Labour claimed 30% of Auckland houses purchased by Chinese, actual data shows 2.3%

May 11th, 2016 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Phil Twyford claimed last year:

Nearly 40 percent of the houses sold in that period went to people of Chinese descent, and as your introduction pointed out, the Chinese New Zealander population in Auckland, according to the most recent census data, is about 9 percent. Now, that is a remarkable discrepancy, and, in my view, it’s simply not plausible to suggest, as many have done in the last couple of years, that the Chinese— ethnic Chinese people who are buying houses in Auckland are all Chinese New Zealanders. It points, I think, to only one possible conclusion, and that is that offshore Chinese investors have a very significant presence in the Auckland real estate market when you consider that Auckland house prices are spiralling out of control at the moment. …

This is an issue about foreign investment, and it doesn’t matter in one sense what the surnames of the buyers are, but if this data shows, and I believe it strongly suggests, that offshore Chinese investors have a major presence, possibly as high as 30 percent of the houses sold by this real estate firm over a three-month period, then that is very significant.

Louise Upston has released actual data. It shows that 4% of Auckland buyers were overseas tax residents and 58% of those 4% were from China which is 2.3% of total Auckland sales.

Phil Twyford should be ashamed of himself for his disgraceful and shoddy data where he failed to differentiate between New Zealanders and foreigners on the basis of their surname. You may have a Chinese sounding surname yet be a 4th generation New Zealander.

The LINZ data is not perfect and they go to great lengths to state its limitations. But the gap between the 30% Twyford was claiming and the 2.3% in the LINZ data is so great that is is preposterous to suggest that Twyford was anywhere near correct.

Stats Chats says:

The LINZ report does a good job explaining the real limitations of `tax residence’ as a criterion, but it’s a lot better than any previous data we’ve had.

I’m looking forward to a Mt Roskill by-election (if Goff wins) where the Labour candidate has to explain to the many Chinese New Zealanders living in Mt Roskill why Labour whipped up Aucklanders to blame them for high property prices.

The data will continue to be updated every three months, so we will be able to see if the levels of purchases by foreign tax residents increases. But for now there is nothing to suggest they are having a big impact on the market, and hence Labour’s policy to ban them is basically worthless, as it would have a miniscule impact on house prices at best. Maybe Labour could focus on real solutions such as increasing the amount of land available, instead of deeming people with Chinese sounding surnames as the problem.

Labour may be very embarrassed when we get the actual data

July 17th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

About 50 Chinese buyers packed a real estate agency office in Epsom, and snapped up 23 sections within minutes of release yesterday. …

Mr Law said all were either New Zealand citizens or permanent residents.


Mr Law said just one of the 150 sections sold in the subdivision so far went to a foreigner – a Chinese national waiting for his permanent residence visa.

So not a foreign investor.

Five purchasers declined to be interviewed when approached by the Herald, and one said Labour’s claims and recent media reports had “turned Chinese into crooks”.

Labour’s data implied 30% of Auckland house sales are going to foreign investors from China,  because of their surname. If I were them, I’d be nervous about what the real data will show post October.

So will Labour apologise if it is revealed most ‘Chinese’ buyers are not foreigners?

July 16th, 2015 at 7:10 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Principal agent James Law said Labour’s leaked figures that showed 40 per cent of homes sold at auction in Auckland over a three-month period went to people with Asian surnames was “about right”.

Mr Law said four out of 10 of the 350 who bought real estate through the company last year were of Chinese ethnicity.

“But what we found from our sales record was less than 10 per cent of them are actually overseas-based investors,” he said. “Most of them are citizens or residents who have lived here for years.”

Mr Law said it was “tradition” for Chinese people to buy real estate, and many made it their “first priority”.

Many regarded real estate as a safe investment and one that they could either make a profit on or hand down to their children.

“This explains the high number of Chinese buyers and investors, because many find their security in owning houses,” Mr Law said.

“In the same way, data on dairy business sales will show a high number of ethnic Indian buyers.”

I made this point yesterday on social media. I’d say over half of dairies are owned by people with Indian surnames, yet only 3.9% of NZers are Indian. So does that mean that our dairies are being purchased by people from Mumbai? No – it means different ethnicities have different purchasing priorities.

Now let us assume that 40% of buyers do have Chinese surnames. Of course a proportion of those will be foreign buyers. But it is 1% or 10% or 80%? There is a huge difference.

If the data is just 10%, will Labour then apologise for slurring the 90% who are Kiwis, just Kiwis with a Chinese sounding surnname?

