by Ben Hope
An analysis of the government’s performance in stemming the foreign buy-up of New Zealand has given it a mixed mark. Murray Horton, secretary organiser for Campaign Against Foreign Control of Aotearoa (CAFCA) said while there were encouraging signs by the Labour-Greens-NZ First coalition, there was much more that needed to be done in New Zealand’s best interest.
“Made a start but must try harder. Much harder,” was his assessment.
He expressed admiration for Prime Minister Jacinda Adern’s style of leadership, but tempered it with a stern warning.
“She would have made a superb war-time leader. But her government leaves an awful lot to be desired in so many areas, such as foreign control. Too timid is one way of putting it. Gutless is another.”
In 2019 the Overseas Investment Office (OIO) approved foreign investment totalling $17.6 billion some $8 billion more the annual average for the decade 2010-19 of $9.2 billion.
The encouraging signs were that a government for the first time sought CAFCA’s views and government prioritised a review of the Overseas Investment Act and tightened the rules around foreigners buying farmland.
However there was a different criteria for forestry where government says foreign investment was still necessary.
“There is still no provision for the public to make submissions or for the OIO to give advance notice of applications from foreign would-be buyers.
“The good-character test for applicants is a joke. Most basically the powers that be still don’t know and have made little effort to find how much land is foreign owned.”
Hampering efforts to control foreign investment was the government’s obsession with free trade agreements. In the case of an implemented “foreign house buyer ban” under free trade agreements Singapore and Australia were exempt.
“The Labour Party attaches great importance and zeal to free trade agreements as shown by its whole hearted acceptance of the notorious Trans Pacific Partnership agreement (TPPA), despite having opposed it in Opposition,” said Murray Horton.
While the second stage of the review of the Overseas Investment Act will include a national interest test – which CAFCA has long advocated – and will apply to water bottling and media companies, but it will exclude dairying.
“So therefore it is not a blanket national interest test and that is what CAFCA advocated.”
Stage Two of the review may or may not, become law before this year’s election.
But National has not dodged CFCA’s vigilant eye.
“If National wins, all bets are off. National has already said it will revoke the foreign house buyer ban,” said Murray Horton.
And National encouraged foreign investors during it’s 2008-19 terms.
The 2008 NZ China Free Trade Agreement was touted by Helen Clark as the crowning foreign policy glory of her 1999-2008 Government, with her Trade Minister Phil Goff taking the credit. So, Labour is responsible for the China FTA, which is consistent with its self-proclaimed title as the “free trade party”.
Footnote: “CAFCA promotes the concept of an independent Aotearoa – and opposes foreign control, irrespective of which country it involves.”
CAFCA’s annual membership fee is $20, unwaged $15. On-line bank account details are at its website. It’s informative bulletin, over 100 pages, containing related articles and details of recent foreign buy-ups, is sent to all financial members.
© Murray Horton of CAFCA – “an awful lot yet to be done on foreign control”