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Bill raises bar to protect Kiwi farmland

The Government’s rubber-stamping of every one of the nearly 400 applications from overseas investors to buy New Zealand farm land over the last three years proves tougher laws are needed, Labour MP Phil Goff says.

“In the last term of the National government, ministers and the Overseas Investment Office didn’t decline any of 370 applications received from overseas investors to purchase agricultural land.

“It’s clear that National has not followed up on public concern about the ease with which foreign investors can buy New Zealand farm land and ministers are just acting as a rubber stamp. The result is 140,000 hectares of our land, worth over $6 billion, has passed into overseas ownership in just three years,” Mr Goff, who is introducing the Overseas Investment (Owning Our Own Land) Amendment Bill to Parliament today, says.

"The Bill’s purpose is to substantially limit the sale of rural land to overseas buyers. It reduces ministerial discretion to approve overseas sales by requiring any foreign investors to prove that New Zealand will benefit from the sale through the creation of ‘a substantial number of additional jobs’ or ‘a substantial increase in exports’.

“The New Zealand dollar has hugely devalued this year. The rise of the US dollar will see renewed interest from North American pension funds and private equity players.

“There will also be much more Chinese money looking for investment opportunities in New Zealand in coming years. The Chinese Government has eased restrictions on outward foreign investment and the volatility of its own stock market and huge savings will bring more pressure on land purchases from that country.

“While we welcome foreign direct investment, we want it to go to productive, not speculative, areas. Offshore investment inflates farm and residential property prices, making it more difficult for New Zealanders wanting to buy their own farms or homes. 

“We do not want to be tenants in our own land and this Bill strengthens protections against losing more ownership of the land which sustains this country,” Phil Goff says.