Rob Hosking on Labour’s surnames research

July 14th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Rob Hosking writes at NBR:

This is where Mr Twyford’s effort is a cheap and nasty political shot. By basing his claims on data about whether investors have what Labour considers foreign-sounding names, he has opened up a seam of racism.

It appears he and Labour Party researcher Rob Salmond have simply gone down a list of property buyers and singled out anyone who has a name that sounds vaguely Chinese.

This has been wrapped in a patina of bogus statistical chatter in a bid to make it sound less odious: for example, Mr Salmond says someone with the surname of Lee has a 40% chance of being Chinese.

Message: if you have a Chinese-sounding name, you’re probably foreign. What’s more, Labour researcher Rob Salmond has an algorithm that calculates just how foreign you might be.

And over 30,000 have visited the parody site – and a fair number it seems think it is a legitimate Labour site. Labour should reflect on what that means that such an obvious parody is not seen as too far from what they have been doing.

This is really nasty stuff. Anyone with a passing acquaintance with some of the more bloody racial conflicts of the 20th Century will feel a chill that the Labour Party is doing this.

Really though, the matter of offshore investment in Auckland’s property market distorting that market is primarily an economic issue, not one of race.

By emphasising the racial aspect of the matter, Labour has deliberately embarked on a move calculated to raise racial tensions.


A good question.

Some of this is to do with Mr Twyford’s ambitions for the deputy leadership. This is also tied up with those well-known west Auckland voters who deserted Labour for National in recent elections.

Not sure this will help him. I understand a fair few Labour MPs are very upset with him.

There is no doubt people with Chinese names whose families have been here for years are justifiably enraged by Mr Twyford’s rather glib, shallow and irresponsible ploy.

But even for more recent arrivals: the assumption that anyone with a Chinese sounding name is foreign is nasty and poisonous.


Rutherford on Labour’s surname policy

July 13th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Hamish Rutherford writes at Stuff:

What do Labour’s figures about the number of Chinese names appearing on property transactions in Auckland prove?

Nothing concrete about the state of foreign ownership in New Zealand’s largest city. In terms of evidence, it is seductive, yet shaky at best.

There is every chance that a Wang appearing on a property record can claim a century of proud Kiwi ancestry, while the Smith who bought the house next door is the foreign investor. …

So what the release has done is made everyone with a Chinese sounding surname seem second class.

The research has concerning limitations. Labour will not say who gave it the data, beyond saying it is from one of Auckland’s largest real estate companies. If the figures were not nakedly political – if they had been presented by an economist – they would almost certainly be dismissed completely for the lack of rigour.

I really wonder what Labour were thinking with this. They’ve alienated a lot of their own supporters, and opened themselves up to a lot of ridicule.

Eventually new rules will force the disclosure of where buyers are based for tax purposes, a better measure of foreign investors than Labour’s name game.

This should come close to settling the argument about the extent of offshore investment in New Zealand real estate. There is every chance it will prove Twyford correct, that thousands of investors are seeking a way to get their money out of China and into a stable investment.

Alternatively it may mark Twyford as the man, and Labour as the party, who squarely pointed the finger of blame a substantial portion of New Zealand for no other reason than that they sound like they might be Chinese.

On that note Melissa Hu (a Young Nat) writes:

I’m not sure if you saw Andrew Little, Phil Twyford and the New Zealand Labour Party hit a disappointing and desperate new low yesterday.

They blamed the challenge of housing affordability on whether your name sounds Chinese or not. 

I was born here, I study here, I work here and I’m a New Zealand citizen but because my last name sounds Chinese I’m apparently a big part of the housing affordability problem – (I’m actually of Mongolian descent but would Labour care about that?)

Melissa continues:

I’ve lived here all my life, and I’m proud to call myself Kiwi. Young New Zealanders like me are ambitious, excited and open about New Zealand’s future. I don’t think my last name, or yours, has anything to do with trying to buy a house.

We need to be encouraging all Kiwis – young, old, European, Maori, Chinese, whatever – to aim high, work hard, create wealth and continue to raise our living standards. We also need the Government to keep taking common sense steps with councils to make more land available for housing. That’s why I support National- they know there’s a problem and they have a real plan to fix it.

We don’t need to start a “pick on the Chinese” attitude which could create more problems than it solves. Auckland’s housing problem is a supply issue – not a Chinese issue. We’re a multicultural, ambitious and prosperous country – I hope we stay that way.

