The results were pretty interesting. There were three main things we were trying to ascertain:
- The instinctive view of foreign ownership of farms
- How that view may change under various scenarios
- Whether the nationality of the foreign owner matters
The answer to (1) was pretty clear cut. 65% said that farms should only be able to be sold to NZ residents, with only 28% disagreeing.
With (2) three different scenarios were put about only employing NZ workers, paying tax in New Zealand and increasing exports. All of them reduce the level of opposition to some degree. Only 40% said the location of the owner matters if only NZ workers are employed. On the tax issue, only 42% said the location of the owner matters if tax is paid in NZ. But 52% would still be against foreign ownership even if the extra investment could triple output and exports.
So it showed that the level of opposition can reduce under various scenarios, but it still remains controversial.
The final aspect was finding out the level of comfort or discomfort based on the nationality of the intended buyer. In an ideal world, there would be no difference. So the first thing I looked for is how many people said they had the same level of comfort or discomfort for all five nationalities. It didn’t matter whether they were hostile to all five, or relaxed about all five – it was whether they treated them the same.
Only 42% rated all nationalities the same. 58% said that their level of comfort or discomfort varies by nationality.
We used a five point scale. If you define the net comfort result as the two most comfortable response options less the two most uncomfortable response options, then the net comfort results were:
- Australian +31%
- British +16%
- American +1%
- French -9%
- Chinese -25%
This suggest to me that Maurice was not entirely incorrect when he said some opposition to foreign investment is fueled by racism. Certainly not all of it,m but for a fair few people, they are happy to have foreigners own NZ farms – so long as they are Australian and British, not Chinese.