WINSTON PETERS: Who’s checking the promises as Kiwi land ownership is lost?

31/08/2015

New Zealand land continues to go under the hammer to foreign buyers but no one is holding buyers to their promises of job and wealth creation for New Zealanders.

Strange, given the approvals are based on those promises. Oddly, no applications get rejected. In the last two years they have all been approved.

The promises, which give them the go ahead, include job creation, investment, protection of indigenous plants, donations to local organisations or schools, etc.

The Overseas Investment Office, the apparent guardian of our precious land, is letting us down. But the fault lies with the government which should be staffing it adequately and giving it the correct mandate.

Its role is to check land is sold to benefit New Zealand. Agents and lawyers put together applications promising the goods that will make them out to be God’s gift to New Zealand. Officially they must show “substantial and identifiable benefit to New Zealand”.

No one cares about the so-called benefits once the application is approved. Overseas buyers must be laughing. No one is holding them to account.

According to the government the Overseas Investment Office has no role to check the buyers are held to their word. Curious. So what is the point of the application and promises?

Clearly, it makes us an easy target – not only is our land cheap for foreigners compared to other countries but we automatically tick off their purchase. Then it’s a free for all.

Even if the Office bothered to check, what would it do if they had not created jobs? Smack their hand with a wet bus ticket?

And referring to the pre-approval promises we questioned these too. One or two jobs, on the minimum wage, for 20 hours a week appear to be as good as creating five permanent jobs for skilled workers. That’s hardly a fair swap for our land.

A quick trawl through the approvals shows many applicants saying they will build accommodation, campgrounds, cafes, classrooms, convert farms to dairying and develop forests to provide income for the region. How many of these will ever come to fruition? Probably just a few. It is simply a carefully crafted application of no substance. And an exercise in deception condoned over and over by a wantonly ignorant State.

Among land and business sales approved recently there’s a couple from the UK purchasing land in Taupō who intend to “migrate and live here”, while contributing meaningfully to community life. There’s also approval for the sale of Mayfield Farm, in the South Island, to a Swiss conglomerate who want to convert it to dairying, despite the fact Kiwis have proved handy at that.

In the meantime, the foreign buyers, flush with money, can outbid all the Kiwi bidders. As a result land has soared in price. Pity the Kiwi wannabe farmer.

Kiwis should be in charge of our own land. There’s no more of it. 

Winston Peters is NZ First leader 

source: data archive