So suddenly we’re all against selling off farms to foreigners. Well, it’s not really just foreigners, is it. Let’s be honest – we’re worried about the Chinese buying our farms. They’re not like us. There you go, I said it. Clearly many are thinking it. Cue Opposition politicians lining up to scratch our collective itch. Nationalism? Racism? Xenophobia? All of the above? The reality is we’ve been hocking off our farms to overseas buyers for years and no-one seemed too fussed. Australians, Germans, Russians, the Swiss and the Americans – no worries.
You expect it from NZ First, but not from Labour.
The debate has flared up over Lochinver Station, near Taupo. A reputable Chinese company wants to buy it for $70 million. They bought Crafar Farms and, from all reports, have improved it. They promise to upgrade Lochinver and keep the 20 Kiwi staff on. The sellers, the Stevenson family, want to take the money and reinvest it in their other business interests, such as quarries, and create about 8000 jobs over time. Surely we support that – don’t we? Labour has effectively pledged to stop the sale if it gets into government. Let’s pause and consider the hypocrisy: Labour’s position is a massive change of heart. And Winston Peters, who was in government too from 2005-2008 must have been asleep at the wheel. Labour allowed Poronui Station to be sold in 2007 – that’s the farm next door to Lochinver Station. Labour Cabinet minister David Parker even asked a question of himself in Parliament about that sale – trumpeting the benefits of foreign investment.
They are such hypocrites.
In the last term of the Labour-NZ First government, an average of 762 square kilometres of land was sold every year. The amount sold in the past five years under National has been about 390sq km a year. The Campaign Against Foreign Control of Aotearoa estimates about 8 per cent of our best farmland is in foreign hands. Should we have banned film director James Cameron from buying his farms in the Wairarapa? He’s about to make Avatar 2, 3 and 4 in New Zealand and that will create hundreds, if not thousands, of jobs. Should he have been told to bugger off? Labour leader David Cunliffe is even suggesting that Australians be banned from owning big farms here too. He’s taking ‘‘advice’’ over it – which is code for he’s making up policy on the hoof.
What’s new. And for outright racism, here’s Winston:
“As they say in Beijing, two Wongs don’t make a right.”
Winston defends the joke on the basis he heard it Beijing. But jokes are all about context. When you make the joke in the context of spreading fear and phobia about Chinese, then it is not funny, but nasty.
Jamie Whyte points out:
David Cunliffe’s suggestion that Australians be banned from owning big farms invites retaliation from Australia. 500,000 Kiwis currently live in Australia and many own land there or would like to.
Last year, Cunliffe told Australian government ministers and business leaders to give Kiwis “a fair go.”
Cunliffe said it is unfair that New Zealanders in Australia are treated differently from Australians in Australia. Yet he seeks to be Prime Minister on a promise to treat Australians differently from New Zealanders.
The inevitable retaliation would have a delicious irony, with Russell Norman’s support for the policy losing him his right to buy land in his home country. But that joy will be far outweighed by the terrible losses to New Zealanders.
The freedom to move back and forth across the Tasman, and to buy and sell property in both countries, is a great advantage to New Zealanders. The government should guard it jealousy. It should not be put at risk for the cheap political purposes of a desperate politician.
Land sales are regulated. Anything over a certain size must meet a national interest test. You can debate whether the test should be altered, but those parties advocating an outright ban are trying to reintroduce Fortress New Zealand from the 1970s.