A former foreigner who farms here speaks up

August 28th, 2014 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Anders Crofoot writes in the NZ Herald:

When it comes to the foreign ownership of farmland, my family has a unique perspective.

Before my wife, Emily, and I moved our family thousands of miles from upstate New York to the Wairarapa, we did research. A great deal of it. We’d narrowed our choices to English-speaking Canada, Australia and of course, New Zealand. Since moving Downunder, we’ve learned that being a “good bastard” is a compliment. Maybe Winston Churchill was right when he said “Britain and America are two nations divided by a common language”.

While Emily was the farmer, I was an investment analyst. Together, we learned about the country, its political stability, history, economy, agricultural system, climate and the rural property market. Of course, being “foreign investors”, we checked out whether we’d be welcomed or not.

They decided to invest here.

Being in Federated Farmers a few years later, I came across one farmer who made Winston Peters look like a weak-kneed liberal. Proving the debate is seemingly two-thirds heart and one-third brain, I later learned that he’d bought a farm in Australia but he still opposed , albeit slightly sheepishly.

Bit like the former deputy leader of NZ First who used to decry immigrants in his thick English accent!

Deciding on a country is one thing, but it’s quite another to get the ideal farm. We were very fortunate to convince Castlepoint’s board that New York Yankees were fit custodians for their iconic Wairarapa station. That was 1998 and we’ve never looked back.

Kiwis are the most hospitable people with an unerring knack of convincing you to take on more responsibilities. I was one of two non-New Zealand-born farmers on the Federated Farmers board. I’m also on the board of Grow Wellington and, to keep my feet firmly on the ground, I’m Castlepoint’s fire chief. Emily is similarly involved and our children are now working in New Zealand.

Politicians are quick to say that families like us are their “ideal” business migrants. The message is that “people like us” will continue to be welcomed, whichever party wins on September 20. Unfortunately, that nuance is lost if you’re thousands of miles away reading nzherald.co.nz or watching news on-demand.

If we were researching New Zealand today, would we make the big move? Possibly not.

Those parties beating the drums against foreign investment should reflect on that.

The tone around foreign investment has hardened for the worse. To outsiders, politics and cultish popularity now seem big determinants. There’s also a nasty undercurrent which reflects poorly on us as Kiwis. Who this is putting off we’ll never know, but it is off-putting.

Farming is the most international industry we have. It’s this mix of people that makes New Zealand agriculture unique and the success it is. The Green Party opposed Shania Twain’s high-country purchase but look at what British record producer Robert “Mutt” Lange has given back: 53,000ha and a whole landscape permanently protected. The restoration and enhancement of Young Nicks Head may never have taken place had a Kiwi farmer purchased it rather than New York financier John Griffin. We’re even near-neighbours of James Cameron — that’s in a rural sense because we’re over an hour away by car.

Politics must come out of the “foreign investment” debate because it can so easily spiral into the gutter. Rules are important and we Kiwis accept that with sport, why not overseas investment?

And we have rules – that any investment must produce benefits for NZ. But various parties want blankets bans, because it gives them a soundbite for the election.A

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34 Responses to “A former foreigner who farms here speaks up”

  1. Dennis Horne (2,403 comments) says:

    Perhaps the difference is seen not an individual “like us” buying a farm, but China buying New Zealand.

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  2. IGM (421 comments) says:

    It is easy for those with nothing to vent their envy on someone with something, by voting to see their hard work and asset management devalued. It is the left-wing doctrine, don’t work hard and get ahead, just pull those that do down to your own bludging level. This b/s is getting over the top, and those that push it should be treated accordingly . . . ignored!

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  3. insider (1,028 comments) says:

    If he doesn’t have slant eyes and can speak passable English, he can probably pass for one of us so no-one’s going to kick up much of a fuss….

    Similarly no one cared about ownership when the crafars were doing their crappy best to corner large chunks of land around reperoa. We’d rather have crappy farmers with the right passport than some dodgy foreigner no matter how well they do the job.

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  4. EAD (1,128 comments) says:

    There is a big difference though that is alluded to but somewhat glossed over in this article.

    The above examples are ALL individuals or families that have upped sticks to come and farm here. As individuals/families they don’t have any loyalties apart from to themselves. Their investment does not have political implications. If an incident were to occur on the farm, the law would be dealing with an individual rather than coming face to face with the Chinese Government which less face it folks, is going to be the dominant political power for the 21st century.

