Why no uproar?

Could someone please explain to me why the thought of selling a relatively few hectares of farmland to foreigners upsets so many people but there’s no uproar at the news that a German company has OIO approval to buy Turners and Growers?

Germany’s BayWa Atiengesellschaft has secured Overseas Investment Office approval for its takeover of local fruit marketer Turners & Growers, and has declared its offer unconditional.

The German company, which has global investments across the building, energy and agriculture sectors, has bought some 72.5 percent of T&G shares at a cost of about $157 million and will close its offer today, it said in a statement.

“The takeover is a ground-breaking step towards internationalisation of BayWa,” the company said.

Group chief executive Klaus Josef Lutz will take T&G’s chair, and the company will appoint chief financial officer Andreas Helber, board member responsible for agriculture and fruit Josef Krapf, and head of fruit Dietmar Bahler to the board.

Why does the possible sale of land exercise the xenophobes when the sale of a company which owns Enza, New Zealand’s largest apple exporter and one of the country’s signature brands does not?

Owners of farms can’t take the land away but owners of this company could take the produce, the brand and of course the profits.

I’m not opposed to sale of either land or the company but I really don’t understand why people who oppose foreign ownership of farms aren’t just as upset by the sale of companies.

10 Responses to Why no uproar?

  1. Denny says:

    Possibly because brands and products can be recreated, but the productive land we have now is pretty much all there is?

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  2. pdogge says:

    Really HP, they are not the same on many obvious levels

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  3. robertguyton says:

    “Why does the possible sale of land exercise the xenophobes…?”

    I guess you should ask the xenophobes, Ele. Waste of time posing the question here, you’ll only get answers from ordinary, thoughtful New Zealanders and those answers won’t match the impression you are trying to create, that opposition to land sales to foreigners living overseas is not in our interest.

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  4. homepaddock says:

    Denny – the land can’t be taken away and there are more controls over foreigners buying farmland than locals so in some ways it’s safer in their hands than ours.

    Pdogge – I know they’re not the same, but the argument against foreign ownerhsip is based more on emotion than logic.

    Robert – some sale of land to foreigners, regardless of where they live, could be in our interest.

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  5. robertguyton says:

    “some sale of land to foreigners, regardless of where they live, could be in our interest”

    Could be, Ele. It could also be to our great disadvantage, couldn’t it.
    Re:”but the argument against foreign ownerhsip is based more on emotion than logic”, please tell me you’re joking, just messin’ with us! You can be seriously posing that as an argument.

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  6. homepaddock says:

    Robert – foreign ownerhsip could bring benefits or not, that’s why we have an OIO to determine if there are benefits and impose conditions on foreign owners to ensure they are realised.

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  7. robertguyton says:

    It’s a shame then, they didn’t do their job properly and the High Court had to reprimand them. I wonder if the benefits the OIO regard as desirable are regarded in the same way by the New Zealand public. It could be that New Zealanders don’t want a bar of it.

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  8. From the Cowshed says:

    New Zealanders are upset because whether they live in the town or not they feel a connection to the ‘rural story’ that is New Zealand. Is it rational? No. Is it emotional? Of course it is. This is what we as a dairy industry have to understand. It goes to prove that once again ‘perception becomes reality’. And instead of battling against it we need to work with it.

    I used to submit applications to the OIO on behalf of clients buying land in New Zealand and I can tell you every single one of them was approved with no conditions imposed. The OIO was a toothless tiger. It would actually be in New Zealand’s best interests to impose a few more conditions on the buyers than they have done in the past.

    But personally I think we’re asking the wrong question here. Perhaps we should be asking how we’ve got to the point where only corporates and foreign buyers can buy land instead of our young farmers. The answer to that question may not be palatable but it will be honest one nonetheless.

    I believe as an industry we need to have some of our own ‘behind borders’ investment to ensure our pathway to farm ownership remains fluid and attracts the best and brightest to carry our industry forward into the future.

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  9. homepaddock says:

    FTCS – you make some very good points.

    Though it has never been easy to buy land – if it was a lot more people would be doing it.

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  10. TraceyS says:

    A vote of confidence in NZ farmers perhaps? People know the German company will probably do a better job of managing Turners & Growers business and will develop it, creating jobs. But they obviously don’t think that overseas farmers will do a better job of running NZ farms than our kiwi farmers. Why is there such a tendency in NZ to focus on the negative, whilst reserving credit where credit is due? Lets celebrate those who are doing a good job and who are creating good outcomes for themselves and others they are involved with.

    Land ownership. It is hard to buy land and it should be. Owining land is a huge responsibility, committment and challenge. If you really really want it, you have to work very hard. But overcomming the barriers makes you work even harder to look after what you have. I reckon that applies to any race or culture. I’m not against foreign ownership, but it should not be made easy for them.

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