if the argument was that foreigners should be
restricted to allow young New Zealand farmers to buy, what
that was effectively doing was forcing the current owner of
the farm to take a loss to subsidise a young farmer into it.
New Zealand First leader Winston Peters could not be reached.
- by Audrey Young