    What could we do in the future if an event like the below were to happen?

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/africaandindianocean/zambia/8073443/Zambian-miners-shot-by-Chinese-managers.html

    This is where critics of critics of those who oppose the sale of places like Lochinvar fall down. Here the sale is not to an autonomous Chinese individual who wishes to farm here – it is to a Communist controlled government proxy. If you have done business in China, you will understand that even if a business is “privately” owned, there is only 1 degree of separation to a CCP official.

    This is not “wayyyyyyyyycist” as some of the MSM like to brand it, it is good old fashioned common sense – something that is sorely lacking amongst our MSM.

    @ Dennis Horne – snap!!

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  5. Psycho Milt (2,412 comments) says:

    More ‘xenophobia’ framing for this issue, huh? The only people I’ve seen suggesting that individuals shouldn’t be allowed to become permanent residents and own a farm is people like yourself, with this ‘why didn’t you protest about James Cameron’ shite.

    If Mr Crofoot is telling us he has no intention of living here and his role in buying a farm here was as frontman for a totalitarian dictatorship, then yes he’s exactly the kind of person we want to prevent buying land in NZ. But he isn’t telling us that and no-one has a problem with him, so what’s his point?

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  6. BeeJay (72 comments) says:

    Will common sense ever prevail with this issue? Or is the Nostradamus prediction coming true?

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  7. Dennis Horne (2,403 comments) says:

    I don’t view myself as left wing (ACT supporter) but by crikey those surveys that show the right as less intelligent … to be charitable some might call it naivety. Whatever it is, it’s motivated by greed and self-interest.

    We are being recolonised by alien cultures. Take a look at France and England.

    Hope China brings its justice system. A dollar bullet goes a long way… and it’s very quick. No recidivism.

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  8. lolitasbrother (702 comments) says:

    Not the best week to be promoting foreign land buyers Mr Farrar

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  9. Nigel Kearney (1,019 comments) says:

    The public feel strongly about this and it’s unreasonable to expect politicians to ignore the public when they are wrong. Some will but not all.

    I don’t think it is racism either. People genuinely don’t understand where wealth comes from. That includes a number who comment on this blog. If you, even subconsciously, commit the fallacy of thinking there is a fixed amount of wealth being distributed among a variable amount of people, it naturally follows that increasing the number of people will make each individual poorer.

    The answer is for the public to have a better understanding of how the economy works, specifically how foreign investment affects GDP and each person’s share of it. Unfortunately I have no idea how to achieve this.

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  10. david (2,557 comments) says:

    There is a great book written about Castlepoint and its development through its new owners. A stirring story of climatic hardship and the sort of things that would daunt most good kiwi blokes. Yes they are certainly the sort of people who bring more than just a bit of money into New Zealand, they bought commitment, intelligence and a willingness to learn and adapt. Quite pioneering really.

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  11. hj (7,033 comments) says:

    People genuinely don’t understand where wealth comes from
    ….
    It comes from resources +.

    “Creating wealth, security and financial freedom is often an investor’s ultimate goal. 90% of millionaires get there by investing in real-estate”
    New Zealand has strong population growth due to its progressive immigration policy and birth rates. Many parts of the country are experiencing housing shortages translating into strong tenant demand and price growth. This trend is expected to continue with recent population projections by the New Zealand Department of Statistics forecasting up to 64% growth over the next 17 years. Auckland city is predicted to almost double its population in the next 40 years. For property investors, this represents outstanding potential growth in demand and return on investment. New Zealand’s property prices are also relatively undervalued compared to its closest neighbour Australia.

    http://www.nzps.com/

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  12. Dead Earnest (160 comments) says:

    Sadly “immigrant bashing” has be going on since about 1200 AD when several boat loads of immigrants turned up from Hawaiki and ate the Moriori.

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  13. lolitasbrother (702 comments) says:

    Yes thats right Nigel,
    Nigel Kearney above at August 28th, 2014 at 7:53 am
    Why don’t we sell the highways and byways, and rail roads to China, everybody happier.
    pay your rent rent here Nigel
    lose election

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  14. Dennis Horne (2,403 comments) says:

    Went to hear Judith Collins at Drury Tuesday night. Roads jammed all the way. Bring in more fucking foreigners. One thing our children need is less space and unaffordable houses.

