Labour joins NZ First’s Lochinver block party
Labour leader David Cunliffe has lined up with New Zealand First’s Winston Peters in vowing that Labour would block the proposed sale of Lochinver Station to Chinese company Shanghai Pengxin.
"We don't believe that it will add value to New Zealand,” Mr Cunliffe says, “and we share the concerns of the vast majority of New Zealanders who do not want to see us become tenants in our own country."
Mr Cunliffe says a Labour-led government would utilise ministerial discretion under the Overseas Investment Act to stop the sale.
Mr Cunliffe also says the purchase of more than five hectares of New Zealand farmland would be restricted to all foreigners under a Labour government.
Approval of the sale of the 13,800ha property near Taupo, considered one of New Zealand’s largest and most valuable farms, is being considered by the Overseas Investment Office.
Earlier this year the Chinese company took a 75% stake in the 4500ha hectare Synlait Farms in Canterbury, a deal that also included some conservation land.
In 2012, Shanghai Pengxin received government approval to buy 16 central North Island Crafar farms (totally almost 8000ha), a decision that sparked public controversy and prompted what the government described as a tightening of OIO criteria.
Since then no application to the OIO has been refused, which Labour claims is because the changes rendered the criteria all but meaningless.
Prime Minister John Key responded to Mr Cunliffe’s announcement by saying the Labour leader was "effectively in a dangerous position.”
"The government would almost certainly be open to legal action if they pre-judge the decision made by the Overseas Investment Office without knowing the facts," Mr Key says.
Since the Conservative Party’s Colin Craig revealed the pending Lochinver Station sale on Friday, NZ First’s Winston Peters has promised to make blocking the transaction a deal breaker in post-election coalition talks.
NZ First has also adopted a policy of buying back “strategically important farms” that have been sold to foreigners.
Although opposed to the sale, Mr Craig says the Conservative Party won’t match NZ First’s buy-back policy because “it’s not financially viable” at a time New Zealand is “up to our eyeballs” in debt.