Foreign investment is an issue which bubbles away in the background with the occasional boil over, usually based on emotion not facts.
This week’s fuss over the sale of Lochinver Station is a prime example.
The rules for foreign investment were already tight and National tightened them further.
Foreign buyers of sensitive land must convince the Overseas Investment Office they can meet strict criteria – including delivering greater economic, environmental and social benefits than a local buyer would.
This isn’t just a matter of ticking boxes.
A friend manages farms owned by a foreign company and he says they are strictly monitored to ensure they are doing what they said they’d do.
This isn’t good enough for politicians who sense an opportunity to grab a headline and garner votes.
The concern is that if emotion rules, New Zealand and New Zealanders will be poorer.
Foreign investment brings benefits as John Roughan points out:
Foreign investment seems to have done us no harm. In fact we would be a smaller, meaner, more worried place without it. We’ve grown.
Prime Minister John Key has said if there’s a run on our land the government will act.
There is a need for a discussion on what would constitute a run and the total area of foreign ownership we should allow.
But that should be based on reason not emotion.
Foreign investment has helped us grow and poor policy based on political opportunism by politicians desperate for attention could threaten future growth.
We’ve grown and we need some foreign investment to ensure we keep growing.