The Dim-Post

February 22, 2012

Opposition to Crafer sale: alternative theory

Filed under: economics,Politics — danylmc @ 2:04 pm

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.

 

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58 Comments »

  1. Rudman closes with something also worth pondering:

    It’s dispiriting that leaders of both the Labour Party, which signed the free trade treaty with China, and National, which is growing it, are pandering to the irrational xenophobia poisoning the debate. Is the foreign investment associated with more than half the wine industry also unwelcome? Ditto the forestry industry. If we’re going to ban foreigners from buying a few cow “factories,” are we going to put the walls up against selling other commercial enterprises.

    It’s a very small world these days, and we’ve elected to be part of it. Wouldn’t it be great to hear a political leader stand up and say it.

    Is it a case of having one’s cheese and wanting to eat it too?

    Comment by Pete George — February 22, 2012 @ 2:14 pm

  2. “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?”

    While it wasn’t land, does nobody recall the Canadian bid for part of Auckland Airport?

    Comment by Brad Gibbons — February 22, 2012 @ 2:23 pm

  3. While it wasn’t land, does nobody recall the Canadian bid for part of Auckland Airport?

    I do. At the time the right sneered, ‘Why does Labour let the Chinese communist party buy New Zealand assets, but not the Canadians?’

    Comment by danylmc — February 22, 2012 @ 2:28 pm

  4. > …why are people up in arms about this now?

    Agree with your summary.

    The Crafar situation was a big media story long before the Chinese became involved. Starting with Bernard Hickey’s animal cruelty expose, then the size of the bankruptcy, the refusal of the Crafars to leave their homes, May Wang’s strange bid etc.

    This sale was never going to slip through quietly.

    Comment by Graeme — February 22, 2012 @ 2:32 pm

  5. To be fair to Labour (sorry), most of their terrible record was the one transaction: the purchase of Carter Holt Harvey’s forests by international asset managers for $435m. Not saying that was a good thing, but there’s an obvious value difference between 93,000ha of prime dairy land and 93,000ha of pine forests, as evidenced by the fact that the sale was only twice the value of what Pengxin would pay for 8,000 ha in the Crafar Farms.

    Basically, the Nat spin line about how much land went to foreigners under Labour is purposely misleading. Value of land is more relevant.

    Comment by Wino — February 22, 2012 @ 2:36 pm

  6. “why are people up in arms about this now?” -> “but I didn’t actually know that was happening”

    I think that was the core problem – previously nobody took any notice and it was mostly piecemeal sales. One farm here, one farm there. The Crafers have been a lightnening rod for this and focused the issue into the public.

    Do I think that if it was an English company or Canadian that there would have been less noise and controversy? Yes but how much I don’t know… That would be an interesting question which would be hard to get an honest answer to..

    Comment by Michael J. Parry — February 22, 2012 @ 2:37 pm

  7. I think people have noticed the sale of the Crafar land, because of the scale. It’s the same as the reason why the 1979 Erebus crash shocked people much more than all the traffic accidents in 1979, which between them killed way more people than the Erebus crash did. If it all happens in one big incident, it’s news, and people notice. If something bigger happens in a lot of small incidents, none of them are individually big enough to be considered major news, so people don’t notice.

    Comment by kahikatea — February 22, 2012 @ 2:41 pm

  8. The Herald line appears to be that any concern about economic sovereignty is anti-Chinese xenophobia…and Rudman is either paying lip service to that because he has to…or he actually believes it. I don’t care either way.

    What does annoy me is the only newspaper in town INSISTS on missing the point no matter how clearly it is made and mis-directing the debate in the process. I guess as a foreign-owned media monopoly in their segment they don’t want to face they fact that many kiwis aren’t happy about the
    conseqeunces of the loss of sovereignty…and the way the Herald has been distorting and mis-handling this issue may well it self be one of those consequences.

    Comment by Steve (@nza1) — February 22, 2012 @ 2:48 pm

  9. Michael J Perry: The fuss around the proprosed selling of Auckland airport to a Canadian pension fund wasn’t very different to the current fuss. The case for selling that asset overseas wasn’t a good one and people could see that clearly enough. The same applies to factors in our primary export earner. Canadian or Chinese the buyers may be, but the underlying issues weren’t much different.