Well said.

The Herald reports:

Labour leader Andrew Little has stood by the decision to release figures showing a high proportion of Auckland house sales to people with Chinese names, saying it is time to blow the whistle on what is happening in the city.

The use of the data has been criticised by many as racist and “shonky” and Mr Little admitted there had been some backlash.

I understand a number of Labour MPs are very unhappy about this and see it as a test of of Little’s leadership, if he keeps defending this. They’re not so unhappy with the data as Phil Twyford’s comments which implied Chinese NZers are now hard working Kiwis. John Key demoted Lockwood Smith for his comments on Asians. Will Little continue to defend Twyford?

Imagine if for example a Don Brash led National Party had come out with a shonky analysis like this, and used the language Twyford did? Every Labour and Green MP in Parliament would have been calling Brash racist. Instead, we have silence.

Finally, if you want to work for yourself if you’re Kiwi enough to buy a house under Labour, try out this new Kiwi-O-Meter. Well done to the Young Nats for this humourous response to Labour’s dog whistles.

Both sellers and buyers gain when a farm is sold

August 5th, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The xenophobes are in full cry against the sale of Lochinver Station, because the buyers are a Chinese company. Never do we hear a peep against Harvard University buying farms.

You would think these farms are owned by the Government. They are not. They are owned by a private company, selling to another private company.  Labour, NZ First and the Conservatives would all ban the current owner from being able to sell to the highest bidder. Now let us look at what that means, as reported by Stuff:

Lochinver Station’s current owner, the Stevenson Group, said farming was no longer part of its core business and proceeds from the sale would be used to kick-start its South Drury industrial development.

Stevenson Group chief executive Mark Franklin said the South Drury project could employ up to 8000 people.

So the current owner does not want to invest in the farm land. They want to sell the farm land so they can invest in south Drury – a project that could employ 8,000 people. This is what Labour, NZ First and Conservatives are battling against. They would have you forget the farms have a current owner who should be able to get the best price for the farms, so they can invest that money elsewhere in the NZ economy.

Gary Romano, the Auckland-based chief executive of Pengxin International, said the furore over the sale, which is conditional on Overseas Investment Office (OIO) approval, was surprising.

‘‘Clearly I’m disappointed. Here’s a piece of land, it’s a nice piece of land, but it is underdeveloped. We’ll sit on our credentials with what we’ve done on the other farms,’’ he said.

Pengxin bought 16 farms, covering about 8000 hectares, in the collapsed Crafar group in 2012 for $200m.

The central North Island Lochinver Station comprises 13,800 hectares, but Romano said of that only 9500 hectares were currently viable farmland and Pengxin would look to improve grass pastures.

Romano said Pengxin were prepared to make a ‘‘very significant investment’’ in the property to improve its environmental, community and productivity profile.

Unwilling to quantify how much Pengxin was planning to spend on Lochinver, Romano said its application to the OIO included plans to fence and undertake planting on streams leading to Pouarua Lake and eradicate wild pines and gorse.

Constructing a publicly-available underpass on the Taupo-Napier highway, and committing to keep employing all 20 staff working the property was also Pengxin’s intention, Romano said.

And you have the new owner, if approved, wanting to invest in the farmland, to make it more productive. This will result in more tax being paid in NZ.

This is how private business works. The buyer sees greater value in the asset than the seller, so they do a deal where both win. The buyer gets the asset they want, to invest in, and the seller gets cash to invest in other assets. The net winner is New Zealand – and that is the test the Overseas Investment Office is legislated to apply.

Labour, Conservatives and NZ First (Greens are against also, but they seem to be against all farms regardless of who owns them) would have a policy where the current owner is banned from selling to whom they would like – regardless of the net benefit to New Zealand. That’s stupid. Sales should be decided on a case by case basis, with criteria being net benefit to New Zealand.

Incidentally the average amount of land sold to foreign buyers in the last five years has been 390 square kms a year. In the last term of the Labour/NZ First Government an average of 762 square kms a year was sold.

Also note that it is not just one way investment. Fonterra owns* half a dozen farms in China. They have around 15,000 cows, employ 500 staff, and produce 150 million litres of milk a year – with the profit all flowing back to NZ. If you start to get racist and demand China can’t invest in NZ, then logically China should ban NZ investment in China.

* – Fonterra does not own the land, but has a long-term lease for the land. This is because *no-one* in China owns land – it is all the property of the Chinese Government. But Fonterra is able to purchase use of the land in much the same way a Chinese company can.

