An 80% share in a 93,000 property has been sold to a Chinese-Japanese consortium.
But New Zealand opponents of foreign investment will have to find another fire to fight, this one isn’t one of ours, it’s Cubbie Station in Australia.
The decision by the government to approve the sale isn’t universally welcome but not for very good reasons:
. . . Like any Western company, Shandong Ruyi is investing in the production of the material required for its factories, which means the cotton to be grown at Cubbie Station will be sold to mills in China, as happens now. As for the water held in dams on the station, it will remain in Australia.
One of the more vocal critics of the Cubbie sale, Barnaby Joyce, has called for the 93,000 hectare area to be subdivided and sold as conventional farms, on the basis Australian farmers should be allowed to own the area.
In making this stand, he is in conflict with members of his party, notably Nationals MP Bruce Scott, who believes the FIRB should be left to administer the test of whether the sale is in the national interest. Senator Joyce is also in conflict with Coalition policies: a policy paper released in early August recommends only that the threshold for the FIRB to consider a sale should be lowered from $244 million to $15 million for farms and agribusinesses.
In addition, former prime minister John Howard has commented in a public forum that there is no reason to get “over- excited” about Chinese investment, as any companies investing here have to comply with Australian law.
Australia’s economic future is to produce food, fibre and minerals, notably for an ever more prosperous Asia, and to increase production and national income we will need foreign investment. We should not discourage that investment, particularly through eccentric populist policies.
That applies just as much on this side of the Tasman.
Foreign investment brings benefits and as long as would-be buyers pass the very stringent test required by the Overseas Investment Office and face the same laws and regulations as everybody else who farms here we have little to fear and lots to gain.