    Comment by Steve (@nza1) — February 22, 2012 @ 2:51 pm

  10. 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.’
    No, the counter-argument runs “if the owners of farms want to exchange that asset for another (being cash which will in turn be invested somehow and therefore earn profits equal to or greater than the profits being generated from the farm asset) then why exactly is anyone else getting involved?”

    (I don’t completely buy that, but that’s the counter).

    Comment by garethw — February 22, 2012 @ 3:04 pm

  11. There’s also something qualitatively different about a company linked to a military dictatorship (Pengxin does public works in China as well as operating large farms – all land is publicly owned – and apparently gets soft loans from the governemtn international expansion) compared to an ordinary international investor. This is an international strategy of buying and long-term holding strategic assets, not just trying to make a profit on the same playing field (same cost of capital) as other private players.

    Comment by Wino — February 22, 2012 @ 3:11 pm

  12. It’s hard not to see this targeted opposition as anything other than a visceral reaction to the idea of Chinese ownership.

    Apart from the obvious one that a sale of 72 farms at once was never authorised under the previous govt (and that the total land area sold is a false comparison for the reason given by wino in comment 5), there’s the not inconsiderable difference that Canada, the UK etc aren’t run by murderous totalitarian dictatorships. If Rudman had penned “It’s hard not to see this opposition as anything other than a visceral reaction to the idea of Chinese Communist Party ownership,” he’d look less of an ass.

    Comment by Psycho Milt — February 22, 2012 @ 3:17 pm

  13. @Milt: All well and good, but in New Zealand (and Australia too) anti-Asian racism, not least during the ‘Yellow Peril’ period, has always worn a veneer of concern about authoritarian Asian governments. If you go back and read some of the classic editorials about Chinese immigration to New Zealand they spend as much time decrying the Chinese Communist (and before that Nationalist) government as they do the racial characteristics of Chinese people.

    Comment by Hugh — February 22, 2012 @ 3:29 pm

  14. Remember that when Shipley/National set out to sell Wellington Airport it was barely notice until a certain Government Treasurer refused to sign off on it. That fellow was Winston Peters and he is still against the sale of assets. (And it brought down the Shipley Government. Wonder what would happen if Dunne stepped out of line?) Yes I know. SOEs not the same as Crafar Farms but in principal they are similar. I think.

    Comment by ianmac — February 22, 2012 @ 3:32 pm

  15. Danyl, your argument that sale of land to foreign owners would have been objectionable about had you known it was happening kind of undermines the idea that the sale will have measurable adverse effects.

    And honestly, what is the difference between the profits going to an overseas owner and the profits going to a New Zealand based owner? It’s not as if the New Zealand based owner is somehow bound to spend all those profits on Rugby World Club tickets, Buzzy Bee toys, Vegemite and other ways to spend money that somehow enhance “Economic Sovereignty”.

    Comment by Hugh — February 22, 2012 @ 3:36 pm

  16. honestly, what is the difference between the profits going to an overseas owner and the profits going to a New Zealand based owner?

    The main difference is that when the profits go to an overseas owner they go overseas, and when they go to a New Zealand based owner they go to a New Zealand based owner.

    Comment by danylmc — February 22, 2012 @ 3:50 pm

  17. Hugh wrote: And honestly, what is the difference between the profits going to an overseas owner and the profits going to a New Zealand based owner? It’s not as if the New Zealand based owner is somehow bound to spend all those profits on Rugby World Club tickets, Buzzy Bee toys, Vegemite and other ways to spend money that somehow enhance “Economic Sovereignty”.”

    good point. I wasn’t particularly happy with all those farms being owned by the incompetent Crafars either (even though, for all I know, they may well have spent all the money on Vegemite).

    Comment by kahikatea — February 22, 2012 @ 3:50 pm

  18. Vegemite is produced in Australia at Kraft Foods’ Port Melbourne manufacturing facility which produces more than 22 million jars per year. Virtually unchanged from Callister’s original recipe, Vegemite now far outsells Marmite and other similar spreads in Australia. The billionth jar of Vegemite was produced in October 2008.[9]

    New Zealand Vegemite
    As of 4 March 2009, Vegemite had been produced in New Zealand for more than fifty years.[14] Production has now ceased.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vegemite

    Comment by merv — February 22, 2012 @ 3:58 pm

  19. All well and good, but in New Zealand (and Australia too) anti-Asian racism, not least during the ‘Yellow Peril’ period, has always worn a veneer of concern about authoritarian Asian governments.

