“Avoiding being tenants in our own land is an extremely valid goal which, if not satisfied, would take New Zealand completely away from the sort of place people were seeking when they started flocking here in the 19th century.”
The debate about the sale of the Crafar farms sidestepped the fact that during the past five years, the Overseas Investment Office had approved proposals for the sale of 1.1 million hectares of land, of which 117 hectares was approved for China buyers and 939 hectares for buyers from Hong Kong.
Mr Alexander said the question which needed answering was how to best make money out of the land sales New Zealand was already making.
Should land sales lead to the greatest opportunities for extra sales of high value-added products, extra processing in New Zealand and extra capital for additional expansion?
We have Chinese bus drivers plying the tourist trade now:
Chinese farmers could come to New Zealand to learn dairying at Crafar Farms if the controversial $200 million sale of Crafar’s 16 North Island farms to Shanghai Pengxin proceeds, Landcorp chief executive Chris Kelly says.
“having said all that, why am I still uneasy about this sale? Because ownership matters. The owner is boss, keeps the profits, controls the asset. One sale on its own isn’t the end of the world, but added together we’ve sold 170,000ha of farm land in the six years from July 2005 to May 2011, according to this very good piece in Farmers Weekly.
That rises to two percent of our farmland in the past decade, according to RNZ.
If we keep that up over the next century, that’s 20 percent gone.
As John Key famously said, “Looking four, five, 10 years into the future, I’d hate to see New Zealanders as tenants in their own country, and that is a risk, I think, if we sell out our entire productive base, so that’s something the Government will have to consider.”
So what’s been considered? Nothing as far as we know. And we don’t know much. We don’t even know how much farmland is in foreign hands already; records weren’t kept before 2002 and no-one’s made the effort to do an historical inventory. How about it Maurice Williamson? Perhaps its worth someone at Land Information spending a few weeks on that task? Or is it a job for the OIO?
And then we can get on with the proper debate, in which we ask ‘what about the long-term, what’s in our national interests generations hence? Where do we draw the line? And what laws should we pass to ensure we remain owners rather than tenants?
Is increased access to Asia in our interests if we don’t control the profits? Is this the right kind of joint venture? And more fundamentally, who are we as New Zealanders if not owners of these few islands?
Politicians need to be answering those questions if they want to earn respect on this issue.”
Who created the boxes to tick? The Government of the day.
How about a box which says that only those who have been holders of NZpassports for 10 years or more, can purchase land greater than 10 hectares?
How about a box that allows non-NZers to lease land and develop it in the National interest?
How about a box that recognises the pathway for keen young people to labour on dairy farms, share milk then one day own their own farm at affordable prices?