Joyce attacks Labour xenophobia

August 2nd, 2014 at 2:04 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce has accused Labour of “xenophobia” in their opposition of the potential sale of Lochinver Station to the Chinese company that bought the Crafar Farms.

Mr Joyce and Grant Robertson, economic development spokesman for Labour, appeared on TV3’s The Nation this morning and discussed the sale.

Mr Robertson said under Labour the sale would not go ahead.

“Our criteria would definitely mean that a sale like this would be highly unlikely.”

Mr Joyce said the opposition were “electioneering” in relation to the issue.

“When did [Labour] go out and oppose the purchase of James Cameron’s land?”

“A little xenophobia from the Labour Party to start the day,” he said.

Cameron is becoming a resident, but you rarely hear Labour attack Harvard University for land purchases, Shania Twain, Australians or Canadians. But if it is Chinese, then they have lots to say.

Mr Joyce said the Lochinver Station was a “ridiculously small amount of land” in the North Island to sell off.

The Lochinver sheep and beef farm site is valued at $70 million and covers 13,800ha.

That’s 138 square kms. Around 0.05% of NZ. At this rate China will own all our land in the year 3,956. Panic, panic, everyone.

Labour says we should have 35,000 fewer immigrants a year

May 19th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

A transcript from The Nation:

Patrick Gower:  Good morning David Cunliffe and you heard the Finance Minister Bill English there say that the Government is happy with immigration settings. That is despite some of the highest figures ever – people flooding into Auckland and no-one leaving. What are Labour’s thoughts on New Zealand’s current immigration settings?

David Cunliffe: Well I thought the minister missed the main point which is the responsibility of any government is the total flows and New Zealand is well served when we get enough new migrants to fill our skill gaps but not so many that it overwhelms our housing market or the ability of our schools and our hospitals to cope. And we always used to try to manage to a zone of say between about 5000 and 15,000 net positive. They’re looking at 41, 42,000, that is just too much and it will overheat the property market even further.

So what would Labour do? Too much, you’ve said immigration settings are too high, what would Labour do?

We would manage net migration flows as far as possible to a steady, positive, predictable level that is sufficient for our housing market and our schools and our hospitals to cope with.

How would you do that because you want to come down from about 40,000 to about 15 [thousand]?

Yeah, well the easiest way to do it is to look at the numbers that are able to come in under different categories and just to manage the points system so you take the very best and the ones that are most suitable for the skill gaps and then you turn it back up again as either the homecoming Kiwi flow reduces or the economy starts to cool and you just have to manage it a bit counter-cyclically. Let me say also Labour has always been committed to an open and multi-cultural society and we welcome the contribution that our migrant communities make.

Labour have joined Winston in blaming economic problems on migrants. Now that isn’t to say that one shouldn’t debate what the correct level of migration should be, but claiming that you can reduce net migration by 35,000 through the points system is very deceptive.

Here’s the long-term arrivals by visa types since 2008:


So migrants coming in a residence visa (the points system) are well down on previous years. They are 16% below the year to March 2008. You could scrap all residential visas and you’ll only reduce net migration by 13,000 or so.

Student visas earn us bucketloads of money.  They don’t give residency. They allow international students to study here, boosting the economy and providing a major funding source to schools and tertiary institutions. Is Labour saying it will cap student visas?

Work visas are up significantly. But these are also temporary, and are used to fill areas with a skills shortage – such as construction in Christchurch. You generally need a job offer.

So the number of permanent migrants to NZ gaining residence is lower than it was six years ago.

So why is net migration up? Well it is made up of four components. They are:

  1. People leaving NZ
  2. Kiwis returning home
  3. Australians moving here
  4. Other nationalities moving here

The first three categories can not be controlled by the Government. It is in fact a good thing fewer people are leaving NZ. Up until a year ago Labour was complaining too many are leaving.

Likewise it is a good thing many Kiwis are returning home. Even if we wanted to, we can’t stop that.

Also a growing number of Australians are moving here. I think this is a good thing also. Again, we can’t stop that – even if we wanted to. Unless Labour wants to abolish CER, and remove the right of Kiwis to move to Australia also.

So what has happened to numbers in these four categories. Here’s the data:


So net migration is 24,000 higher than five years ago. But look at what makes up that 24,000. 15,300 are fewer people leaving. 5,700 are Kiwis returning or Aussies migrating. Only 3,400 are other migrants.