    I expect at least 76% of NZers wouldn’t have been keen on USSR companies buying up NZ dairy farms either, and Russians are whiter than I am.

    Comment by Psycho Milt — February 22, 2012 @ 4:07 pm

  20. @Danyl: And how is that an effectual difference? How does a New Zealand based owner getting the profits benefit anybody other than that owner? Is the assumption that because they are New Zealand based they are more likely to spend the profits on something that will benefit other people residing in New Zealand? I think when we’re talking about profits of that magnitude they are likely to be invested wherever the owner feels they will return the largest profit which is no more likely to be New Zealand than it would be if they were not New Zealand based.

    Or perhaps you mean something else, but I’m really struggling to see why else there would be a compelling public interest.

    Comment by Hugh — February 22, 2012 @ 4:11 pm

  21. @Milt: You can be racist towards people who share the same skin colour as you. Lots of Jews are pretty pale.

    Comment by Hugh — February 22, 2012 @ 4:11 pm

  22. @Kahikitea: If the argument was “Land should only be sold to (and by extension, owned by) people who will use their private profits in a way that benefits the state/public/nation/whatever as a whole” it would be more consistent, although also more far-reaching, and still not -that- consistent – why is it only owning land that has this obligation, and not any other type of ownership?

    It appears the idea “Land should only be sold to etc etc people who are resident in New Zealand” seems to imply that living in NZ is a proxy for using one’s profits in a public-spirited way. I’m still not seeing that.

    Comment by Hugh — February 22, 2012 @ 4:15 pm

  23. @Hugh @15 I’ve been thinking the same thing the whole time this controversy has carried on. The unasked question is “Is there any person or organization who could possibly afford the Crafar farms, that you would feel super happy about having them?”. For me, the answer is no, I really don’t give a toss which billionaire owns them, since people operating at that level of wealth are not tied in any way at all to the NZ economy. The produce and the profits will be expatriated both ways, and milk will still cost a stupid amount of money, and there will probably still be the same kiwis working that land, although in tight times, I’d expect that to be squeezed, just because it can be squeezed.

    Comment by Ben Wilson — February 22, 2012 @ 4:34 pm

  24. And honestly, what is the difference between the profits going to an overseas owner and the profits going to a New Zealand based owner?
    More directly – what is the difference between the profits from the farm going to a New Zealand based owner vs the profits from the cash paid for the farm (or whatever it is reinvested in) going to the same New Zealand based owner?

    Comment by garethw — February 22, 2012 @ 4:36 pm

  25. >More directly – what is the difference between the profits from the farm going to a New Zealand based owner vs the profits from the cash paid for the farm (or whatever it is reinvested in) going to the same New Zealand based owner?

    I guess it could lure their expatriated capital back to NZ. But I’m not sure why I would care if that happened.

    Comment by Ben Wilson — February 22, 2012 @ 4:49 pm

  26. Like a lot of these things, it is probably a dash of all of the above.

    The media profile of the Crafer’s prior to the farms being offered for sale meant that this sale was always going to be in the media.

    People don’t like asset sales. This farm sale is mixed up in the wider economic sovereignty and asset sales debate.

    People don’t like racial and tribal out-groups buying up their land. Call that anti-Chinese, if you wish.

    National is becoming less popular, so as a nice big stick to beat the government with this sale is turning out very nicely thank you very much.

    Rival bids are going to make sure they keep the pot boiling.

    So you’ve got a whole pile of unlikely bedfellows who for their own reasons are opposed to the Crafer deal, anyone of which may be the subject de jour in the media.

    Comment by Sanctuary — February 22, 2012 @ 4:51 pm

  27. Gareth and Ben. Selling to rich powerful overseas buyers seems to inflate the selling price of farms. eg:Crafar. This then forces the flow on local sale price of other farms so that in due course none of the little hardworking prospective farmers have a show of buying their own place. Major money spent by big American money to buy American little farms to make huge single entity farms, has forced out the family farmers and the loss of hope for those who had had aspirations. Now in NZ…………

    Comment by ianmac — February 22, 2012 @ 4:55 pm

  28. @Ian: If you’re worried about inflated farm prices go to the source of the problem – regulate the amount farms can be sold for, not whom they can be sold to.

