Final Crafar hurdle defeated

October 18th, 2012 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Chinese company Shanghai Pengxin’s bid to buy the Crafar dairy farms passed its final legal hurdle today after an attempt to block the deal in the Supreme Court was dismissed.

King Country iwi Ngati Rereahu last month initiated a Supreme Court challenge against the approval for the purchase of the sixteen farms granted by the Overseas Investment Office, associate Finance Minister Jonathan Coleman and Land Information Minister Maurice Williamson.

However the court refused to hear the case saying the claim relied on an examination of the Overseas Investment Act’s provisions around the buyers’ required business acumen and experience.

The ministers’ decision to approve the deal the involved “matters of fact and degree rather than the true meaning of the statute” the judges who considered the application said in their decision.

In other words, you can’t appeal just because you didn’t like the decision as you were trying to pick the farms  up cheap.

I hope the partnership between Landcorp and Shanghai Pengxin leads to more opportunities for Landcorp to expand.

I’m also glad it has sent a signal out that investment decisions will be based on the law and the national interest test in the law – not on xenophobic scaremongering.

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Dom Post on Crafar

April 21st, 2012 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Dom Post editorial:

No application by a foreign investor looking to buy New Zealand land has attracted more attention than Chinese company Shanghai Pengxin’s bid for the Crafar farms.

It is hard to escape the conclusion that opposition to the deal, approved yesterday, is mostly driven by the nationality of the purchaser.

Of course it is. Not all of it, but much of it.

When Canadian film director James Cameron purchased more than 1000ha of Wairarapa land, including a 250ha dairy farm, the news was generally welcomed, even though the residency requirements he must meet mean he has to live in New Zealand for only 44 days in each of the final two years of a three-year investment period. The sale of the Crafar farms, on the other hand, has met howls of protest, despite Shanghai Pengxin having to satisfy 27 stringent requirements.

These include establishing a farm school on one of the properties, to be run by state-owned enterprise Landcorp, which will also manage the farms, and providing $5000 university scholarships to two students. It must also provide public walking access across two of the farms, protect Maori archaeological sites and undertake significant conservation requirements.

The company has also, apparently on its own initiative, undertaken to spend at least $100 million over five years promoting New Zealand dairy products in China and elsewhere in Asia, a key developing market. The increased trade that could flow from that will benefit all New Zealand dairy farmers and, with it, the wider economy.

As I have said for some time, I see this sale as having huge opportunities for New Zealand.

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Another Hikoi

April 21st, 2012 at 9:52 am by David Farrar

Andrea Fox at Stuff reports:

Maori are promising the “biggest hikoi New Zealand has ever seen” following the Government’s second green light for a sale of the 8000-hectare Crafar dairy farming estate to Chinese company Shanghai Pengxin.

I do wish the term “Maori” would not be used when talking about presumably one person or Iwi.

Meanwhile, central North Island iwi who are part of Sir Michael Fay’s court action against the sale have confirmed they are talking to Pengxin in the hope of buying three of the 16 farms from the company.

As one can see, there is far from a common view.

Nigel Baker – who represents a group within the Taupo region’s Ngati Tuwharetoa iwi, which is part of Fay’s group and has met Pengxin twice seeking to buy the 1700-hectare Tauhara Crafar farm – considered ancestral land, said there would be a “very strong” Maori backlash against the latest land sale to foreigners.

But details of the protest action, which would be against the wider sovereignty issue of the sale of land to foreigners, were still secret, he said.

“This is an issue for all New Zealanders. It will be the biggest hikoi this country has ever seen.”

What a wonderful idea. A hikoi to allow Sir Michael Fay to buy up farms on the cheap.

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Crafar sale approved

April 20th, 2012 at 11:43 am by David Farrar

Maurice Williamson and Jonathan Coleman have announced:

Land Information Minister Maurice Williamson and Associate Finance Minister Jonathan Coleman have approved the new recommendation of the Overseas Investment Office (OIO) to grant consent to Milk New Zealand Holding Limited to acquire the 16 Crafar farms.

“New Zealand has a transparent set of laws and regulations around overseas investment,” Mr Williamson says.

