Crafar one of many NZ sales to foreign interests

  • 27/01/2012

By Dan Parker

The Crafar sale is not the first to foreign interests and it won't be the last.

One of the country's highest profile land sales to a foreigner was to country singer Shania Twain. She and her husband opened up Motatapu Station to hikers as a thank you.

The couple have now split but Twain's former partner Mutt Lange is still the owner and has invested millions developing it.

Federated Farmers Chief Executive Conor English says this is a good example of how foreign ownership can benefit the country.

“We have had some fantastic contributions made by people who come here and live here and invest here, so it is pretty critical that we have investment.”

This is one of a number of large areas of land sold to foreign investors, but just how much is anyone’s guess. Not even the Overseas Investment Office (OIO), the Government department that rubber stamps decisions has an idea.

“We only statistic on the application for consent that come before us,” says OIO Manager Annelies McClure.

“In addition we have only been operating for the last 23 years.”

The problem is only sensitive cases and blocks of farm land bigger than five hectares come before it. In some cases the final decision is made by the Government anyway.

The best estimation is from Federated Farmers. It says of the 11 million hectares classed as agricultural land in 2007, around two per cent, or 220,000 hectares, may be in foreign hands.

But some say that's two per cent too much.

“New Zealanders should retain the ownership of all horticultural, agricultural and sensitive land,” says lawyer Tony Bouchier.

”It is important for our future. We have a history of problematic land ownership in New Zealand and we don’t want to have that for our future generations.”

The OIO says a sale of land to a foreign investor is treated as a privilege, but there's no cap on how much land can be bought.

Of the 311 applications it's seen in the past seven years, only three have been declined.

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source: newshub archive