New Zealand First leader Winston Peters has slammed a Chinese company's purchase of Lochinver Station as a "corporate raid" with no benefits to New Zealand.
And Federated Farmers has added its weight to concerns over the sale, saying as a small country the Government needs to do more to stop productive land falling into the hands of a single foreign buyer.
Shanghai Pengxin wants to buy the 13,800 hectare Lochinver Station, near Taupo, for $70 million. The company spent $200 million on the Crafar farms in 2012, and earlier this year took a 75 percent stake in Canterbury's Synlait Farms, including five hectares of conservation land and seven hectares of the Rakaia riverbed.
The Overseas Investment Office (OIO) is currently reviewing the Lochinver Station deal, which would need the approval of two Government ministers before going ahead.
Federated Farmers president Dr William Rolleston says the organisation isn't against foreign ownership, but the OIO hasn't outlined how this sale would benefit New Zealand.
"Our concern is where we start to see aggregation of farmland into one single foreign owner," he said on Firstline this morning.
"The Government recognised this some time ago – in 2010 they put in extra rules for the Overseas Investment Office, and this particular sale breaches that trigger level by about three times."
New Zealand's Fonterra has significant business interests in China, but Dr Rolleston says it would be "very difficult" for a New Zealand company to acquire a "strategically significant amount of land" in the world's third-largest country.
"We're quite a small country in comparison… what we're concerned about is that if there is large land aggregation, that there is actually substantial benefit to New Zealand."
Mr Peters says while China "desperately needs" Fonterra, Chinese companies don't bring anything to New Zealand.
"What we're doing over there of course, and what they want to do over here is entirely different," he says. "We're in a way working with them to get into the market, but here they want to control the market; and if allowed to… they will have a serious chance to influence the market, and downstream they will influence the price to our disadvantage."
He says Shanghai Pengxin's so-called investment in New Zealand hasn't created any new jobs or opportunities for Kiwis.
"That's the kind of thing that's portrayed by these… lousy apologists for unbridled capitalism, saying it's investment. It's a corporate raid, and every other smart economy sees it for what it is, and we don't."
New Zealand First has promised to buy back farms and businesses it deems strategic to New Zealand's interests – and isn't restricting itself to recent foreign sales.
"We launched into this stupidity post-1984, and the fact that we've done it for 30 years – with some restraints in some periods – is neither here nor there," says Mr Peters.
"It was a stupid policy back then, it's a stupid policy now."
Federated Farmers is calling for a register of foreign-owned farms, which Dr Rolleston says will show very little of New Zealand's farmland is owned by foreign interests.
He says such a register, like one currently being set up by the Abbott government in Australia, would "take the political sting" out of the debate, and let decisions be made on facts and figures, rather than emotion.
source: newshub archive