New Zealand should retain its farms | The Jackal

9 Aug 2014

New Zealand should retain its farms

You may have noticed the government's propagandists are all in a spin trying to get people to believe that selling New Zealand's most productive farmland is a good idea. They even site their own capitalist values as a valid reason to sell and in some cases falsely claim that the Chinese can farm better than us Kiwis.

The point they’re missing is the real reasons behind why the Chinese are here buying up our farms in the first place. Obviously China has a large and growing population that requires sustenance, and it simply makes sense for them to own the entire production process. However, that's not the main driving force behind China's expansionism into Western countries.

The People’s Republic of China has achieved remarkable progress in economic growth, social advancement and political reforms over the last century. Unfortunately this progress has come at a huge cost to the environment whereby much of their productive land and water is now too contaminated to produce food. Clearly China’s economic miracle is built on a shaky foundation of environmental destruction. The increase in urbanization has also meant that much of their farmland has been acquired for redevelopment, and because of weak land leasing rights and compulsory land acquisition laws, many thousands of farm acres have been lost to industrialization and urban sprawl.

China’s newfound love for pseudo free market methodology, whereby the government and not the farmer gains most of the compensation when a corporation acquires farmland to develop, is badly affecting land use and land allocation decisions in China. Despite an estimated US$93 billion government investment per year into developing more domestic agricultural production, such dysfunctional policy and many years of environmental degradation is diminishing China’s overall ability to be self-sustainable.

In terms of how this effects New Zealand, there is of course the obvious problem of there being no reciprocal agreement with China. Unlike our Free Trade Agreement's with other countries, Kiwis cannot purchase land in the PRC. However there’s also an illogical contradiction between what most of National’s propagandists believe (that individual rights trump the states) and China’s complete lack of any rights for individual property owners, particularly farmers. Anybody with money in China can take the land they want as long as they pay-off government officials, and make no mistake, the organization trying to buy up Lochinver Station, Shanghai Pengxin, is funded by the Chinese government.

Instead of addressing their corrupted land acquisition laws and changing the system to ensure productive farmland in China continues to be productive, their policy development means they have to look elsewhere to meet their dairy production requirements. In fact the Chinese government’s direct investment into grabbing up foreign land increased by more than 1000% over the last ten years and with huge population increases looks set to continue to grow exponentially.

Being that the National government is desperate for cash to service the huge amount of debt they've mismanaged us into, New Zealand makes the perfect target for China’s foreign land acquisition program. Because of government backing, local farmers simply cannot compete with Chinese companies. Despite these issues, National’s propagandists are trying to put a positive spin on the government’s wide open door policy.

Today their favourite spin-doctor, John Roughan, writes in NZ Herald:

Lochinver is an issue Key needs

Lochinver Farm is a good challenge. It is a visibly succulent property. Chinese buyers are a worry. Americans and Australians might have bought more of our land but they are reliable capitalists. They will hold it for as long as they can make a profitable use of it and sooner or later their plans will change and they will put it back on the market. I'd like to be sure Chinese corporations do the same.

Obviously this isn't an issue that John Key or the National party needs in the lead up to an election. In fact it is another poisoned chalice that the Prime Minister has been trying to avoid. Also, Chinese corporations funded by their government simply won’t change their plans and once that New Zealand land is sold, the Chinese investors won’t give it back without a lengthy and costly legal battle. That's because Chinese demand for dairy products isn’t going to decline anytime soon.

Unfortunately Roughan then makes an even more ludicrous claim:

But the public acceptance has been even more remarkable. Despite the rocketing prices and the familiar sight of young Kiwi couples containing their disappointment, there has been no general outcry. Labour and Peters long ago announced policies to restrict ownership of residential property in some way, but their ideas haven't exactly taken fire.

I find this assertion a bit stupid really…especially considering a recent poll on Campbell Live showed 94% of Kiwis are against our farms being sold into foreign hands. I would predict that around the same amount would be opposed to being priced out of the housing market because of cashed up overseas investors. By claiming otherwise, Roughan clearly resides in a right wing bubble.

Similarly, Steven Joyce’s claim last week that people who are opposed to Lochinver Station being sold to Shanghai Pengxin must be xenophobic is all a bit ridiculous…not least of all because any policy developed by a new left wing government to address the inherent problems with foreign ownership of our most productive farmland won’t just be Chinese specific.

There are good reasons to oppose the loss of New Zealand’s farmland to foreign interest, including environmental and economic considerations. Obviously it's not racist to point these issues out. Of course having investment and a potential for job creation is a good thing, but when it comes at the cost of domestic income streams and our nations sovereignty, the prose clearly don’t outweigh the cons.