Helping those who help us

09/10/2012

If the lives of the interpreters working with Kiwi troops in Afghanistan are at risk, we have a moral obligation to allow them, and their families, to settle in New Zealand.

Prime minister John Key says he’s sympathetic to 26 interpreters working with Kiwi troops in Afghanistan who claim their lives are in danger if they can’t resettle in New Zealand.

The interpreters with the New Zealand provincial reconstruction team in the Bamiyan province are seeking asylum in New Zealand, saying they and their families will be captured, tortured and killed by insurgent forces for helping the foreigners.

The New Zealand troops are due to withdrawal from the province in April.

Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman is preparing recommendations on their plight and will take a paper to Cabinet for approval.

Key today said the interpreters had a legitimate position to put to the government.

“They have worked for New Zealand with New Zealand’s best interests at heart and it is at least feasible that there is some risk to them if they remain in Afghanistan.’’

However, the government would need to test their claims, he said. . .

Life in Afghanistan is risky for anyone and it is a very real possibility that these interpreters and their families might be at greater risk because of their work with our troops.

If there is any doubt about the safety of the people who’ve helped our people they should be granted asylum and assisted to settle here.


Will there be a snap debate on this too?

16/08/2012

On Tuesday parliament had a snap debate on the sale of what were the Crafar farms to Shanghai Pengxin.

It was called by the Opposition who, for reasons which are based far more on emotion than reason, are opposed to selling farm land to foreigners.

Last night Russel Norman’s Bill to restrict the sale of land greater in area than 5 hectares was defeated.

The bill was defeated by 61 to 59 with National, United Future and ACT opposed.

Quite why the Opposition have such an attachment to farmland when their policies show they have little understanding of farming or interest in its success escapes me.

I also don’t understand why farmland engenders such emotion when sales of companies like this go unremarked:

Foley Family Wines, owned by the California-based billionaire Bill Foley, will take control of New Zealand Wine Company, adding the Grove Mill, Sanctuary and Frog Haven brands to its suite of local wines.

NZ Wine Co shareholders approved the merger at a special general meeting in Blenheim today, with about 99 percent of votes cast in favour, the company said in a statement. 

The merger, which will see Foley take an 80 percent stake in the Marlborough-based company, has not yet been approved by the Overseas Investment Office.

Foley already owns the luxurious Wairarapa Wharekauhau estate and is chairman of two Fortune 500 companies, insurance firm Fidelity National and banking and payments technology company, Fidelity National Information Services.

He also owns the Vavasour, Goldwater, Clifford Bay and Dashwood wine brands.

NZ Wines shares are listed on the NZX alternative market and last traded at 92 cents.

I have no problem with this investment or foreign investment in general. Bill English explained earlier this week the country has a lot to gain from foreign capital.

But if the control of farm land and its produce by foreign owners exercises the opposition, why aren’t they equally concerned by what looks like a significant investment in another primary industry?

Could it be it’s not foreign investment per se but the nationality of the investors which is at the root of the opposition to the Crafar farms by the Opposition?

Contributions to Tuesday’s debate included speeches from Maurice WilliamsonTodd Mclay, Jonathan Coleman, and David Bennett.

And yesterday’s debate on Noramn’s Bill included this speech from Jonathan Coleman who had to withdraw the comment daconomics but introduced the term yokelnomics:


Ministers follow OIO law

20/04/2012

Land Information Minister Maurice Williamson and Associate Finance Minister Jonathan Coleman have approved the new recommendation of the Overseas Investment Office (OIO) to grant consent to Milk New Zealand Holding Limited to acquire the 16 Crafar farms.

“New Zealand has a transparent set of laws and regulations around overseas investment,” Mr Williamson says.

“Those rules recognise the benefits that appropriate overseas investment can bring, while providing a range of safeguards to protect New Zealanders’ interests. They are applied evenly to all applications, regardless of where they are from.

“We have sought to apply the law in accordance with the provisions of the Overseas Investment Act and the guidance of the High Court.

“We have carefully considered the OIO’s new recommendation. The OIO sought advice from Crown Law and independent legal advice from David Goddard QC. The Ministers also sought advice and clarification from Mr Goddard.

“We are satisfied that on even the most conservative approach this application meets the criteria set out in the Act and is consistent with the High Court’s judgment.”

The Ministers have followed the law, and the High Court’s stricter definition of it, as they are bound to do.

Opponents of land sale to foreigners won’t like it but the correct way to deal with that is to change the law, not to go against it.

Former Minister Chris Carter tried that with the Whangamata marina, was taken to court and lost.