“Those rules recognise the benefits that appropriate overseas investment can bring, while providing a range of safeguards to protect New Zealanders’ interests. They are applied evenly to all applications, regardless of where they are from.

“We have sought to apply the law in accordance with the provisions of the Overseas Investment Act and the guidance of the High Court.

“We have carefully considered the OIO’s new recommendation. The OIO sought advice from Crown Law and independent legal advice from David Goddard QC. The Ministers also sought advice and clarification from Mr Goddard.

“We are satisfied that on even the most conservative approach this application meets the criteria set out in the Act and is consistent with the High Court’s judgment.”

In other words, it would probably have been illegal to decline the application.

Dr Coleman said the consent came with stringent conditions.

“These 27 conditions have been imposed to ensure Milk New Zealand’s investment delivers substantial and identifiable benefits to New Zealand,” Dr Coleman says.

The conditions require Milk New Zealand to invest $16 million into the farms and to protect and enhance heritage sites.

“The combined effect of the benefits being delivered to New Zealand as a result of this transaction is substantial.”

It is worth noting that any NZ buyer would not have any binding conditions on them at all. They could hock them all off as individual farms.

A copy of the OIO’s new recommendation is at: http://www.linz.govt.nz/sites/default/files/docs/overseas-investment/oio-recommendation-crafar-farms-20120420.pdf

A copy of the OIO’s decision summary is at:  http://www.linz.govt.nz/sites/default/files/docs/overseas-investment/decision-summary-201110035.pdf

I’m glad the Government has approved the sale. Not just because it was the law, but because China is a huge opportunity for New Zealand. The partnership between Landcorp and Shanghai Pengxin could lead to significant more opportunities in the future.

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Some sense on Crafars

April 8th, 2012 at 11:53 am by David Farrar

Q+A interviewed David Mahon, a Kiwi who has lived in China for the last 25 years and invests there. Some extracts from the interview:

SHANE      So can you tell us exactly what China wants? Is this just one deal or the start of China targeting our resources?

 DAVID       China actually wants resources – whether they’re fibre, timber, wool – or whether it is protein. In the case of the Crafar farm deal, it’s a search for protein. The Chinese aren’t looking to buy land and to own land around the world; they’re looking to secure the resources that their own narrow agriculture base doesn’t supply them. And given the fact that Chinese are urbanising in such great numbers, and the demand for food is increasing, there is an urgency for the Chinese to secure good lines of supply.

Jenny Shipley has said the same thing. They basically just want secure supply of food, to feed their own population. This is an opportunity, not a threat.

If you look at the Crafar deal, already these farms have been owned by Australian banks. Effectively you’re transferring Westpac debt, largely, into Chinese equity. So the land was already lost to New Zealand by the time the company went into receivership. 

Exactly. The farms are now effectively Australian owned. Those who oppose the sale then are not really against foreign investment – just Chinese investment.

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Who is the buyer and the seller?

February 19th, 2012 at 6:43 pm by David Farrar

3 News tonight mentioned the Crafar farm sale twice tonight, during their piece on the latest political poll. The words used were:

“the courts stopped the Government selling the Crafar farms to the Chinese for now”

“its decision to sell the Crafar farms to the Chinese”

First of all, why are we describing the company buying the farms as “the Chinese”.

If say Walmart was purchasing something in NZ, would the news bulletins describe it as selling to “the Americans”. The whole phrase “the Chinese” reeks to me of portraying them as one amorphous group. Shouldn’t the sale be described as to “the China based company Shanghai Pengxin”.

But not only do they get the buyer wrong, they get the seller wrong also.

The Government is selling nothing. The receivers of the Crafar farms are selling them, so the creditors will get some of their money back. Twice on TV3 it was portrayed as a Government sale.

So the overall impression is the NZ Government selling state owned land to the Chinese Government.

An accurate wording would be “the Government’s decision to approve the receivers sale of the Crafar farms to the China based Shanghai Pengxin company”. I won’t hold my breath hoping that media use an accurate description though!

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The Crafar dilemma

February 17th, 2012 at 1:31 pm by David Farrar

In my Herald column I look at the court judgement. First the political aspect:

On the political front the decision is as popular with the Government as a colonoscopy. It might turn out to be good for you in the long term, but it is making life very uncomfortable for now.