    Comment by Hugh — February 22, 2012 @ 5:02 pm

  29. I gotta be honest with you guys I am hoping I can lure Danyl into repeating, or possibly even topping in weird Paul Buchanan-esque quasi-military neoligism, that statement he made about China “building vertical supply chains” in New Zealand. That was a good ‘un.

    N.B: In b4 Buchanan spots me talking trash about him here and writes a 1000 word complaint about it on Kiwipolitico that references the Cuban proxy war in Angola as an explanation for why I’m a wanker.

    Comment by Hugh — February 22, 2012 @ 5:04 pm

  30. And honestly, what is the difference between the profits going to an overseas owner and the profits going to a New Zealand based owner?

    One difference is the effect on our overseas account balance. Keeping it in New Zealand is way better for all of us.

    Comment by Andrew R — February 22, 2012 @ 5:06 pm

  31. And honestly, what is the difference between the profits going to an overseas owner and the profits going to a New Zealand based owner?

    F**k me but it’s absolutely critical. With an overseas owner the profits whether repatriated or not count as a liabilty against our “Invisibles” balance of trade. That’s why our trade deficit is so bad – the massive profits of the four Australian owned banks being one key factor.

    Comment by TerryB — February 22, 2012 @ 5:11 pm

  32. @Andrew and TerryB: You’re just saying “It’s better because it’s better”. How does having a smaller trade deficit or an overseas account balance that’s closer to positive benefit people? Trade deficits might be useful indicators of economic health (although they are problematic) but claiming that reducing the trade deficit will help the economy overall is mistaking the map for the territory, to quote Danyl.

    (This is also presuming that the NZ-based owner will scrupulously refuse to send the profits out of NZ once they’ve been extracted, which as we’ve mentioned above, seems unlikely)

    Comment by Hugh — February 22, 2012 @ 5:24 pm

  33. @Hugh if china are investing everywhere on such weak capital return prospects that are *not* compensated by “security” (including food security), then why are they investing?

    it does sound a bit conspiracy theory-ish, but it is cheaper and less obnoxious than military deployments. in an oil crisis or major event, vertical supply chains get the protein to the mothership at a much lower cost. /*retreats to bunker and replaces tin foil hat

    Comment by Ben — February 22, 2012 @ 5:25 pm

  34. Aren’t the farms products chiefly going to China anyway? That’s the biggest market for dairy by far, and is likely to remain so based purely on the state of the Chinese economy. Given that, as Danyl says, the farm will not be directly managed by the Chinese company, it’s hard to see this state of affairs changing soon. Having a Chinese company be the owner of the property doesn’t substantially increase their “security” since they have no direct control of the production facilities and could, in the event of any sort of conflict between China and New Zealand, or for that matter a third party, quite easily have their property expropriated, or just forbidden from exporting to China under some kind of theoretical future blockade (which is the kind of scenario food security issues are usually concerned with)

    Also, if the profitability of the farms is so minor, then why is their sale going to have such a major effect on our trade deficit?

    Comment by Hugh — February 22, 2012 @ 5:36 pm

  35. Wino said “value of land is more important”.

    No. The area is. Using your example of valuing land by its earning potential (prime dairy vs pine forest), you’d then be saying that selling greater areas of the conservation estate (very low “value”) would be less important than the sale of the Crafar farms.

    Sounds like a forced apology for the sales under Labour to me.

    Comment by Rick Rowling — February 22, 2012 @ 6:38 pm

  36. There’s an element of “the tragedy of the commons” here. In a normal sale of a farm between a willing seller and buyer whether the buyer is overseas or not.. there’s an attitude from most people that there are clear property rights involved. In the Crafer case the ownership is more opaque.. the Crafers don’t own them, the banks don’t own them, or the receiver.. but they all do.. sort of..

    In this situation any publicity allows the public a free shot at the asset.. the xenophobic have Winston to push his barrow, the racists have any number of spokesmen, Labour safely back in opposition gets a free political shot, opportunistic local farmers get a chance to buy assets at a distressed price, Fay gets a chance to loot (again) and iwi get a chance to grandstand on any number of issues. All these folk have a chance because the concept of ownership is broken down by the receivership and the farms themselves have become public political property.

    As for xenophobia, here’s the OECD graph showing we definitely are..

    http://www.oecd.org/document/45/0,3746,en_2649_34529562_47216237_1_1_1_34529562,00.html

    We are the seventh most restrictive country for difficulty of doing business with foreigners.. right up there with China and Japan and two and a half times moreso than the OECD average.