This is why it is the politics of xenophobia. Blaming migrants for the change in net migration is scapegoating. Their impact is minimal. The big change is in departures being down and Kiwis returning.

Sure one can have a sensible discussion on whether we should tighten up migration eligibility, but that is not a significant factor in the change in net migration over the past five years.

Also for those think that the migration is all from China, here’s the 2013/14 long-term arrivals by country of previous residence.

  1. Australia 21,146
  2. UK 14,006
  3. China 8,603
  4. India 7,350
  5. USA 3,981
  6. Germany 3,354
  7. Philippines 2,923
  8. Japan 1,990
  9. Canada 1,928
  10. Korea 1,752
  11. South Africa 1,420
  12. Fiji 1,228


Pellett blaming the Chinese

March 20th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Selwyn Pellett tweeted yesterday:


Pellett is a donation to both Labour and David Cunliffe and meant to be involved in their economic policy development. As you can see he has concluded the problem is Chinese expat house owners.

Note his robust source of data – a mate who texted him. And somehow this mate not only went around 25 houses, but went out of his way at every house to ask about the ethnicity of the owner, and whether or not they are expat. His data sounds about as reliable as a typical caller into talkback radio.


Bill Ralston congratulates him on behalf of Winston. Ralston also supplies a fact, as opposed to a text from a mate:


So Pellett asked for some facts, and got them.


But amazingly even after Ralston supplies the source, Pellett seems to suggest that the data may be made up or manufactured. This from the economic genius who cited a text from a mate as his source.


I then helpfully stepped in and provided a media report citing the BNZ data. So we have Pellett arguing 92% of homes sought by his buyer mate were owned by Chinese expats vs the BNZ data from reat estate agent sales that found it was 1.2%. You’d think he’s give up, but no.


Now he is claiming that the Auditor-General or someone has to audit the BNZ data before he will accept it. This would be more hilarious than tragic if it were not for the fact he started the discussion by citing a tweet from a mate claiming that 92% of homes he had looked at were owned by Chinese. He certainly does know shit data when he sees it, but because it allowed him to bash the Chinese, he used it.


Then finally he claims it is not about race, but foreign ownership. However he is the one who tweeted explicitly citing Chinese expat owners. Bit too late at the end to try and say it isn’t about race. The reality is he tried to scaremonger over Chinese buyers based on an anecdotal text from a mate. And then when called out on it, he rubbished any data that contradicted his mate’s text.

And this is who is helping Labour write their economic policy. That’s the really scary thing.

UPDATE: A reader has pointed out to me that Pellett wasn’t so opposed to foreign investment when he got hundreds of thousands of dollars from Jim Anderton in grants for his company, and then sold it off to a foreign buyer. Also it has been suggested that he ask family members how they would feel about his mate racially profiling them on the basis of assumed ethnicity if they were home owners.

Condemning anti-Jewish racism

May 2nd, 2013 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Not afraid of ruins blogs:

Last Saturday I went to the protest against asset sales organized by Aotearoa Not For Sale. I was marching with my friend Maia, discussing the latest episode of The Good Wife in between chants of ‘hey hey ho ho/John Key has got to go’.

Halfway up Willis St we overheard a guy behind us talking: ‘This is all because John Key is a money-hungry Jew.’ Maia immediately turned around and told him that he was being anti-Semitic and that it wasn’t ok (she’s great like that). The guy explained that she didn’t understand the historical context, that ‘they took over this country with their money’, before finally giving up and telling her ‘you must be Jewish’ (incidentally, she isn’t. Not that it’s relevant’).

By that point I’d already walked away. I was in no mood to hear about how I control the world’s money and am personally responsible for the economic recession.

This wasn’t the first time that anti-Jewish racism has cropped up at Aotearoa Not For Sale events. Last year a guy named Nathan Symington joined an anti-asset sales march in Auckland holding a skateboard with swastikas chalked on it. The same man was later charged with the racist vandalism of the Symonds St Jewish cemetery.

Now you can’t control who turns up to a protest march, but a good point is made by the author:

There were similar instances of anti-Jewish racism at Occupy spaces in 2011, and on the facebook pages of several of the Occupy groups as well. …

Aotearoa Not For Sale organisers can’t be held personally responsible for the actions of every single person who attends one of their protests. But they do need to take responsibility for ensuring that racism isn’t tolerated—or worse, nurtured.