For the Opposition, it was like an early visit from the Easter Bunny, just as their chocolate supply was running out. The questioning in the first week of Parliament this year on the issue amounted to little as Ministers ran the line that they were merely applying the law, and that there were no lawful reasons to decline the application by Shanghai Pengxin.

And the economic aspect:

Putting aside the practicality aspects, it is hard to argue with the logic of the learned judge, that any benefit should be measured against a domestic buyer, rather than against the status quo. By measuring against the status quo, it is almost inevitable that net benefits will be found as new buyers always will have investment plans greater than the seller.

I conclude the the days of the OIO saying yes to most applications may be in the past.

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Crafar deal ordered to reconsideration

February 15th, 2012 at 1:56 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The High Court has ordered Government ministers who agreed to a Chinese company buying the Crafar farms to reconsider the application.

The judgement of Justice Miller follows a successful application by a group of New Zealand farmers and iwi, led by Sir Michael Fay, to block the sale of the 16 in-receivership farms.

The group had sought a judicial review of the Overseas Investment recommendation for approval for the $210 million purchase by Shanghai Pengxin and the Government’s support for that recommendation.

Justice Miller said the application for review was granted and the decision by Land Information Minister Maurice Williamson and Associate Finance Minister Jonathan Coleman was set aside.

The judge directed that the ministers reconsider the application by Shanghai Pengxin subsidiary Milk New Zealand.

It will be interesting to see the full decision, but it suggests that the OIO and Ministers did not consider one or more of the criteria properly. This will not be helpful for the Government as it keeps the issue alive longer, and suggests that there may have been grounds to turn the application down. It doesn’t mean that there were grounds – just that there might have been,

I will be surprised if Sir Michael and associates ends up with the farms at the end of this, but it is possible if a different decision is arrived at.

The Herald has the judgement here. I found this part interesting:

CFIPG (Fay etc) came late to the sale process and has still to commit itself to a formal offer … it has nominated a price, albeit one that the receivers  claim to find unworthy of acknowledgement.

So Fay has yet to even make a formal offer. If he can knock Pengxin out, then he can lower his bid even further, so his gain may be greater than even the $40m between the so called bids.

In terms of the judgement, the claim that Pengxin were not experienced enough was not upheld. Where the court has ruled that the OIO and Ministers erred was in assessing benefits vs a counter-factual.

The OIO used a counter-factual of the status quo (farms run down), and the argument was that the counter-factual should be a NZ company buying the farms and also investing in them.

The OIO argued against this on the grounds that this would require a hugely complex analysis of not just every application, but to model what a rival bidder may do. However they lost the argument.

My 2c is that it would be better for an analysis to be against a counter-factual which is based on a rival bidder – but that this may well be hugely impractical in many cases.

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NZ land sales 2007 – 2011

February 6th, 2012 at 9:17 am by David Farrar

I’ve had to do this over two graphs so one can see how miniscule the amount of land purchased by Chinese domiciled people or companies have been.

This strongly suggests to me that racism has been a significant factor in the opposition to the Crafar sales. There was nothing like this level of outcry when land was sold to people in Liechtenstein or Canada or the UK or Australia.

This is not to say all those against the Crafar sales were motivated by racism. Many opponents are genuinely against all foreign land purchases, but some opposition is clearly based on the race of the purchasers, or worse politicians playing to those sentiments.

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Trotter on Crafar sale

February 3rd, 2012 at 12:04 pm by David Farrar

Chris Trotter writes at Stuff:

At the risk of being branded a “traitor”, I’m declaring my support for the Crafar farms sale. Not because I like seeing productive New Zealand farmland pass into the hands of foreigners, I don’t.

The reason I’m in favour is because I believe New Zealanders should keep their promises and fulfil their undertakings.

In 2008, this country ratified a free-trade agreement with the People’s Republic of China. It was hailed as the most important foreign policy and trade achievement of the 1999-2008 Helen Clark-led government. Not only was it the first such agreement to be signed between China and a Western-style democracy, but it also offered New Zealand businesses immense economic opportunities. …

It was all the more perplexing, then, to hear Opposition leader David Shearer declaring his and the Labour Party’s opposition to the sale. It’s simply inconceivable that Mr Shearer is unaware of the MFN prohibition against denying China the same right to buy land as the nations that bought upwards of 650,000 hectares of our national patrimony exercised when Helen Clark was Prime Minister, and Mr Shearer’s friend (and former boss) Phil Goff was the Minister of Trade.