    Nigel Kearney. Yeah, yeah, research, theory, models. Increasing the GDP with more people does not improve the average Kiwi’s lot. Two groups benefit. People who own several houses and politicians wanting to “water down” the massive debt. (I normally agree with and value much that you write.)

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  15. Nigel Kearney (1,019 comments) says:
    People genuinely don’t understand where wealth comes from

    ….
    It comes from resources

    I rest my case. Try spending half as much time reading and thinking as you do copying and pasting.

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  16. hj (7,033 comments) says:

    Xenophobes aren’t necessarily wrong; people are competition to other people. NZ is a developed country. Those arguing for foreign ownership and more immigration are scraping the bottom of the barrel with their arguments by emphasising access to markets or skills.

    The big mouthed Crowsfoot is correct that it is a good thing for a farmer to come from a foreign land (like the Dutchman down Somerville Rd nr Rakaia), but you also have to think of the Kiwi who wants to get on a farm.

    The biggest issue is that the world isn’t a level playing field as far a people to resources ratio.

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  17. NK (1,244 comments) says:

    And we have rules – that any investment must produce benefits for NZ. But various parties want blankets bans, because it gives them a soundbite for the election.

    And that includes the Conservatives. I was at a public meeting with Greypower last week where Colin Craig said how wrong it was for the wine industry to be 70% owned overseas. When it came my turn to speak, I called that “obscene”. I told the audience that the wine industry earns billions of dollars of export earnings per year – money which goes to their hip operations and superannuation. And Colin Craig said that was wrong.

    I actually got a lot of applause for my strong stance. But he got more.

    It made me sick to the stomach hearing him say that – and to think he’s at somewhere between 2.5 & 3.5 % and Act is at 1%. I just struggle to comprehend that.

    Footnote: I am discounting the TV3 poll because I don’t regard it as accurate. It’s margin of error is over 3%.

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  18. hj (7,033 comments) says:

    http://publicaddress.net/hardnews/the-ides-of-epsom/

    What I’m arguing is that the people of Epsom have bought into certain property rights and the character of their community …

    See the way that a community property right is being argued here.
    I would argue (if Professor Spoonley* and National Realestate would let me) that as a member of the Nation we have a property right to NZ as it was (unless we consent to change it).

    *Spoonley argues that a nation state is essentially racist (set Agatha Clark on the way to fixing it).

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  19. lolitasbrother (702 comments) says:

    Land ownership

    In the last couple of years it has become believed that the Chinese leadership would like to build a fast railway from Yunnan [ South West China ] down to Malaysia and Singapore.
    This would give them control over Asia, by cutting it in half. Check the map

    A few tiny little problems,
    1. It is possible to say that China wanted control over the wide railway track land,
    2. at least until Laos and Thailand had paid for it.
    3. Its only about 3 trillion baht [ just $US 100 billion ] but hey who was counting except Shinawatra
    4. Yes that’s only thousands of dollars for each villager in Thailand.
    5. China wants to send several million people on a one way road to domination.

    good morning Vietnam

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  20. NK (1,244 comments) says:

    @hj – you’ve completely missed the point. Epsom people have their *own* property rights, for their own property. That includes selling it to whom they choose, and for the price they want. Your *collective* property right doesn’t recognise that and therefore is illegitimate. If you want a collective property right, then China is for you. They have one: Communism. That’s what Colin Craig, and Winston Peters, are arguing for.

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  21. jackinabox (776 comments) says:

    “This is where critics of critics of those who oppose the sale of places like Lochinvar fall down. Here the sale is not to an autonomous Chinese individual who wishes to farm here – it is to a Communist controlled government proxy.”

    Remember that when the CCP buys its way into a “gullible” NZ political party. Oops too late!

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  22. NK (1,244 comments) says:

    Are the Reds under your bed, jack? They’re not under mine.

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  23. Gulag1917 (930 comments) says:

    China had a plan to send 10 million Chinese to Australia, NZ will no doubt be on their radar also. Spying and criminal activity make up a quite proportion of their international activity.

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  24. NK (1,244 comments) says:

    They’re no worse than Americans, Gulag. That’s what they do, but in their own country too. We can’t build a fence around New Zealand. Are the Reds under your bed too?

