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.