Parker mistaken about Labour’s mistakes

October 28, 2010

David Parker has admitted he got something wrong:

Parker now says he approved too many land sales when he was Land Information Minister in the Labour government and that Labour “didn’t get it right on farm sales”.

That statement would have a lot more validity if he gave examples of which sales were a mistake and why. What are the new owners doing to their properties and its produce that makes him think the land would be better in New Zealand ownership?

He was concerned about the growing asset inequality in NZ. “Assets ought to be priced within reach of ordinary NZers.”

“Before the global financial crisis most successful bidders for Kiwi land were NZers, Parker said. Since the crisis there had been a significant change and the only way to sustain high prices was to sell on the international market, effectively shutting out the average NZer.

What he omits to say is that one of the successful bidders for a large amount of New Zealand farm land between 1999 and 2008 was the government which paid well above market rates for high country properties. Most notable was St James Station, which the Labour government bought for $40 million, plundering the Nature Heritage Fund in the process.

This is the mistake he ought to be admitting. While he’s doing a mea culpa he could admit the tax and spend policies his government practised were also wrong. They contributed to the blowout in bureaucracy and the housing bubble which contributed to asset inequality by putting urban property prices out of the reach of many.

With no evidence to support his statement on lands sales, he’s mistaken in thinking he made a mistake by approving too many. He’s  mistaken again in not admitting Labour’s mistake in paying far too much for high country farms and poor policies which put the productive sector into recession long before the global financial crisis.

Cullen culling himself?

February 25, 2009

A party ousted from government after three terms needs to cull some of those who’ve been there, done that and will be blamed for doing it,  if it’s to present new faces and fresh direction at the next election.

Those who don’t  go voluntarily face the ignomy of a public ousting of the dead wood, as happened with National after 1999.

The Dominion Post reports that Michael Cullen  is not waiting to be culled and is planning to step down in the next couple of months.

There is no doubting his intelligence and wit, but the latter was sometimes harsh and I think his reputation as a prudent Finance Minister was ill founded.

New Zealand was in recession months before most other countries and he must bear some of the responsbility for that because of the policies of over taxing and over spending.

He and his colleagues sqaundered the good economic years of the noughties. We’ve been paying for that with restricted growth for years and the bill will get bigger.

The ACC  blowouts ought to have been in the PREFU and he left other financial timebombs in expenditure promised but not budgeted for on top of reckless spending such as the purchase of St James Station at an inflated price which has left the Nature Heritage Fund’s coffers all but empty.

In December Bill English identified gaps in the budget he inherited including:

* $1 billion for the insulation fund agreed to with the Greens in the last few months of the last government (though this was flagged as fiscal risk in Treasury documents).

* Only $8 million was set aside in 2009/2010 as part of the ongoing $600 million promised in the budget for the growth of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

* Other spending had been “creatively funded” such as the $40 million to buy the St James Station which was funded by “cleaning out” the Nature Heritage Fund for the next four years.

* The need for unbudgeted government payments to ACC would also “unexpectedly” increase government debt by $1.2 billion over the next four years.

Keeping Stock reminded me of the train set Cullen bought. The multi-thousands of hecatres of land expensively purchased through tenure review and now in the DOC estate are another monster he’s created with an appetite for taxpayers’ dollars.

He apologised for the quip he made in his maiden speech about getting stuck in to farmers:

 “I’m proud of the fact that my secondary education was not paid for by the taxpayers of New Zealand but by the farmers of Canterbury and Hawkes Bay [he was given a scholarship to Christ’s College]. I ripped them off for five years then, and I shall get stuck into them again in the next few years.”

But his actions speak louder than his words. His rich prick  sneer at John Key was just one of many examples which show he resented wealth and didn’t understand wealth creation. He got stuck into not just farmers but all taxpayers and we’re all the poorer for that.

National Parks don’t have to be govt owned

November 4, 2008

The $40 million the government spent buying St James Station is part of many millions of dollars they’ve wasted buying out pastoral leases because Labour’s blinded by their belief public ownerhsip is better than private ownership.

