Large ma­jor­ity op­pose sale to China

South Waikato News - - FARMING -

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.

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