To avoid the inevitable charges of rank hypocrisy and populist opportunism, Mr Shearer needed to accompany his statement opposing the sale with an announcement that Labour was committed, immediately on regaining office, to repudiating the New Zealand-China FTA and tightening up the legislation regulating overseas investment.

I’m still waiting for those other shoes to drop. And, frankly, I think I’ll go on waiting. Why? Because I simply don’t believe Labour is about to abandon its long-standing commitment to free trade. Nor am I confident Mr Shearer is any more willing to court the fury and retaliatory trade restrictions of the Chinese government than Mr Key. Both are well aware that this country’s future prosperity is inextricably bound up with China’s.

I actually see the deal as an exciting one. A partnership between Shanghai Pengxin and Landcorp has huge potential opportunities. The combination of their market contacts and capital, and our land and expertise could be golden.

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Watkin on Crafar

January 31st, 2012 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Tim Watkin has a thoughtful piece at Pundit on the Crafar decision:

Looking at the OIO decision, it’s interesting to note that the deal literally ticks nearly all the boxes; the only fail is its ability to bring new skills and technology to New Zealand. That’s hardly surprising, given our farmers are as good as any in the world.

It’s very clear this was not a marginal call.

The OIO writes it’s also excited by the fact SPGL has “very strong contacts with the supermarket industry” in China, will create two new NZ brands (Nature Pure and Pure 100) and is promising to spend $100m over the next five years promoting New Zealand dairy in Asia.

I actually regard the effective partnership between Landcorp and SPGL as exciting. They have the capital and contacts, and Landcorp has the expertise. This deal could have major opportunities down the road.

What of the OIO’s point about “tacit anti-Chinese bias”, you ask? This sale deserves to be a major news story because of the large amount of land lost to offshore ownership in one go. But let’s be honest, the fact the sale is going to China has ratcheted up the concern and public debate.

Some of that concern is reasonable – we can’t buy land there, China is in the process of buying vast natural resources around the world, and such purchases are made in its national interests, which aren’t necessarily ours. But some of the concern is out-and-out racism.

Last year a German firm got approval to buy 3300 hectares in Southland. Remember the public debate about that deal? No, me neither.

Did anyone complain when Harvard bought our biggest forest? Or when Britons bought up 22,000 hectares of farmland over the past two years?

Of course not all of the opposition to the sale is xenophobic or racist. There are some people who really think that it makes good economic sense to not allow even one hectare of land to be owned by an Australian or Brit. They’re wrong, but they’re consistent.

But the nationality of the buyers was a factor in this case, for many. The examples Tim gives about the German purchase, for example, is a good one.

Labour leader David Shearer in opposing the sale said this week:

“If there is going to be foreign ownership then we have to make sure New Zealanders have a real interest in it and get real value from it. Now I don’t think that this sale here gives us any return.”

The details of this deal make that a hard argument to sustain; there are clearly significant returns to New Zealand. It’s hard to imagine how, under current law, New Zealand could have done better out of this deal. The original New Zealand bidders couldn’t have offered the strategic links into Asia and, I’m sorry, I simply refuse to take seriously a Michael Fay-led anything as a champion of retaining New Zealand assets in local ownership.

The strategic links into Asia are potentially very good for New Zealand.

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.

And I think there is a valid debate about whether there should be some sort of limit on the total amount of land owned by foreign interests. That is preferable to railing against individual deals which in fact make good economic sense.

However I would make the point that any limit should look at more than just sales. Some of the land sold to foreign owners has been resold back to NZ owners. And some of the land sold to foreign owners was already owned by different foreign owners. What would be useful is a time series showing total foreign ownership at annual intervals. I’m not sure though that such data is easily compiled.

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Land sales

January 27th, 2012 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The small circle represents the size of the Crafar farms at 8,000 hectares. The large circle represents the amount of land sold to foreign owners under the last Labour Government at 650,000 hectares.

Under Labour, the equivalent of the Crafar farms were sold each and every month they were in office.