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  25. insider (1,028 comments) says:

    Yes that’s right jack it’s not because they are foreign it’s because they are commie foreign. But if you are a fascist foreign Russian oligarch with a taste for super yachts, that’s no problem, or a scion of the military industrial complex of the USA with a taste for fine art, well that’s okay too, and Islamic absolute rulers are dandy. Just don’t have slanted eyes.

    and of course no one gets all emotional about a tower block in a city, or a factory unit on an industrial estate, even though that is arguably far more productive than any paddock. And they are much more my urban birthright than some piece of gorse clad hillside or over fertilised pasture,.

    hey gulag, you mean a bit like the British? Can’t have people wanting to emulate them

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  26. hj (7,033 comments) says:

    NK (1,117 comments) says:
    I’m arguing what the Act candidate said in regard to development in Epsom. He refers to a community property right to Epsom’s character.

    “There followed a series of awkward exchanges in which Act’s David Seymour worked through a series of mostly irrelevant answers he’d prepared earlier, but if anything indicated how local and parochial his campaign is really going to be it was his unprompted offering, around the 10 minute mark, that “the people of Epsom” …

    … do not want to have their neighbourhoods intensified with eight-storey towers next to their homes and the kind of rates corruption that they get from Len Brown …

    The Greens’ Julie Anne Genter interjected to point out that Act was the party of oppositon to regulation and Seymour responded:

    What I’m arguing is that the people of Epsom have bought into certain property rights *and* the character of their community …

    So, if you were unclear, Act regards the Resource Management Act as a blight on freedom, property rights and productivity and would happily lay waste to the RMA and all regulations of its ilk – except where they protect the interests of wealthy people who may vote Act.”

    http://publicaddress.net/hardnews/the-ides-of-epsom/

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  27. hj (7,033 comments) says:

    Dead Earnest (137 comments) says:
    August 28th, 2014 at 8:03 am

    Sadly “immigrant bashing” has be going on since about 1200 AD when several boat loads of immigrants turned up from Hawaiki and ate the Moriori.

    You need to brush up there Dead Earnest.
    Anyway, NZ is developed and GDP per capita isn’t increasing with immigration (quality of life is going out the back door for the majority).

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  28. NK (1,244 comments) says:

    @hj, I’m very familiar with what David Seymour said because I was at the meeting and I fully agree with him. The RMA doesn’t respect or protect property rights at all – that’s where Public Address is completely wrong.

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  29. Liberty (267 comments) says:

    Labour, Greens and NZF have selective morals when it comes to immigration.
    It is very apparent they would be more than happy to turn NZ into the Red-neck capital
    of the south pacific.

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  30. hj (7,033 comments) says:

    Liberty (250 comments) says:
    turn NZ into the Red-neck capital of the south pacific.
    ….
    Hobbiton?

    “Liberty they cry, when they mean licence .”
    John Milton.

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  31. Liberty (267 comments) says:

    ““Liberty they cry, when they mean licence .”
    John Milton.”

    Harcourts set up an office in china . So what’s the problem?
    No difference to The NZ Company Having an office in London
    selling sections in Wellington in the 1837

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  32. Alan Wilkinson (1,878 comments) says:

    I’m sure there are at least as many intelligent hardworking Chinese as there are stupid and indolent New Zealanders. Could we do a swap please? Oh, and I don’t care who owns the land. Some of the wealthiest states are tiny with little physical resources but plenty of brains. We have plenty of resources but not enough brains.

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  33. Gulag1917 (930 comments) says:

    The World Trade Organisation has a mass of regulations and demands for uniformity. One of these is ‘compulsory competition‘. The WTO demands with NZ government agencies assistance that there cannot be a monopoly in an industry, a monopoly could often provide better service is some circumstances. International free trade and business competition is a fraud. NZ is being dictated to.

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  34. jackinabox (776 comments) says:

    “Yes that’s right jack it’s not because they are foreign it’s because they are commie foreign.”

    What they did in Tiananmen Square will forever remind me not to trust the rotten bastards.

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  35. Australis (101 comments) says:

    Nobody has ever explained to me why the home address of the beneficial owner of land has any relevance, even to neighbours, let alone people who reside hundreds of kilometers away.

    Complainers say they are not concerned with an owner’s ethnicity or nationality or place of birth. Their sole concern is current domicile. Past or future domicile in New Zealand is irrelevant.

    Does domicile determine a landowner’s character? Or her decisions affecting land use? Or what?

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