One way to do that is to stop the nationalist rhetoric. Campaigns against privatization have a nasty habit of appealing to populist nationalism, because it’s an easy way of galvanizing support. That slope is both slippery and dangerous. Its logical conclusion is in racism and xenophobia. It’s essential that arguments against the privatization of public assets are based on an ethic of economic and social justice, not nationalism.

We see an ever growing level of populist nationalistic rhetoric. It is, as the author says, a very easy way of galvanizing support.

Not the fault of Chinese buyers

March 15th, 2013 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The latest BNZ and Real Estate Institute residential market survey found 9 per cent of house sales were to people offshore. 

Of those offshore buyers, 18 per cent were from Britain, 15 per cent from China and 14 per cent from Australia.

Will we hear the parties of the left going on about banning Brits from buying property in New Zealand?

BNZ’s chief economist Tony Alexander said real estate agents reported that at least 69 per cent of British buyers planned to move to New Zealand, while 37 per cent of Chinese buyers and 51 per cent of Australian buyers intended to. 

“Taken all up that means at most 5.6 per cent (but perhaps as low as 4 per cent) of all dwelling sales are to people offshore not planning to shift to New Zealand.”

So between 94% and 96% of sales are to people residing in NZ or intending to reside here. How disgraceful that some politicians have tried to blame house prices on the 4%.

“The sprawling anecdotes regarding Auckland properties being snapped up by Chinese buyers are not supported by the evidence,” Alexander said.

While most overseas buyers in Auckland came from China (19 per cent – compared with 18 per cent from Britain), sales of property in our biggest city to Chinese buyers comprised just 2.1 per cent of total sales there.

And just 1.2 per cent of house sales in Auckland were to Chinese buyers not intending to move here.

1.2%. Remember that number the next time the xenophobes try to blame them.


ODT on xenophobia

October 24th, 2012 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

An excellent ODT editorial:

Recently, control of Fisher & Paykel Appliances, the company which maintains a presence in Dunedin, passed quickly and almost quietly into the hands of the Chinese-owned Haier Group. Haier already owned 20% of FPA after effectively rescuing the company in 2009, when it acquired the holding as part of a capital raising that let FPA refinance its debt. FPA got distribution into China as a result of the deal and the ability to further licence its technology.

David Parker has said he wants Ministers to decide on private owners selling their shares to other private owners. What this may mean is companies going bankrupt, as F&P may have gone under if Haier hadn’t rescued them in 2009. We saw this under the last Labour Govt when they refused Singapore Air buying Air NZ, leading to the airline facing bankruptcy.

While the semantics would suggest that 52% ownership means the company is still in Kiwi hands, the reality is that a controlling interest is just that: controlling. (Haier’s offer is still subject to Overseas Investment Office approval, but it seems a formality.)Compare then the ease with which Haier took control of a long-established New Zealand company with the prolonged struggle by Chinese company Shanghai Pengxin to buy 16 central North Island Crafar farms. It now hopes to settle the purchase of the farms after the Supreme Court last week removed the last obstacle to the deal, an appeal by Maori trusts.

While it would be easy for Haier, a global whiteware group, to shift FPA to China, it is impossible for Shanghai Pengxin to shift 16 dairy farms anywhere. It seems xenophobia ruled in the farm debate. Why should the Chinese be allowed to buy New Zealand farms, the critics howled?

Exactly – you can’t move a farm or land. I’d point out that companies can move their manufacturing offshore also, regardless of who owns them.

And compare that reaction with the welcoming of recent news that Canadian film-maker James Cameron continues to expand his south Wairarapa property portfolio.

Incidentally, Mr Cameron’s neighbour, American billionaire Bill Foley, has won permission from the Overseas Investment Office to expand his Kiwi-based wine operation.

However, just like Haier, it is likely both Mr Cameron and Mr Foley paid market rates for their purchases. If the Maori trusts, and their benefactor Sir Michael Fay, had been truly serious about buying the Crafar farms, all they had to do was offer a higher price than that being offered by Shanghai Pengxin.

Xenophobia is not the determining factor in such sales: shareholders make their own decisions based on price and their own circumstances.

Not if Labour gets in. Their policy seems to be that Ministers will approve all sales that are not purely domestic. Decisions will be based on Ministerial opinion, not what is good for shareholders and investors.


August 15th, 2012 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Dom Post reports:

Greens co-leader Russel Norman says his member’s bill to restrict foreign land ownership is likely to be narrowly defeated
tonight by an ‘‘evil coalition’’.

If anything is evil, it is xenophobia.

The bill aims to retain New Zealand ownership and control of sensitive land and has the support of Labour, NZ First, the Maori Party and Mana.

