Brian Rudman writes about the TV3 poll showing that 76% of the country is opposed to the sale of the Crafer farms to Shanghai Pengxin :
In reaction to the poll showing overwhelming demand for tougher laws against sales of land to foreigners, Mr Key said in the last 18 months there had been 72 sales of farms to foreign buyers out of a total pool of 10,000 dairy farms and 35,000 sheep and beef farms. He also argued that New Zealand was actually “quite a difficult place to buy land if you’re a foreigner”.
What he hasn’t confronted is why the protest has been concentrated on the 16 Crafar farms and not the 72 farms that were sold. It’s hard not to see this targeted opposition as anything other than a visceral reaction to the idea of Chinese ownership.
I’m sure that some of the reaction is, basically, anti-Chinese sentiment. But 76% of the entire country?
I suspect that if you polled people on whether they were opposed to a Chinese company building a factory in New Zealand, or a Chinese multi-millionaire buying up a large farm and moving here with his family (viz James Cameron), you’d get a much smaller number of people opposing, and that would mostly be people hostile to China and Chinese investment for racial or xenophobic reasons. But when you have 76% of the country opposed, something else is happening.
And what that is is pretty simple. It makes sense to let people build a factory here and create jobs. And it makes sense to let people buy property here if they want to live here. But it just doesn’t make a lot of sense for a country to sell off its primary export earner to overseas interests, have the government run the farms on their behalf and then expatriate the profits. The counter-argument runs something along the lines of: ‘it’s advantageous for farmers to incur huge debts so they can eventually sell their farms for tax-free capital gains, and restricting overseas buyers reduces their eventual return.’ Which is compelling if you’re a farmer, or worship the free market the way superstitious peasants worship volcanoes and thunderstorms (Hello Maurice Williamson) but not for the rest of us.
So why are people up in arms about this now, and not during the Labour government when they authorised the international sale of farmland the size of the Crafer holdings every month? I can’t speak for the rest of the country, but I didn’t actually know that was happening. It was never a major political issue. Nobody told me. Now it is an issue, and it seems like a good time to stop and ask what the hell we’re doing.