If you listen to opponents to foreign investment in New Zealand you could be forgiven for thinking the Overseas Investment Office is merely a rubber stamp for anyone with a whim to buy land or a business here.
It’s far from easy and from the applicant’s side the Wellington turkeys make New Zealand look Mickey Mouse:
THE IMAGE presented by the Overseas Investment Office (OIO) and the Crafar Farms situation made New Zealand look like “Mickey Mouse turkeys” to German company BayWa, says Geoff Hipkins, the new chief executive of Turners & Growers (T&G).
As BayWa went through processes of buying the major shareholding in T&G, Hipkins says its impression of the OIO was of a huge government department “all-powerful and telling the world what to do”.
“They didn’t believe me when I said it is actually four people stuck in the bowels of the Land Transfer Department, snowed under because they had this issue re Crafar Farms; that’s why [BayWa’s] case had been delayed,” Hipkins told the HortNZ conference in Auckland.
“They all looked at me and virtually said to a man, ‘b****’. They couldn’t believe our foreign investment was controlled by such an august group.
“Then you throw in the Crafar farm situation, where you have the judiciary changing the rules of the game with five minutes to play. They couldn’t understand that situation. You try to explain that to people wanting to spend hundreds of billions in this country.
“We really looked like Mickey Mouse turkeys and that is the only way I can explain it. The question was asked, ‘Is it because we are German?’ That was quite literally the thought going through the BayWa executives’ minds.” . . .
A friend who manages a farming company owned by overseas interests tells me a similar story.
Getting approval for purchases – even if it is using money gained from selling another farm in New Zealand – is a long, complicated, frustrating and very expensive process.
He says it wasn’t the fault of the people he was dealing with. They administer the law but they don’t make it and contrary to what the xenophobes would have us believe, successive governments have made it harder.