8 mins to read

Peters says he would block sale of Lochinver Station to Chinese

NZ First leader plays catchup after being gazumped by Colin Craig on Friday. Makes restricting foreign investment a bottom line, says would "buy back strategically important farms sold to foreigners."

Sun, 03 Aug 2014

Winston Peters says New Zealand First would block the sale of Lochinver Station, if it’s in government or holds balance of power on cross-benches

“Every New Zealander out there who's looking at this programme can trust my word on this. Not because I say it now, but because I've done it. We would not allow this deal,” says Mr Peters, who was in an MMP coalition with the Helen Clark Labour government at the time NZ's Free Trade Agreement with China was signed.

The NZ First leader was gazumped by Colin Craig on Friday as the Conservative party leader broke the news the Overseas Investment Office was considering the sale of Lochinver to China's Shanghai Pengxin (the buyer of the Crafar Farms). Mr Craig also seized the traditionally NZ First ground of opposing the sale.

Mr Peters sought to regain the intiative during an interview on TV3's The Nation by saying tighter rules on foreign investment would be a bottom-line.“We will not go into any arrangement with any party that think they can go on doing this.That’s it,” he said.

He vowed to buy back strategically important farms sold to foreigners. 

"We'd use the Cullen Fund," says Mr Peters. "We'd use the Kiwi Fund, which we're starting to ensure we got control of our assets back."

The NZ First leader said a million hectares of New Zealand land has been sold to foreign interests since John Key came to power – equal to six Stewart Islands, by his calculation (actually it's closer to four).

He insisted he was not wrong about the Dutch-owned Huka Lodge — which he earlier claimed was being sold to Chinese interests. The Overseas Investment Office says no Huka Lodge deal is on the table.

“I know it’s for sale," Mr Peters said.

What do you think? Should foreign buyers' bids for approval to buy NZ land be made public? Click here to vote in our subscriber-only business pulse poll.

RAW DATA: TV3/The Nation transcript: Patrick Gower interviews Winston Peters

Patrick Gower: You're back with The Nation. Parliament has barely risen and the campaign curveballs have already started flying. Foreign ownership is suddenly an issue, with Lochinver Station near Taupo up for sale. Crafar Farms owner Shanghai Pengxin has an agreement to buy another 13,000ha of what was marketed as iconic farmland, subject to Overseas Investment Office approval. Conservatives leader Colin Craig broke the story yesterday and promised to block the purchase should he get into government, but what would Winston do? Mr Peters, good morning.

Winston Peters: Good morning.

You heard Steven Joyce there call this station a 'ridiculously small piece of land'. What do you make of that?

Well, he doesn't know anything about the station, obviously, or its size or admit the fact that since he and Mr Key came to power, they've seen sold under them to foreign interests over a million hectares. That's six times the size of Stewart Island. It's not a small piece of area when you look at it that way.

And this farm, obviously, at 70,000ha [ccn: 13,800] is not small either.

It's huge. It's an icon, and people forget that back when it was being developed, there were all sorts of government assistance programmes, like marginal loans, with low concessionary interest rates to help these farms being developed. They bought on a New Zealand-only market; they got New Zealand taxpayer assistance; and now it's going to foreign interests. This is a disaster.

So, we know you're against the sale, but if you got anywhere near power, in some sort of government arrangement with either side, Labour or National, after this election, what would you actually do? What would New Zealand First do about this sale?

Mr Gower, I so believe in this principle that I walked out of a cabinet as a Deputy Prime Minister and treasurer over a strategic asset sale to foreign interests. Why would anyone doubt my word on it?

But could you actually block it with the Overseas Investment Office now? Is this just talk? Could you do anything?

No, no. I don't believe in talk. You know what my credibility or my bona fide on this is. I walked out of cabinet, second post in the country.

I am aware of that. How could you stop this deal now, though? It's in train.

No, no, no. The fact of the matter is it requires OIO approval. The fact is it's a rubber stamp. It's a long way to go, and it won't be approved before the election. I'm pretty certain of that.

So a government minister has to tick that off? Would you go into a government that would be prepared to—

Two ministers.

Two ministers. Would you go into a government that is prepared to sign it off, or not? Or would you say, 'I will not go into a government that will sign off this deal?'

Every New Zealander out there who's looking at this programme can trust my word on this. Not because I say it now, but because I've done it. We would not allow this deal.

OK, so if that's not signed; you're in government, you won't let National ministers sign this off?

If we were on the crossbenches with the balance of power as well, we would stop this deal.

So you can stop this thing?

We believe so, yes. But hang on. One corollary. If the New Zealand people are opposed to this, then they must step up themselves. Don't think they can vote any old way

You would do that. You would— I need you to be really clear on this. You would withdraw an offer of supply or confidence to a National government if they were prepared to tick this off? You would say to them, 'You have to decline this sale— Your ministers have to decline this sale or you don't get us across the line.

You guys know what our position is. We are not selling our soul or this country's soul. And we are against this sale, and we will not be going into any arrangement with any party that think they can go on doing this. That's it. I don't wanna be wasting my time answering these questions, because the serious issue here is— I've answered the question. The serious issue is God's not making any more land. New Zealanders are being shut out of their own country. They can't get 2% interest rates to buy Lochinver. No, no. They're up against a huge competitive interest disadvantage. And all this is going on under the government's nose, that refuses to keep a land and home register; you've got a housing bubble here in Auckland; interest rates going up all over the country. And you think the New Zealand people want this to go on? I don't believe that. And that's why I say — if the people in this country wake up and front up on Election Day, this deal and deals like this and the kind of overseas buying that's going on wholesale in this country will stop. And New Zealand First will make sure it does stop.

OK. And quite a big week for you with John Key killing off your main opposition in Colin Craig.

He wasn't.

He got the break on you yesterday. This is the kinda thing you should be doing. You got it wrong with Huka Falls Lodge; Colin Craig got it right with this station. You're losing your mojo?

No, no. Just stop a second. Who says I got it wrong with Huka Lodge?

I do.

Why don't you call up Mr van Heeren? Have you?

You're saying again that—?

I have sources that you guys don't have.

You're not going back on your—?

Why don't you call up Mr van Heeren and say, 'Is there a sale transaction offer out there now or what?' Or why don't you look in the background of Mr van Heeren's business engagements.

You're still saying Huka Falls Lodge is shifting—?

I know it's for sale.

© All content copyright NBR. Do not reproduce in any form without permission, even if you have a paid subscription.
Peters says he would block sale of Lochinver Station to Chinese