 

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Winston’s dilemma

January 26th, 2012 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

At Stuff I blog on Winston’s dilemma:

The sale of the Crafar farms must pose an awful dilemma for Winston Peters.

The leading bid for the 8000 hectares of farmland is $210 million from Shanghai Pengxin, a Chinese company.

Winston has spent most of the last 20 years railing against the Chinese. He has railed against Chinese immigration to New Zealand, he has railed against Chinese investment in New Zealand and despite being the foreign minister, railed against the 2008 free trade agreement with China (despite its having increased our exports to China by $3 billion and reducing our current account and trade deficits). …

But look at who else is lined up to buy them. Sir Michael Fay leads a group which is offering $170 million for the farms – $40 million less than Pengxin. If Pengxin is turned down, then Fay will pick the farms up for $40 million less than the market price.

Now if there is one person that Winston Peters hates and rails against even more than the Chinese, it is surely Fay. Peters alleged all sorts of wrongdoings by Fay and Richwhite in the late 80s and early 90s, and this led to the Winebox inquiry.

It gives me a certain pleasure to reflect that whatever the outcome, Winston will be unhappy :-)

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The Fay strategy

January 25th, 2012 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Richard Meadows at Stuff reports:

Sir Michael Fay’s band of farmers has launched legal proceedings today in an ongoing battle to prevent the Crafar farms group from being sold to Chinese firm Shangai Pengxin.

Represented by legal heavyweights Alan Galbraith QC and Bell Gully, the group filed proceedings in the High Court at Wellington to try and get the Official Investment Office’s (OIO) recommendation to be made public. A final decision on the OIO recommendation will be made by Government because it involves sensitive land.

There is no chance of this court action succeeding, in my opinion. The legal action is being done as part of a PR strategy designed to allow Sir Michael to pick up the Crafar farms cheaply.

Fay is a very crafty investor and businessman who has made hundreds of millions out of cunning deals, and is cleverly manipulating Labour’s xenophobia and public opinion to get a a great bargain. Good luck to him with that, but let’s be clear about the motives.

Fay’s alternative purchase group comprises several trusts as well as Aitchison Farms, Donovan Group and Brent Cook. The group had offered $171.5 million for the 16 central and southern North Island dairy farms, which KordaMentha rejected as too low.

Pengxin, which applied to the OIO to buy the farms nine months ago, is the preferred bidder with an offer believed to be around $210m.

So the Fay group is trying to pick up the farms for $40m less than others are willing to pay. What a great bargain, and definitely worth spending a few hundred thousand on PR and law suits, to pressure the Government into making the receiver sell them the farms at a $40m discount.

And here is the interesting thing. If the Fay group do pick up the farms, they will not have any obligations or conditions around their purchase. In fact they will be at total liberty to sell the farms a few months later – including to foreign investors. If they sell them one farm at a time, there will be less of a hurdle with OIO approval, and they’ll make a very tidy profit. So the end result will be the farms end up (inevitably) with those willing to pay the most for them, but the extra $40 million goes to Sir Michael and colleagues rather than the existing owners of the farms.

You can see why Sir Michael is such a cunning businessman, who has made so much money. And good on him – nothing wrong with that. What I am less clear on is why Labour are so keen to help him make a $40m profit at the expense of the actual owners?

Stuff reports:

New Labour leader David Shearer will visit one of the 16 Crafar farms in Taupo today and is throwing down the gauntlet as the Government prepares to make a decision on the politically charged sale.

“We believe foreign investment should add value to New Zealand. We don’t believe this does,” Mr Shearer said yesterday on the eve of a two-day caucus retreat.

“It asks a fundamental question about who owns New Zealand.”

No it does not. Labour during their nine years in office approved the equivalent of the Crafar farms being sold to foreign owners every single month! Yes the Crafar farms are around 9,000 hectares and Labour approved 650,000 hectares – equal to 75 Crafar farms.

So this is not a huge chuck of NZ land. It is not a fundamental question on anything.

And the politicians often neglect to mention the rights of the owner to get the best price they can for their land. If the owners are forced to accept an inferior offer which is $40m less than their best offer, then those owners have $40m less to invest elsewhere. That $40m may have ended up capital for a couple of small businesses employing 100 people each. It may have been used to invest in an Australian company, hence bringing dividend flows back into NZ.