    As for racism, well, according to the Race Relations Office we have scored big against the Chinese for the last five years. Thats similar to how we treated the Japs several decades ago.. once upon a time we were better and richer than they were, and today the Chinese are better at trade and richness than we are.. we’ve steadily lost the battle against the Asians because we haven’t latched on to the fact that they have the markets, the numbers and the drive to define this century. We also have neglected our history re China trade.. historically China controlled 25-30% of world trade over the last 500 years, and bar some reverses like the Mao years its now getting back towards something like that dominance (about 14% now).

    Finally, land ownership.

    In 2002 China introduced a Property Rights Act, but it was defeated because too many people thought this would diminish the Chinese socialist view that Govt should control all such rights.. one of the reasons advanced was that Govt ownership of property would be watered down, that Govt properties would be made SOE’s and foreigners would come in and sell off the goodies.. sound familiar?

    But in 2007 a second rights bill flew through and Chinese Govt, communities and individuals now have clear property rights. Land is still owned almost exclusively by Govt and local communities, but I would bet that individual ownership wont be too far behind.. maybe 100 years? That sounds a long time, but here, starting from democratic principles 172 years ago we still haven’t sorted out the land ownership issues.. witness that an iwi has taken over one of the Crafer farms and the rights of buyers and sellers are compromised by Fay’s group.

    One way of looking at this is that China’s property rights are getting stronger, and ours.. starting from a democratic and capitalist base are getting weaker.

    JC

    Comment by JC — February 22, 2012 @ 7:13 pm

  37. if china are investing everywhere on such weak capital return prospects that are *not* compensated by “security” (including food security), then why are they investing?

    Currency manipulation. China relies on its exporters for growth and is pretty overtly trying to keep its currency weak to help them out. To do this they’re buying up assets denominated in the currencies of their export markets. Not saying that’s the motivation behind the interest in Crafar, but it’s consistent with Chinese strategy.

    Is there any person or organization who could possibly afford the Crafar farms, that you would feel super happy about having them?

    The New Zealand government. Pretty unlikely they’ll match the Chinese offer, though.

    Comment by bradluen — February 22, 2012 @ 7:15 pm

  38. Ben @23 The unasked question is “Is there any person or organization who could possibly afford the Crafar farms, that you would feel super happy about having them?”. For me, the answer is no, I really don’t give a toss which billionaire owns them,”

    The problem here is that, for some reason I don’t know (but also haven’t bothered to find out) the receiver is insisting on selling them as a package, instead of as individual farms. Had they been sold as individual farms, locals (including iwi) could have afforded them and the owners probbly wouldn’t have been billionaires. Some farms may well have been bought by foreigners, but the sale would have been resolved much quicker and with less publicity. The Fay consortium contains a number of farmers who want to buy individual farms but were not allowed to.

    Comment by MeToo — February 22, 2012 @ 8:18 pm

  39. I really don’t buy this charge of xenophobia being thrown back in the face of those opposed to these sales – seems completely disingenuous – even if in some cases it turns out to be true – there’s something of a double bluff going on here – crusaders for cosmopolitanism? what’s that identity politic getting these days? perhaps that’s the problem – that by being opposed to such sales you’ve had to sell your ethnic tolerance at low price which is now being traded back up by one of your competitors?…. free entry and exit from the market? – yeah right – you can’t even escape when its only morals – not even commodities – that are being traded…

    Comment by dylan — February 22, 2012 @ 10:26 pm

  40. Danyl, you’re making a false distinction. “It makes sense to let people build a factory here and create jobs.” The owners will be paying New Zealanders to run the factory for them – that’s where the jobs come from – and they’ll be repatriating the profits. But that’s OK in your book.

    And yet… “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 [presumably getting paid for it?] and then expatriate the profits.”

    Also, you’ve misrepresented the poll. It didn’t find that 76% are against the sale of the Crafar farms to Shanghai Pengxin, it found that 76% want tighter rules on selling ANY land to ANY foreigners. New Zealanders may be only moderately xenophobic, but combine it with the issue of “our” land and it turns toxic. The comments on the Herald article demonstrate that beyond a doubt.

    Comment by Miguel Sanchez — February 23, 2012 @ 12:02 am

  41. #38: It’s a bit rich for the usual suspects to accuse critics of the Crafarms deal of xenophobia. They’re often the same people who whinge about PC gone mad, the Treaty industry, and the Protocols of the Elders of Mecca. I’m wondering if it’s the ‘model minority’ stereotype at work?