However, Dr Norman said it was likely to be opposed by National, UnitedFuture and ACT.

‘‘The job of Parliament is to represent the will of the people and people don’t want land going into overseas ownership,’’ he said.

What hypocrisy. One week after around 80% of New Zealanders voted that parental correctional smacking should not be a criminal offence, the Greens voted down a members’ bill that sought to do just that.

If people do not want land to go into overseas ownership, then they should not sell their land to someone overseas. But it is quite a different matter to ban fellow citizens from selling their property to the highest bidder.

Under this bill, James Cameron would be banned from buying his Wairarapa farm, even though the benefits to NZ of having one of the world’s most influential movie makers owning land here is huge.

Norman’s bill would ban any foreign investment in land over 0.05 of a square kilometer! It would not matter how great the benefits to NZ are – a total ban. It is xenophobic hysterical nonsense.

Applications for purchases over 0.05 of a square kilometer are assessed against the national interest, under the criteria in the Overseas Investment Act. Deciding on the merits if each application is far more sensible than a xenophobic ban.

Leftwing Xenophobia

April 20th, 2012 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

John Moore is a progressive activist. In a guest blog at liberation he confronts the issue of leftwing xenophobia:

John Moore argues that leftwing opposition to the Chinese bid for the Crafar farms highlights how progressives in this country continue to frame their politics within a conservative economic-nationalist framework. Despite the protestations of leftists opposing the Shanghai Pengxin bid, the fact is that their nationalist rhetoric has nothing to do with progressive politics and everything to do with crude foreigner bashing.

Moore provides some history:

For example during the early part of the twentieth century the Federation of Labour, through its paper the Maoriland Worker, railed against Chinese immigration. …

Many from New Zealand’s contemporary left would acknowledge this history of racism and bigotry, but would argue that progressives in this country have now embraced diversity and tolerance over bigotry and xenophobia. However, such leftists’ continued adversity to immigration and support for little New Zealand nationalism points to continuity with the left’s racist past.

Moore looks at the Crafar issue:

Labour’s careful construction of a new nationalist synthesis amounted to the formation of a post-conservative form of patriotism that most of the left could now feel comfortable with. Whereas the New Left of the 60s and 70s often rejected any form of nationalism, many contemporary leftists now feel comfortable with this new form of ‘Kiwi’ identity. However, the problem with the acceptance of this form of ‘progressive’ patriotism is that it inevitably allows for forms of bigotry, racism and xenophobia to be accepted as legitimate when they are framed within this ‘liberal’ nationalist framework. Therefore, the recent left-wing opposition to the Crafar farm sales can be seen as being a kneejerk reaction of a left that has been schooled in this new form of ‘liberal’ chauvinism. 

Moore concludes:

The question the left should be asking itself is: How is ownership by local capitalists in anyway preferable to foreign capitalist ownership? Does New Zealand’s corporate elite have some special genetic or cultural trait that makes them more socially responsible and caring owners and mangers of local resources?  …

Clearly our local capitalists act no differently than economic elites anywhere in the world. Therefore, attacking foreign bids within a nationalist framework acts purely to support local capitalist of the likes of Michael Fay, who will cynically exploit nationalist sentiments to secure and foster their own corporate interests. 

I am sure Sir Michael thanks Labour for their advocacy (again) on his behalf.

No SOE shareholder will be able to own 20%

January 31st, 2011 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Brian Gaynor writes:

The Government has to convince the public that these companies will remain majority Crown and New Zealand controlled. This should be easy to achieve because under the Takeovers Code, which wasn’t introduced until 2001, a shareholder must go from 19.99 per cent to 50.01 per cent in one step and this will be impossible to achieve if the Government has at least 50 per cent ownership.

So if I understand this correctly, even if NZers sell shares they buy to an overseas company (presumably for a higher price which means those Kiwi Mums and Dads have made a profit), no company could gain a 20% or greater stake.

Combine this with the liklihood that the NZ Super Fund will also buy significant stakes in the SOEs, and it will be harder for xenophobic opposition to be whipped up.

This won’t stop Labour trying though. Look at this blog post by Labour MP Damien O’Connor which demands the Government stop Asians from buying a private listed company – Wrightsons:

A recent announcement that Agria, an Asian company is applying to raise it’s stake in PGWrightsons from 19% to 51% is one more such move.

So Labour is now against Asians even being able to buy shares in a listed private company. At this rate, they will be able to merge with Winston First.