I should state my view on the Pengxin bid. It is:

  1. Ministers should follow the recommendations of the Overseas Investment Office. If they recommend approval, they should approve it and if they recommend it is declined, they should decline it. Ministers should not over-rule decisions based on the law, because of a PR campaign by Sir Michael Fay and Labour.
  2. The current criteria for approving purchases by foreign owners, being that it be in the national interest, seems sound to me. But I’m not against some modification to the criteria for future decisions – however they can not be retrospective, and hence the Pengxin bid should be judged on the current law, not what the law might be changed to.
  3. The free trade agreement with China has been hugely beneficial to New Zealand. Our exports to China have soared in the last three years, and it has reduced our trade and current account deficits. The xenophobia against this bid has dangerous economic risks. We all know that if this was a British company bidding, it wouldn’t have had one tenth the publicity. It seems silly to spit in the face of our largest growing export market.
  4. With regards to (3) this does not mean the bid should be accepted if the OIO say it does not meet the criteria set down under law. It means that the bid should be judged on its economic case, not on the colour of the skin of the proposed investors.
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Mallard on Crafar

January 18th, 2012 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

A few people are discussing whether Red Alert should be closed down. Just in case it is, I’ll respond now to a blog from Trevor Mallard on the Crafar farms:

And to make it clear, it is my view that there is no reason whatsoever to sell these farms offshore. To anyone.

That’s an interesting view, but that is like me having a view on who Sam Morgan should have sold Trade Me to. Labour do not own the Crafar farms. The Government does not own them. The taxpayers do not own them.

The reason the farms may be sold offshore is because someone offshore offered the owners more money for them.

Landcorp could probably hock off a couple of its non core farms and then buy Them all using its very strong balance sheet to raise debt finance for the balance.

Yes they could. And all they have to do is offer more money than any other bidder. Nice and simple, and that way the owners do not end up out of pocket, just so politicians feel better.

The Overseas Investment Act has criteria on which a sale to non-residents should or should not be approved. The Crafar farms are a small fraction of the farm land sold to non-residents and approved under the last Labour Government. One can have a sensible debate about amending the criteria, but a poling of banning all sales is just appealing to xenophobia and racism. I can guarantee you if it was an Australian farmer bidding for the farms, we’d be rolling out the welcome mat.

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Facts on Foreign Farm Sales

November 23rd, 2011 at 2:30 pm by David Farrar

Labour has just said:

Why no answer on Crafar farms before election?

National is concealing its intention to sell off our farmland to foreign buyers well under the radar before the election, says Labour’s Economic Development and Associate Finance spokesperson David Parker.

“National is not just about selling our power companies, inevitably into foreign ownership,” David Parker said.

“It’s about selling productive farmland overseas as well.”

More hypocrisy in the hope that the media will not do any fact checking. Some facts:

  1. Labour approved sales of more than 650,000 hectares of land to foreign owners when in Government. Yes 650,000 hectares – that is the equivalent of 75 Crafar farms. That work out to the Crafar farms every month. Yes, every month.
  2. For the first 20 months of National (seeking latest data), the total amount of land sales to foreigners was 31,000 hectares. That is 1/4 the rate Labour approved sales at. Under 25%.
  3. The National-led Government has already turned down one offer from foreign interests for the farms
  4. The OIO office is independent from the Executive and Ministers can not direct them to delay a recommendation.

So just remember these facts. The last Labour Government (and every member of the current Labour front bench was a Minister in it) approved the sale of the equivalent of the Crafar Farms every single month for nine years. Under National the rate of approvals has fallen to under 25% that of Labour.

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Fay v China

August 14th, 2011 at 10:58 am by David Farrar

David Fisher reports in the HoS:

One of the country’s richest men has emerged as a white knight investor with a $105 million bid for big dairy farms that could otherwise be sold to China.

Sir Michael Fay has declared his interest in buying nine of the 16 farms once owned by Reporoa’s Alan Crafar.

This amuses me, as the sort of people who passionately don’t want Chinese interests buying the farms, tend to also passionately hate Sir Michael. If he turns out to be their white knight, it will be a bitter medicine for them.

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