Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Overseas buy-up continues

Opposition politicians again raised questions about the benefits to the country’s economy of foreign investment, after Swedish investors bought eight forestry-converted dairy farms in south Waikato. Labour’s primary industries spokesman Damien O’Connor said agriculture was no different from other sectors of the economy – all were subject to foreign interest and potential investment. The question for any government was whether the foreign investment resulted in a net benefit or loss to the economy.  

Green Party co-leader Russel Norman said the Swedish consortium had declared its aim to lift milk production and develop the Waikato farms it had acquired, a similar argument to that of Shanghai Pengxin when it said it would bring the rundown Crafar farms up to working order.

But the “woefully understaffed” Overseas Investment Office was unlikely to monitor whether any substantial economic benefit did flow from the purchase, he said.

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters said “Whether the overseas buyers are from United States, UK, Dubai, China or Sweden, or any other country, the one common theme in these deals is the realisation that in a crowded world facing food scarcity, prime rural land and agricultural assets in New Zealand are a great buy.”

It was clear that international investors were targeting the country’s agricultural land and production capacity for acquisition.

Without referring to the Swedish deal, independent MP Brendan Horan asked the Minister for Primary Industries in Parliament on February 21 if he supported new foreign investment in the NZ dairy sector.

Associate Primary Industries Minister Jo Goodhew, speaking for the minister, could not say what proportion of foreign ownership was considered desirable, but she said foreign ownership of farms in NZ was around 1%, and “the outrage we hear seems a little beyond that percentage”.

Horan then asked if she thought it was a good idea that foreigners owned over 40% of Fonterra’s derivative shares.

Goodhew said Fonterra had its own constitutional limits around how large the trading among farmers (TAF) fund was and fund investors had no voting rights.

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