    Comment by DeepRed — February 23, 2012 @ 12:53 am

  42. @ ianmac

    Given the Crafars were bankrupted for paying unsustainable prices for farms, you can hardly blame foreigners for driving up the price. The largest sales in Canterbury in recent years were to kiwis. It’s just an assumption that foreigners are paying more. Perhaps they are just meeting an already established market and had ready cash?

    Danyl assumes buying a farm is qualitatively differnt than starting a factory. Maybe but I suspect most foreign investment is buying existing businesses, not starting new ones. So shouldn’t we be objecting to them just as vociferously? For some kneejerk reason we seem to rank farms above other bits of productive land, even though the farms may be far less profitable as exporters.

    And I love the whole ‘tenants in our own land’ and loss of sovereignty cliche that gets whipped out. What exactly does that mean? Will I have more rights to go and camp on the crafar farms if NZers own it, or plant a crop of potatoes? Like shit. Kiwis would be the first ones out with their shotguns if I ever tried,

    Note: Greece and all the other countries in the poo don’t seem to have a sovereignty issue due to foreign ownership but due to debt. It seems the fear frequently pushed by the left is wrongly directed, especially when they seem to embrace more debt. Would anyone suggest Australia is less sovereign despite the huge overseas ownership of their land.

    IMO the ownership issue is driven by base and petty fear and distrust of strangers but that fear largley lacks any substance or consistency when examined. Village mentality.

    Comment by insider — February 23, 2012 @ 1:13 am

  43. The media and blogs are making a big deal about the Crafar farms and partial asset sales. How big a deal is it, really?

    According to the latest Roy Morgan poll:

    New Zealand views on Problems facing New Zealand:
    Total Economic Issues – 51%
    Foreign Ownership/ Selling our Assets – 0%

    Is it a media beat up about bugger all?

    Comment by Pete George — February 23, 2012 @ 6:36 am

  44. I find it interesting that Fay is accepted as a “kiwi”. Ok, so he was born here, but he’s apparently Swiss domiciled and doesn’t pay much tax here, if any.

    Personally I’d like Landcorp to by the farms and then convert them into a worker-owned (or worker/customer) co-operative with public finance. They could even produce $1 a litre milk for the local market.

    Comment by Rich — February 23, 2012 @ 10:14 am

  45. I’m not sure the govt spending 200m just to give the good burghers of Te Kuiti and Taupo cheap milk is the best option for our taxes

    Comment by insider — February 23, 2012 @ 11:31 am

  46. Pete, the poll asked what was the *most* important issue. You can’t go from that to say that other issues are not important to people.

    Comment by Pascal's bookie — February 23, 2012 @ 11:48 am

  47. Fair call PB. It’s difficult to get a comprehensive picture from any poll unless it addresses specifically what you want to find out. I know asset sales are very important to some people, but it’s not easy to know how important they are to most people. Polls like this would help:

    What are your feelings about the propsed asset sales:
    a) absolutely against, always will be
    b) prefer they didn’t go ahead
    c) don’t care
    d) I prefer a more cautious sales program
    e) I think they’re worth trying
    f) go for it!
    g) sell more

    If the mixed ownership asset sales go ahead will you be:
    a) gutted
    b) miffed
    c) don’t care
    d) satisfied
    e) elated
    f) what are asset sales?

    Without knowing that sort of depth we’re all just flying our own flags.

    Comment by Pete George — February 23, 2012 @ 12:12 pm

  48. “Without knowing that sort of depth we’re all just flying our own flags.”

    Otherwise known as, ‘citizenship in a democracy.’

    Comment by Pascal's bookie — February 23, 2012 @ 12:18 pm

  49. Pete can do that PB and he does. That’s why we all take him and his Party so seriously.

    Comment by Me Too — February 23, 2012 @ 12:20 pm

  50. 48 directed @45…

    Comment by Me Too — February 23, 2012 @ 12:20 pm

  51. Yeah, it’s too bad there’s been no polling on asset sales eh. It’s not like one came out yesterday or anything.. http://www.3news.co.nz/Poll-shows-asset-sales-unpopular/tabid/1607/articleID/243681/Default.aspx

    Comment by Hobbes — February 23, 2012 @ 12:21 pm

  52. Hobbes – that TV3 poll was designed for a presenter with a story on a TV show at 6pm, not to find out any depth of opinion.