Dr Coleman said the consent came with stringent conditions.

“These 27 conditions have been imposed to ensure Milk New Zealand’s investment delivers substantial and identifiable benefits to New Zealand,” Dr Coleman says.

The conditions require Milk New Zealand to invest $16 million into the farms and to protect and enhance heritage sites.

“The combined effect of the benefits being delivered to New Zealand as a result of this transaction is substantial.”

The land is already in foreign hands – that of the banks and the receivers are bound to get the best price for it.

I’m not convinced they went about that the best way – the farms were offered for sale individually or as a package but I don’t know if they actively tried to market them to locals.

Whether or not they did, the best offer on the table now is the one approved today.

If the land was sold to New Zealanders they would not be required to do anything with it at all, they would not have 27 conditions imposed on them nor be required to make any further investment as the purchasers, Shanghai Pengxin, are.

A copy of the OIO’s new recommendation is here.

A copy of the OIO’s decision summary is here.


Crafar farm bid approved

27/01/2012

Land Information Minister Maurice Williamson and Associate Finance Minister Jonathan Coleman have accepted the Overseas Investment Office recommendation to approve the sale of the 16 Crafar farms to  Milk New Zealand Holding Limited (Milk New Zealand), a subsidiary of Shanghai company Pengxin.

“It is clear that all criteria under sections 16 and 18 of the Overseas Investment Act 2005 have been met, therefore we accept the recommendation of the OIO to grant consent,” Mr Williamson said.

“We are satisfied that Milk New Zealand’s application for consent meets the criteria set out in the Act,” Mr Coleman said.

The approval follows the receivers, KordaMentha’s acceptance in late 2010 of Milk New Zealand’s bid for the farms.

Milk New Zealand’s acquisition will further support the supply of high quality dairy products into the Chinese market and help set the foundations for further economic and export opportunities with China.

Stringent conditions policed by the OIO will ensure that Milk New Zealand’s investment delivers substantial and identifiable benefits to New Zealand. These include investing more than $14m into the farms making them more economically and environmentally sustainable; protecting the Nga Herenga  and the Te Ruaki pa sites and improving walking access to the Pureora Forest Park and Te Rere falls.  An on-farm training facility for dairy farm workers will also be established.

If the application meets the Act’s criteria the ministers had little choice but to approve the bid.

But this won’t be the end of the matter:

A press release just issued by the Michael Fay backed Crafar Farms Purchase Group says the decision to approve the farm sale to Shanghai Pengxin Group was “wrong in law and, if not overturned by Judicial Review, sets up open season for any foreign buyers wanting New Zealand land.”

The Group said it is the highest New Zealand bidder ($171.5 million), offering $21.5 million more than the Government’s farming SOE, Landcorp.

The Group confirmed it would proceed with a Judicial Review launched earlier this week to try to stop the land from being sold offshore.

But the Herald puts the purchase of the farms into perspective:

The 16 Crafar farms have a combined area of approximately 7,893 hectares.

In the last two years, consent was granted for overseas persons to acquire 357,056 hectares of agricultural land.

Consents granted involving agricultural land by country of majority ownership, are:

* United States to acquire 25,306 hectares of farm land

* Germany to acquire 6,834 hectares of farm land

* Switzerland 9,727 hectares of farm land

* Australia 3,861 hectares of farm land

* United Kingdom 22,600 hectares of farm land

* Hong Kong to acquire 759 hectares of farm land

I don’t remember any fuss over any of those sales nor over the sale of a total of 650,000 to foreigners approved by Labour in the nine years it was in government.

There are very stringent conditions on the sale:

  • The individuals with control of Milk New Zealand must continue to be of good character
  • Milk New Zealand must invest a minimum of NZD $14m in the properties
  • Milk New Zealand and their associates must not acquire an ownership or control interest in milk processing facilities in New Zealand unless a 50% or more ownership or control interest in those facilities is held by non-overseas persons
  • Milk New Zealand must establish an on-farm training facility for dairy farm workers and must meet the capital cost of establishing this facility
  • Milk New Zealand must give two scholarships of not less than NZD $5,000 each year to students of the on-farm training facility with the first two scholarships to be awarded by 31 December 2013
  • Milk New Zealand must use reasonable endeavours to assist Landcorp to extend its business to, and market its products, in China
  • Milk New Zealand must provide public walking access over Benneydale Farm and Taharua Station, in consultation with the Department of Conservation  and the New Zealand Walking Access Commission
  • Milk New Zealand must take reasonable steps to protect and enhance existing areas of significant indigenous vegetation and significant habitats of indigenous fauna and flora on the properties
  • Milk New Zealand must register a heritage covenant in respect of the Te Ruaki pa site on Tiwhaiti Farm
  • If required by the Office of Treaty Settlements, the Applicant must transfer the Nga Herenga pa site (approximately 1.6ha located on Benneydale Farm) to the Crown for nil consideration.

