Labour leader Phil Goff promised to make it harder for foreigners to buy New Zealand land when he spoke to the party’s annual conference in Auckland today.
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Mr Goff pledged to introduce tougher rules around sales of five hectares or more so that “rather than most applications from foreign buyers going through, most will be turned down”.
But he did not address the underlying causes of the surge in foreign interest in New Zealand farms: children who want to work in the city rather than take over the family farm; a corresponding increase in farms for sale; and the lack of local investors that opens the door for cash-rich overseas buyers.
There's also the issue that the land in question does not belong to the government, but farmers - and many believe they should be free to sell it to whomever they choose.
A two-way street. Who would have thought?
Then, of course, there's the question of whether Fonterra could continue to invest in Chinese farms, and grow its exports to this huge new market, if a New Zealand government chooses to block investment in the other direction.
“Assets like the Crafar farms have been put up at the behest of banks,” Mr Goff said.
“But what is in the banks' interest is not always in the wider interests of New Zealand. When New Zealanders have to compete against overseas buyers, we have to ask ourselves - what will happen if the prices paid lock us out of owning our own land?”
No overseas person has the right to buy our land the Labour leader said, it is a privilege, and one “we have granted too easily”.
Mr Goff said his party would “reverse the presumption that any foreign purchase of our rural land is good for New Zealand. This will mean that rather than most applications from foreign buyers going through, most will be turned down.”
Buyers will have to prove that selling land to them will be good for New Zealand’s economy.
A Labour government would also introduce new rules around investment in monopoly infrastructure to guarantee these crucial assets, such as airports, seaports and water services remain in New Zealand hands, Mr Goff said.
The National-led government recently moved to give overseas investment more scrutiny, allowing ministers to apply economic interest tests, or veto a sale.
Sun, 17 Oct 2010