People must realize that the land is important but only part of our rural economy. The businesses that operate on and associated with it need also to be owned by us unless we are prepared to be servants to our future, not the owners of it.

The translation is that it is not enough that we keep our land out of Asian hands, but also our businesses.

I like how Damien talks about Wrightsons as if it is owned by the state. It is not. It is owned by private shareholders. And no one is forced to do business with it. If people don’t like its shareholders, they don’t have to deal with it.

Normal xenophobia from Winston

October 9th, 2009 at 12:47 pm by David Farrar

NZPA report:

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters is back with all guns blazing today in a speech slamming immigration, foreign ownership and the Government.

Saying NZ First would be fighting the 2011 election to save the country, Mr Peters returned with relish to his old themes of immigration and foreign investment.

The comments were made in speech notes for delivery to the Kawerau and Districts Grey Power meeting this afternoon.

New Zealand had suffered a “tsunami” of immigrants, he said, and large scale immigration could not be justified when 140,000 people were out of work. …

The burden of immigrants on welfare and pensions was bemoaned.

“These people are feasting on your pension pie … the pension pie you and other Kiwis paid for.”

I’ve just gone to Stats NZ and got their annual stats for people arriving in NZ on a residence permit. They are for June years:

  • 2006 – 17,917
  • 2007 – 17,156
  • 2008 – 15,262
  • 2009 – 14,275

If that is a tsunami, it is a rapidly shrinking one. How pathetic and desperate is he to resort to his tactics of 15 years ago.

Peters compared to Le Pen

April 11th, 2008 at 9:50 am by David Farrar

Rodney Hide pointed out in the House yesterday that Foreign Minister Winston Peters has been compared to Jean-Marie Le Pen.

Who did the comparing? Helen Clark in 2003.

The return of Muldoon

March 9th, 2008 at 7:07 pm by David Farrar

Two separate columnists in two separate papers have used the “Muldoonist” tag in relation to Dr Cullen’s overnight secret law change regarding overseas investment in private companies.

Brian Gaynor in the Herald writes:

Finance Minister Dr Michael Cullen’s decision to effectively stymie the partial takeover offer for Auckland International Airport (AIA) is an unwanted reminder of the meddling policies of former Prime Minister Robert Muldoon.

Dr Cullen’s edict was so appalling, and so inconsistent with his policies of the previous eight years, that one can only conclude it was strongly influenced by political considerations ahead of this year’s general election. …

Cullen’s decision was announced nearly a decade after the Crown sold its 51.6 per cent controlling interest in the airport and more than seven months after the first offer for AIA was revealed. As a result the offer has been a terrible waste of resources – the airport had already spent $5.8 million on the process by the end of December.

Meanwhile Garry Sheeran in the SST says:

The crudely political nature of the government’s late-night move to block the Canadian bid for 40% of Auckland International Airport is highlighted by a barely cold, two-year review of the Overseas Investment Act.

That review, enacted into law in August 2005, was supported by a government “committed to maintaining a liberal investment regime”.

The legislation’s sponsor, Finance Minister Michael Cullen, said at the time that New Zealand needed foreign capital to develop the economy.

No surprise, then, at the collective gasp which greeted the same minister’s announcement late on Monday that the same act would be amended to send the Canadians packing, once and for all.

Political commentator Chris Trotter said the use of an order-in-council to rewrite the law harked back to the 1980s. “It would have been just another day under Rob Muldoon,” he said, “but using the governor-general and most of the cabinet to rewrite the rules is not something we are used to any more.

Also the NZ Herald Editorial calls on Cullen to name the assets covered by this new law:

Dr Cullen suggests the infrastructure he has in mind comprises only a “narrow” group. The inclusion of Auckland airport means it could be narrower. But, hopefully, dams and ports are the other ingredients. Certainly, there is no need for the likes of Television New Zealand, which can, in an emergency, be easily replicated.

The other factor in this equation is xenophobia. That is the unspoken reason for the obstacles installed by many overseas jurisdictions. It should not be an issue here. Dr Cullen must list what the Government considers strategically important infrastructure. That should be the prelude to a reasoned debate. From that, it should not be difficult to reach bipartisan agreement on strategic assets, and the degree of protection they should be afforded.

Indeed Dr Cullen has resorted to Winston’s old trick of xenophobia. And it is quite unacceptable for people not to know which assets or companies the Government now deems strategic. Why would people spend money investing in a company when the Govt by overnight whim can declare it is strategic and off limits.