The third point, restricting ownership or control of milk processing here to no more than a 50% share, should allay concerns about food safety and standards.

The OIO’s recommendation is here; the decision summary is here  and background information here.

The only question I’m left with is why the receivers insisted on selling the operation as a whole rather than offering up individual farms.

They say they would not have got as much that way but I find that difficult to believe. The demand for individual farms would have been much greater than it was for the whole operation and therefore the price ought to have been higher.

 


When life imitates satire

13/11/2010

Like the many people who left comments I read Dim Post’s announcement that he’s leaving the blogosphere, at least temporarily, with regret.

His decision was prompted by life imitating satire when Peter Dunne handed Jonathan Coleman a two-year-old speech to introduce a Bill to parliament.

It happened again when Winston Peters complained about the dearth of investigative journalism because of foreign-owned media (and do check the comments, some are priceless).

And another example:

But it was Donatella Versace who got the big award of Woman of the Year for her charity work; she was presented with it by a grateful Janet Jackson after Versace made the funeral outfits for the Jackson family at brother Michael’s funeral.

“We were dressed in Versace we knew we were dressed in love,” she said.

But that story wasn’t all bad, it did introduce a new (at least to me) noun of assemblage:

As a starve of models from around the world gathered ahead of the lingerie lines much awaited preview show.

A starve of models, if it wasn’t so sad it would be very funny.


Alps to Ocean cycle trail’s a goer

06/07/2010

The Alps to Ocean cycle trail from Mount Cook to Oamaru harbour is one of eight new cycleway projects approved for funding under the New Zealand Cycle Trail project.

In a media rlease, acting Tourism Minister Jonathan Coleman said the $18.85 million investment in the eight new trails will provide a significant economic boost to the communities involved.

“These trails will showcase the very best that New Zealand has to offer in terms of our landscapes, culture and communities. They will be a key draw-card for both international and domestic visitors, and add a further dimension to our vibrant tourism sector,” Dr Coleman said.

“I am delighted that construction will be underway on these trails this summer, and I look forward to them becoming part of Nga Haerenga, the New Zealand Cycle Trail.”

The other trails are in Opotiki/Gisborne, Taupo, Hawke’s Bay, Nelson/Tasman, Westport, Queenstown and Clutha.

All had to complete extensive feasibility studies before applying for funding.

This announcement follows the evaluation of feasibility studies submitted to the Ministry of Tourism in May. Due to the diligent work of the applicants, funding for these trails has been confirmed four months ahead of schedule enabling construction to begin as soon as possible.

The Ocean to Alps trail will take cyclists 314 kilometres, descending 780 metres with a prevailing tail wind.

The trail starts near Mount Cook, passes Lakes Pukaki, Ruataniwha, Ohau, Benmore and Aviemore and the towns of Twizel, Omarama, Otematata, Kurow and Duntroon.

  It then goes south east following the Fossil Trail through the Waiarreka Valley into Oamaru and the port.

The latter part of the trail goes through an area few people visit now and will introduce cyclists to the beauty of North Otago’s downlands.


Common sense and compassion rule eventually

09/06/2009

Immigration Minister Jonathan Coleman is not impressed by his Department’s decision to force a pregnant Lithuanian woman on a visitor’s permit to leave the country.

“I believe that declining the permit was a poor decision by the department. I am pleased that common sense has prevailed and that the woman has now been issued a permit allowing her to stay in New Zealand.”

A recent Auditor-General’s report into Immigration New Zealand raised serious concerns about the quality of decision making processes within the organisation, and found an unacceptable variation in quality of decision making between branches.

The original decision showed neither compassion nor common sense and was made in the face of medical advice which said travel would endanger both the woman and her baby.

The Department might get a little credit for changing its mind but the stupidity of the original decision shows the AG was right to be concerned.

Is this case diferent from not granting a student visa to a Korean woman who was here on a visitor’s visa when she was pregnant?

Yes, because it was much earlier in the pregnancy and there was no danger to her her or her baby. There is no automatic right to a student’s visa and turning down an application for one from a pregnant visitor is quite different from telling someone who already has a student visa she can’t stay because she’s pregnant.

Had the father of the baby been a New Zealander there would have been a strong case for allowing the mother to stay, but he was a visitor too.


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