Large majority oppose sale to China
A survey shows New Zealanders are overwhelmingly opposed to foreign ownership of New Zealand farmland but two weeks out from the election there is no sign the main political parties will make a fight of defending our turf.
An Urban Market Research survey, commissioned by a North Island farmer group trying to buy the inreceivership Crafar dairy farms against a Chinese bid, showed 82 per cent of 500 respondents believed foreign ownership of farms and agriculture land was a ‘‘bad thing’’. Only 10 per cent believed it a ‘‘ good thing’’ and 8 per cent were unsure.
The online poll, which weighed and matched data with census data to ensure a nationally representative sample, also found Kiwis were not xenophobic in opposing a sale to the Chinese.
The main reasons given for not selling to foreign companies were to keep control of our primary resource and so that Kiwis benefited from exports, not foreigners.
Though 81 per cent opposed Chinese companies being allowed to buy agricultural land, 76 per cent were against United States buyers, 67 per cent did not want British companies buying and Australia got a 54 per cent thumbs down.
Sir Michael Fay, spokesman for the sofar- thwarted farmer buyers of the 16 Crafar farms, said his group ordered the poll because it was widely believed the public strongly opposed land sales to foreigners but there were no facts to support this.
‘‘The results suggest that what I’ve read about the public not understanding the issues, or perhaps being racist and xenophobic, are way off the mark.’’
The main political parties were having a bob each way. There was also little sign of political leadership in drawing a line in the sand on the issue.
When the Waikato Times asked Prime Minister John Key’s office to respond to the poll results, press secretary Jane FraserJones said: ‘‘ You do realise we are busy here this afternoon.’’
A spokesman for Finance Minister Bill English said there had been ‘‘ considerable’’ debate on the issue and the Government had ‘‘clearly laid out its policy long before the election’’.
‘‘ We recognise the important contribution foreign investment can make to New Zealand through increased jobs and access to capital and export markets. At the same time we’ve tightened the rules so that foreign investors have to show there will be real and tangible benefits to New Zealand if they want their application approved.’’
Labour’s associate finance spokesman David Parker said New Zealand was already ‘‘bloody good at farming’’. The survey reflected a ‘‘widely held and sensible view’’, he said. Though a Labour government would significantly tighten the rules on overseas investment, ‘‘ we haven’t said absolutely never’’.
To the suggestion that none of the main parties had tested the public waters on the issue, Mr Parker said Labour was ‘‘trying but a lot of other issues have come up in the past week since the campaign started’’.
Green Party coleader Russel Norman said the poll showed the party was in step with public opinion.