National conservation spokesman Nick Smith has a much better idea:

National would look to provide high country national parks that took advantage of forests and mountains for both recreation and conservation purposes, but they would not necessarily be government owned, National MP Nick Smith said yesterday.

. . . When asked whether it would carry on with Labour’s plan to establish high county national parks, Dr Smith said the party would consider using conservation and recreation covenants to protect the space.

This recognises that protection and access are important but it doesn’t necessarily need public ownership.

This follows a High Court judgement last month which ruled against the Crown for reneging on an offer of a special lease to a group of high country farmers within a conservation area in the Hawkdun and Ida ranges in Central Otago.

Dr Smith said farmers would not be bullied by the Department of Conservation, and he supported the idea of land owners’ groups being consulted, rather than antagonised, by Doc.

Most farmers get on well with the DOC workers they encounter but there is strong suspicion of the people at DOC hq.  One of the reasons for that is they can see land deteriorating under DOC management because insufficient time and money are spent on weed and pest management.

They also resent the amount of tax payers’ money that’s wasted managing land that used to be looked after much better by farmers. That’s because they were there all the time but now the land’s back under public control its care is left to DOC contractors who come and go.

They can’t take it away

October 11, 2008

The Southland Times  is not impressed that:

The Government is spending $40 million to buy — sorry, “protect” — the mighty and magnificent St James Station . .

I’m not impressed either, but for different reasons. 

The paper’s concern is a fear of foreign ownership:

But the question should be screamed from these newly acquired mountaintops — why does the Overseas Investment Act not provide protection of a sort needed in this case?

The Overseas Investment Office confirms an overseas buyer could have bought the property, provided they met criteria including that the purchase benefit the country or a group of New Zealanders.

Wouldn’t it then have protections as part of the deal? The Stevenson family, who have owned the property since 1927 and by common consent have tended it well, would have us be aware that, as they saw it (and they’re vendors, remember), an owner other than the Crown could have had a very different set of priorities for the land.

They warn of scope for new owners to inhibit public access and develop the property more intensively for farming. Not everyone would throw up their hands at that latter scenario, but it is clearly one the family does not favour.

So now, thanks to $40 million of your money, the whole kit and caboodle is in public ownership. Elsewhere in the world, even in Pacific nations much smaller than New Zealand, ownership of the land is far more stringently protected.

It wouldn’t have made any difference whether it was an overseas buyer or New Zealanders who’d bought the property, once is was sold property rights apply. That includes the right to do what you want with your land within the law and that includes any restrictions imposed by District and Regional Plans,  none of which are affected by the nationality of the owners.

I don’t understand this aversion to foreign ownership because regardless of who owns it, they can’t take the land away and they can’t do anything more or less with it than New Zealanders can.

Restricting ownership of land to citizens limits investment opportunities and depresses the value, it doesn’t offer any more protection.

My concern is not who owns it but the on-going cost of owning it because the $40m purchase price is only the start.

I’ve tried to get the figures for management, repairs maintenance, weed and pest control and other on-going running costs of the other pastoral lease properties which have been bought by the taxpayer but haven’t succeeded.

However, I know what they are on our farms which cover a tiny percentage of the land area owned by the taxpayer. It’s a big number and at least it’s off-set by income, but the small amount DOC will get back from any charges they impose won’t even make a dent in the on-going expenses which will fall on us as taxpayers.

Taxpayers buy $40m high country station

October 8, 2008

The government has just spent $40 million  buying St James Station in Canterbury.

The purchase of the 78,196 hectare St James Station, in the central South Island, envelopes the largest Crown pastoral lease in the country.

Prime Minister Helen Clark said the purchase protected the precious land from farming and development.

The value reflects well on the good stewardship of the Stevenson family who have owned the property since 1927.

All pastoral lessees will be pleased that the price paid recognises the value of the lessees’ interest in their properties.

But many will also be disappointed that such a large tract of land will be lost to farming.

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