Labour hits new low as foreign land sales controversy fails to touch the sides


Chris Keall

Source: Fairfax

So much for Labour lobbing a "Lochinver grenade" into the election campaign by promising to block the sale of the 13,000 hectare Taupo station to Shanghai Penxgin.

A new Fairfax/Ipsos poll has National up 0.3% to 55.1% and Labour down 2.4% to 22.5%*

NZ First and the Conservatives are on 3.4%, Internet Mana 2.1%, the Maori Party 1%, ACT 0.2% and UnitedFuture at 0.

It remains a strange one, the issue of land sales to Johnny Foreigner. 

Polls on mainstream media websites found people opposing land sales to non-New Zealand residents by 80%+ margins. A CampbellLive poll (admittedly like all-comers across the web and txt, self-selecting), found 94% against former farm sales. Even NBR readers threw free market principles to the wind, backing an academic's call for the government to intervene and consider lease-only deals for land transactions involving foreigners.

Personally, I think the main danger of us becoming tenants in our own line is if our economy karks it, and the way to make our economy strong is through two-way trade, including Fonterra's large and ongoing investments in China (and, no, it doesn't own the dirt, if you're obsessed with that; but it can control companies higher up the food chain). 

I would have preferred David Cunliffe not to come over as Winston-lite, but rather stand up and say, "Hey, I was part of the Labour government that signed the free trade agreement with China that's delivered New Zealand's first positive balance of trade in a generation." 

However, I accept I'm in a minority. And I fully expected Cunliffe and other opposition leaders lining up to block foreign investment would make hay.

But it seems the issue just hasn't touched the sides. For all the emotion around the debate, it just doesn't seem to be a vote-decider.

According to today's poll, not even Winston Peters – so skilled at playing this issue, at least in opposition – has managed to capitalise on Lochinver. The poll has NZ First down 0.8% to 3.4%.** Perhaps that's because he no longer has a monopoly on protectionism with Craig, Cunliffe, Norman et al jumping on board.

The next big poll hope for opposition parties is Nicky Hager's book. But I don't think that one will touch the sides either. Allegedly funneling leaks to a blogger and guiding his OIA requests is lame and shabby, but it's something the chattering classes more or less assumed was happening anyway, and Joe Public is going to shrug and move on.

* Again, all of the major polls were a bit off beam with their final surveys of 2011. Fairfax's final poll was particularly wonky, putting National on 54%. The party's actual election day total was 47.3%. Fairfax put Labour on 26%; it's actual vote was 27.5%.

** Yup, swallow another grain of salt. Fairfax' final 2011 election poll put NZ First on 4.0%. The party's actual vote was 6.6%.

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