China’s farm hold­ings jump 880%

Fraser Coast Chronicle - - NEWS | NATION - Sharri Mark­son The Daily Tele­graph

CHI­NESE in­ter­est in Aussie farm­ing land rose by an ex­tra­or­di­nary 880% – or 13 mil­lion hectares – in the past year while for­eign own­er­ship of our land over­all dropped.

A re­port by the Aus­tralian Tax­a­tion Of­fice shows the area of Aus­tralian agri­cul­tural land that has a for­eign in­ter­est has fallen from 52 mil­lion hectares to 50 mil­lion in the year to June 30.

But the area of land with Chi­nese in­ter­ests in it in­creased from 1.46 mil­lion hectares to 14.4 mil­lion hectares.

Of the 14 mil­lion hectares with a Chi­nese in­ter­est, 9.1 mil­lion were en­tirely owned by Chi­nese firms.

But in a ma­jor crack­down, the Turn­bull gov­ern­ment has forced over­seas buy­ers to sell $134 mil­lion worth of res­i­den­tial and agri­cul­tural land – over­all 29 prop­er­ties – they had bought.

The Daily Tele­graph ob­tained ad­dresses of six prop­er­ties stripped from for­eign buy­ers who flouted Aus­tralia’s tough own­er­ship rules to buy them.

One home in Syd­ney’s leafy Tur­ra­murra was bought by a for­eign buyer for $2.9 mil­lion and one on Bower St, Manly was sold for $1.5 mil­lion, with the Chi­nese own­ers forced to sell the prop­er­ties.

The Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment has limited the abil­ity of for­eign­ers to buy es­tab­lished homes, so for­eign in­vest­ment is chan­nelled into new homes for Aus­tralians to buy or rent.

Trea­surer Scott Mor­ri­son said the gov­ern­ment had a “com­mit­ment to in­crease scru­tiny and trans­parency in Aus­tralian agri­cul­ture and for­eign in­vest­ment” while un­der­stand­ing that trade and for­eign in­vest­ment cre­ated jobs for Aus­tralians.

“The Turn­bull gov­ern­ment has taken con­sis­tent and de­ter­mined ac­tion when it comes to en­sur­ing for­eign in­vest­ment is not con­trary to the na­tional in­ter­est,” he said.

The ATO re­port, ti­tled the For­eign Own­er­ship of Agri­cul­tural Land Reg­is­ter, shows in to­tal about 13% of agri­cul­tural land in Aus­tralia is for­eign-owned, as at June 2017, down from 14% in 2016.

The de­crease in for­eign in­ter­ests in farm­ing land came from a sharp drop in Amer­i­can own­er­ship.

China is the sec­ond big­gest in­vestor in Aus­tralian agri­cul­tural land, own­ing 25% of for­eign-held land. UK own­ers hold 27%.

Aus­tralia has likely reached its peak of Chi­nese own­er­ship in Aus­tralian agri­cul­tural land, after the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment’s in­tro­duc­tion of re­stric­tions late last month to curb over­seas prop­erty in­vest­ment.

For­eign own­er­ship of land fell in South Aus­tralia, Queens­land and North­ern Ter­ri­tory but rose in Western Aus­tralia.

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