    Can you tell me what question was asked in that poll?

    Comment by Pete George — February 23, 2012 @ 12:32 pm

  53. The Role of the Citizen in A Democracy

    - The key role of citizens in a democracy is to participate in public life.
    - Citizens have an obligation to become informed about public issues, to watch carefully how their political leaders and representatives use their powers, and to express their own opinions and interests.
    - Voting in elections is another important civic duty of all citizens. But to vote wisely, each citizen should listen to the views of the different parties and candidates, and then make his or her own decision on whom to support.
    - Participation can also involve campaigning for a political party or candidate, standing as a candidate for political office, debating public issues, attending community meetings, petitioning the government, and even protesting.
    - A vital form of participation comes through active membership in independent, non-governmental organizations, what we call “civil society.”
    - This requires efforts by civil society organizations to educate (people) about their democratic rights and responsibilities, improve their political skills, represent their common interests, and involve them in political life.
    - Political parties are vital organizations in a democracy, and democracy is stronger when citizens become active members of political parties.

    Democracy depends on citizen participation in all these ways. But participation must be peaceful, respectful of the law, and tolerant of the different views of other groups and individuals.

    http://www.stanford.edu/~ldiamond/iraq/WhaIsDemocracy012004.htm

    We could all do with taking that on board. Especially the last sentence. And then acting on it. The quality of our democracy is dependent on what we all contribute to it.

    Comment by Pete George — February 23, 2012 @ 12:38 pm

  54. Thanks for clearing that up, Pete, I’m sure all the people who were unclear how to be citizens in a democracy can breath a bit more easily now that you’ve weighed in.

    On that last point, “tolerant” does not mean the same thing as “respectful”.

    Comment by Hugh — February 23, 2012 @ 12:50 pm

  55. Hard to tell Pete mate but I have a funny feeling that they asked respondents whether they agreed or disagreed with the asset sales policy and ~60% said they disagreed whereas ~30% said they agreed.

    Comment by Hobbes — February 23, 2012 @ 1:20 pm

  56. Impossible to tell Hobbes, they don’t say what the question was. They report:

    The poll asked 1000 voters whether they agreed with the partial privatisations.

    The results showed 62 percent disagreed, 35 percent agreed and 3.5 percent were unsure.

    It doesn’t say whether they include this description in the question “The Government is selling 49 percent of the prime strategic assets owned by Kiwi taxpayers, including energy companies that pay hundreds of millions of dollars a year in dividends to the Government.”

    It doesn’t say if they were asked if they thought the asset sales should go ahead or not. For example there could be people who disagree with the sales but agree National has a reasonable mandate to proceed.

    TV3 also don’t reveal what they ask in their ‘preferred party’ question. One poll asks people to choose a party but they exclude some parties from the options listed in the question.

    Most polls are vague props that contribute to ‘news’ report scripts.

    Comment by Pete George — February 23, 2012 @ 1:45 pm

  57. Pft, it’ll all blow over. Remember when it was the Japanese who were taking over the world? They bought the Rockefeller Centre and it was the end of the world as far as Americans were concerned. But the Japs couldn’t keep up the mortgage payments and reverted to American ownership I think.

    “a saga of how a proud Japanese company grossly overpaid for a landmark piece of America”

    “rents in New York were collapsing” – dairy prices, and hence the price of dairy farms, may well “collapse” too at some stage.

    http://money.cnn.com/magazines/fortune/fortune_archive/1995/07/10/204272/index.htm

    http://www.nytimes.com/1995/09/12/business/japanese-scrap-2-billion-stake-in-rockefeller.html?pagewanted=all&src=pm

    Comment by Clunking Fist — February 23, 2012 @ 6:20 pm

  58. You’ve hit the nail on the head Danyl, and I’d go even further. Exactly the same issues apply if an absentee landowner from the North Waikato, (or worse, Auckland) came in and bought the farms and expatriated the profits out of the Reporoa community.

    I must admit I’m conflicted as to whether it is acceptable for someone from Rotorua to buy the farms though. Maybe it would be ok if they spent at least 3 days a week at the farms, bought a pie from the dairy each day and had fish and chips locally at least once a fortnight.

    Comment by swan — February 24, 2012 @ 7:38 am


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