Save The Cities

27/10/2010

A group of concerned farmers has set up a lobby group called Save The Cities.

“If city folk want to Save The Farms, it’s the least we can do to reciprocate and Save The Cities,” group spokesperson Fairly Emotional said.

“Overseas buyers are lining up from all countries to purchase our houses, apartments, office blocks, factories and other residential and business property.

“We believe the Government must take urgent steps to address overseas ownership of our homes and work places. The first step to place a moratorium on the sale of any sensitive residential or business property  to overseas ownership until there has been informed public debate and suitable protections incorporated into a review of the Overseas Investment Act 2005. New Zealand must retain ownership of our the homes, offices and workplaces of Aotearoa New Zealand.

“Overseas investment can bring positive economic benefits to New Zealand and there are a number of examples, equally there are examples where those benefits quickly move off-shore. Much of our prime residential and business property is now in overseas ownership. Can we afford to sit back and let this happen to our large cities and the communities they support?

“The culture of New Zealand is one of partnership with the land and the waters of Aotearoa. As partners we ask for the chance to be heard and the opportunity to best protect our properties for future generations.”

Ms Emotional said she hadn’t been in a city for some time but used to stay with urban relatives when she was a child.

“I have very fond memories of playing in quarter acre sections with my cousins but they tell me with in-fill housing and apartment developments there aren’t many of them left.

“Quarter acre sections are Kiwi icons like pavlova and jandals. We can’t have foreigners buying them and turning city folk into tenants in their own homes, even though many of them already are.”

Ms Emotional said she was aware that banning foreign buyers could precipitate a collapse in property prices.

“But that could be a good thing. It’s too difficult for young people to get a foot on the property ladder these days. If we limit the market the rungs will get lower and make it easier for people to become home owners.”

She said a fall in urban property prices would also help retiring farmers who’d had the price of their farms depressed by moves against foreign ownership but denied that was what was motivating the Save The Cities campaign.

“As New Zealanders we are proud of our place in the world. We have always batted above our weight on the international stage, be it on the sporting fields or in our role as an international citizen and the responsibilities that brings with it.

“We have a beautiful country and wonderful traditions which must never taken for granted. There will always be pressures economically, socially and culturally to make accommodations and that is the reality of a modern country. One of those traditions is property owning and the way that continues to support not only our country but the local communities which rely on the homes and businesses. We cannot let that be lost without questioning, why?”


Save whose farms from what?

25/08/2010

A group of Aucklanders wants to Save The Farms .

Not from pests and diseases, high rates bills, compliance costs and a myriad of other real threats. They want to save us from the perceived threat of foreign ownership.

Rather than saving our farms, StF is threatening them.

It is an incorporated society whose purpose is to:

  • Maintain ownership by New Zealand citizens of all agricultural and sensitive land and land of cultural importance.
  • To gain an immediate Moratorium on the sale of this land to foreign investors.
  • To promote and stimulate informed public debate around these objectives in a non political and partisan manner.
  • To promote a revision of the Overseas Investment Act 2005.

To this end they want the government:

  •  to put a moratorium on the sale of the Crafar farms and other sensitive agricultural land.
  •  to give urgency to the proposed review of the Overseas Investment Act 2005 incorporating a robust programme for public submission as announced by the Prime Minister.
  • The moratorium on the sale of sensitive agricultural land remains until the review of the Act has been completed.

This is a direct attack on property rights and farm values.

What do they mean by “our” farms anyway?  The only farms which might be considered “ours”  are those owned by Landcorp.

The rest aren’t “ours”. They are the property of the many individuals, trusts, companies and other bodies who have purchased the land.

Excluding foreign buyers would have an immediate and negative impact on the price of farmland. Other would-be purchasers might enjoy that but would-be sellers and the hundreds of other land owners whose farms’ values would plummet, and their creditors, would not.

What makes farms special or different from commercial or residential property, businesses and companies that all foreigners should be prevented from buying it?

Around 80% of our forestry is foreign-owned as are many other companies operating here including several vineyards and wineries and hotel chains. A Chinese company has a big stake in PGG Wrightson which gives them access to PGW’s intellectual property in seed development.

Most of our banks are foreign owned and their policies and operations impact on the day to day life of New Zealanders directly in a way that farms do not.

The Overseas Investment Act  already requires vetting of would-be purchasers of more than 5 hectares of non-urban land.

Regardless of who the owners are they can’t take the land with them and are subject to the same laws and regulations governing what they can do with it as everyone else.

Bernard Hickey says SOF’s is a myopic, xenophobic campiagn which needs debating.

I agree with his adjectives and think a discussion on the facts would be helpful. It could start with a KPMG report which found:

  • There is no evidence that New Zealand is experiencing an unusually high level of foreign investment in agricultural assets.
  • No justification for significant changes to the overseas investment rules . . .
  • KPMG’s Head of Agribusiness, Ian Proudfoot says: 

    “As a small, developed economy New Zealand has always required inbound investment to support the standards of living we are now accustomed to, and this holds true even in the current environment. The agricultural sector in particular lacks sufficient equity to take advantage of the opportunities available to it and foreign investment offers the potential for us to maximise the value of our land. Events of the last year have demonstrated we are not always able or prepared to finance these opportunities from our own resources.

     “The high price of quality agricultural land in New Zealand and our remoteness to the rest of world means that even with the natural benefits of water and the link product has to New Zealand’s sustainable brand we are unlikely to be top of the list of preferred destinations for most international land investors currently looking for opportunities,” says Mr Proudfoot.

    In other words there is no need for SoF’s campaign because in spite of perceptions to the contrary, New Zealand farmland isn’t particularly attractive to foreign investors.

    Given that and our need for capital, those who want to come here should not be discouraged without good reason and not being citizens is not by itself a good reason.

     It is better for farming and New Zealand to allow, or not, sales of farm land to foreigners on a case by case basis than to cut off the investment and ideas which can mean foreign owners give far more to New Zealand than they take.

    The threat of foreign ownership is a perception, the threat to farms and their owners from a blanket ban on foreign ownership is real.


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