Opinion by Ben Hope
The government’s three political parties with an election looming, are guilty of a 2017 election broken promise over foreigners buying rural land.
Last year in October 2019 it was revealed despite Labour, the Greens and New Zealand First opposing land sales to foreigners in the runup to the 2017 election, the Overseas Investment Office (OIO) has approved more than $2.3 billion of forestry-related sales. This was since the Government was formed following the 2017 election.
Labour had over recent years campaigned strongly to stop sales of foreigners. In 2014 it said “there will be no land sales to foreigners who are not resident in New Zealand, under a Labour-led government.” In 2017 pre-election, the Green Party and NZ First proved to curb sales f rural land to foreign interests.
Not only has the Labour/Greens/NZ First failed to reduce sales of rural land to foreigners but it has actually allowed sales to increase.
Campaign Against Foreign Control of Aotearoa (CAFCA) in Aprl 2019, revealed that the OIO approved a foreign investment totalling $12.5 billion whereas the average for the decade 2009-2018 was $8.2 billion.
Special deals seem to be the order of the day with the Greens “neck deep” in the practice. In October last year Land Information Minister and Green MP Eugenie Sage gave a foreign-owned forestry company a “free pass” to buy thousands of hectares of New Zealand land without applying to the Overseas Investment Office (OIO).
Japanese-owned Pan Pac Forest Products was given a special approval to actually bypass the OIO to purchase land for forestry for the next three years as the Government sought foreign forestry money to help meet its tree planting targets under NZ First’s “one billion trees” policy. Land Information Minister and Green MP Eugenie Sage giave the foreign-owned forestry company a free pass to buy thousands of hectares of New Zealand land without applying to the Overseas Investment Office (OIO).
The pre-approval was given to Pan Pac despite the Green Party having strongly protested land sales to foreigners and NZ First’s Forestry Minister Shane Jones saying that converting productive farm land to forestry could cost jobs.
CAFCA’s latest magazine “Watchdog” reveals the sellout is going smoothly. Examples are:- Japanese Sumitomo buys 729 hectares of Northland forests.
Wolfgang Leitner (Austrian billionaire) buys 478 ha in Hawkes Bay farmland for forestry.
A UK family buys 154 ha, Marlborough forest
Other deals going to foreigners were 7,292 ha near Taupo, China Forest Group buys forestry rights to 25,600 ha while her foreign sales including a Chinese/USA/Australian/NZ corporate buying land for water rights, foreigners buying land for carbon trading purposes etc.,
More than 70 per cent – probably now 75 percent – of the forestry sector is foreign-owned, and the four largest private landowners in New Zealand are all foreign-owned forestry companies.
So much for election promises!
Invariably foreign based owners restrict public access. It is not their fault. They come from a culture different to New Zealand’s egalitarian one. The fault lies with politician, governments and the OIO who should lay down access provisions.
In terms of forestry monocultures they have an adverse effect on trout rivers and streams with acidification of soil and water which is not conducive to healthy invertebrate numbers. Alkaline streams hold higher invertebrate populations important for not only trout and juvenile salmon but native fish too. So where is the Department of Conservation on issues like this?
Forestry monocultures absorb larger quantities of fresh water thus depleting stream flows. At clear felling times and with inevitable rain, runoff carries heavy loads of silt while “slash” branches and debris litter river beds and coasts. Silt smothers aquatic ecosystems.
I urge New Zealanders to support advocacies like CAFCA who do a great job. Subs are just $20 p.a. Bank account details for payment nline are Campaign Against Foreign Control of Aotearoa Kiwibank, 7 Waterloo Quay, Wellington. 38 9000 0433691 01. Include your name and “sub” as references. and e mail ,email@example.com> when the deposit has been made.
I also urge New Zealanders to call these political parties to account for broken promises and quiz them all as to policies on vital, important issues such as the “sellout of New Zealand.”
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