Hostility to foreign investment holds NZ back

New Zealanders’ hostility to foreign investment could damage the agricultural sector’s chances of becoming a trillion-dollar “food bowl” to Asia.

One of the issues identified in ANZ’s Greener Pastures report was a shortfall in capital.

Farmers will need up to $201b extra between now and 2050 and another $130b to support retiring farmers:

Traditional sources of funding- debt and retained earnings- would not be enough to bridge the gap.

“Inevitably, foreign investment will be an important part of the answer, but the pace of investment cannot get too far ahead of public opinion without undermining its sustainability,” the report said.

One survey quoted found 82 per cent of Kiwis believed foreign ownership of farms and agricultural land was bad.

ANZ commercial and agri managing director Graham Turley said the sector could work harder at educating urban New Zealand.

“We’ve built New Zealand off foreign capital, and we’ve done that reasonably wisely,” he said.

“They just need to increase their awareness of foreign investment being a good thing, that it creates access to market, it brings in technology and allows us to expand the productive base of our economy.”

The ANZ report noted that the Overseas Investment Office’s test for the sale of agricultural assets lacked clarity and transparency, and that the regime was seen as too restrictive by some.

Turley said the Crafar farms OIO saga was a “fringe” distraction from the real debate, which should be about how to attract and deploy foreign capital to the country’s advantage. . .

The xenophobic attitude to foreign investment isn’t helped by the media. Take this headline as an example: More kiwi farms could fall into foreign hands.

The story is about seven farms in a receivership sale which are being advertised internationally.

That’s sensible business practice and could mean they might be bought by foreigners but falling into foreign hands is an emotive and unnecessarily negative way to describe it.

The media ought not to feed xenophobia, nor should politicians. But we’ve had a couple of examples of that from the opposition in the past week.

They were quick to seize on criticism of Huawei, the Chinese company which has a telecommunications contract here when it was accused of spying. There’s been no response to the report which exonerates it.

Labour, the Green Party, NZ First and Mana keep calling for more jobs but they are feeding hostility to foreign investment which will be necessary for economic growth needed to provide those jobs.

The full Greener Pastures report is here.

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