Another side of the foreign ownership story

Federated Farmers Dairy chair Willy Leferink writes:

. . . In recent weeks, I have found myself in the NZ Herald after the sale of a farm that gave me a taste of the Overseas Investment Office (OIO).  What I found after the event is that the OIO releases approvals at the end of the month, after the month in which approval is granted.  This fact and the calls it generated came as a bolt out of the blue.

Okay, what we sold our farm for seems like a lot of money at face value but just like any home owner, you have something called a mortgage to repay first.  While there is a sum left over my wife and I are not boarding the next plane for the Sunshine Coast, which seems the path for many small to medium sized businesspeople after selling.  Instead, we are pouring a great deal of the surplus into more sustainable farming particularly wintering barns.  I am putting my money where my mouth is because I am convinced these are a solution to nutrient loss; especially Nitrogen.  I am not saying it is ’the’ solution but one of many coming on-stream. It’s a personal opinion, but for the farms I have interests in, I believe these barns are the right thing by our animals and the environment.  I can only hope the Canterbury Land & Water Regional Plan evolves to reflect this and other innovative ways of farming.  My wintering barns are also a solution any capital gains tax would rob me a slice of for productive reinvestment.  If we strip away the rhetoric, a capital gains tax is a penalty on success and I’m not sure that’s a good message to send to society.

While I don’t have an issue with public disclosure over the sale of my farm, it would have been nice to have been told when.  As it was, I was caught on the hop at the Australian Dairy Farmers conference.  If it caught me on the hop I imagine it caught the Barilla family too.  It means their first taste of New Zealand was not Kia Ora but a media scrum.  Is this how we want to treat one of the largest family owned food companies in the World?  The very people who can open doors for our exports. My excellent sharemilkers remain on the farm but are now partners with a multinational family owned food business that started in 1877.  There’s is a ton of upsides for New Zealand here.

Being an immigrant myself we are not helping ourselves when politicians play the ‘johnny foreigner’ card.  On the same day the OIO revealed the sale of my farm, the Auckland house of former Hanover Finance director Mark Hotchin was sold to a foreign-born businessman for $39 million.  Where are Phil Goff and his rural land Bill on that?

Opposition policies, pandering to emotion rather than facts, would add costs and reduce benefits, if they allowed the deal to go through at all.

OIO rules are already rigorous.

A capital gains tax would divert money which could otherwise be used to improve productivity and/or environmental practices.

Under the existing, tough rules, the Leferinks got good money for their farm and they are putting it into improvements on another property.

The sharemilkers are still on the farm, sharing in the profits they help generate.

New Zealand has more inward investment.

This is a win-win, opposition policies would make it lose-lose.

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