Tim Walker’s Double VI

New Zealand state-owned enterprise, Landcorp, has sold 1400 hectares of Fiordland land to Chinese buyers, for an undisclosed amount.

News of the transaction has caused outrage across the area, with Te Anau residents in disbelief that their neighbouring sheep and beef farm should be sold to Chinese businessmen, rather than to a local farmer…

A Southland farmer did offer to pay approximately $8.5 million for the aforementioned Jericho Station, but was seemingly priced out of the deal.

…The details surrounding this particular sale of Government/taxpayer land are highly reminiscent of a proposed deal almost two years’ earlier which, if I recall, in all its ostensibly xenophobic wisdom, the New Zealand Government prevented from taking place…

Given Landcorp is an SOE thus ultimately owned by the people, regarding the sale of Fiordland’s Jericho Station, Chief Executive Steve Carden’s primary focus was apparently on ‘getting the best deal for the taxpayer’.

…Roughly ten times the size at almost 14 thousand hectares and valued at over $70 million, Lochinver Station went on the market in 2015 and, similar to the recently sold Jericho Station, was quickly snapped up by a group of Chinese investors; the main difference though is that where Jericho was sold by, in 2015 the sale of Lochinver Station was halted by the New Zealand Government…

Mr Carden maintained: “We want to make sure that we are giving local buyers every opportunity we can to make a competitive bid and we work with local buyers quite significantly on that to help them – but once the process is finished we need to make the best decision for the business.”

…Back in 2015 the level of cash flow throughout New Zealand was scarcely conducive to the purchase of farms, let alone farms worth over $70 million; for Lochinver Station’s owner/s to have a prospective buyer for their farm, and furthermore willing to pay the asking price, must have been a near perfect outcome…

Federated Farmers evidently share the sentiments of Mr Carden, claiming: “Landcorp is a commercial operation so it has every right to sell a farm to whoever they want, but within the constraints of the Overseas Investment Office.”

…Personally, to sell a New Zealand farm to overseas investors, given that the majority of required labour, farm equipment, stock and supplies, as well as living costs and other expenses, will logically be sourced from New Zealand anyway, meaning that most farm-related expenditure will end up going right back into the New Zealand economy, where in fact the only things likely to be sent abroad are whatever profits the farm yields, which if I know farming is generally only a fragmented percentage of a farm’s entire turnover – although admittedly this elusive ‘profit margin’ does only occur in the good years – therefore as much negative hype as it caused in its day, overseas interest in our farms never was as bad as our conveniently uninformed thus typically ignorant malcontents liked to make out because unless these ‘overseas investors’ physically disassembled and actually took the farm back to their own land, they never were really taking ownership of New Zealand land to begin with…

This overtly hypocritical move by the Government seems to have gone largely unnoticed by the nation’s resident team of protesters but be assured, this is one of the finest examples of Political Double Standards seen in recent New Zealand history.

…Jericho (sold recently) and Lochinver (2015 sale halted) Stations are both expansive farming operations dealing primarily in sheep and beef; yet does the fact that Jericho spans just a portion of the area that Lochinver covered make it exempt from the National ruling of years gone by – or has that ruling suddenly changed?…

In 2015 the infamy of ‘Asset Sales’ – where New Zealand-owned institutions were being sold by the National party to other countries in order to turn over some quick cash – was doing its best to vilify our Government; understandable then at that time National probably saw the opportunity to stop another international sale (particularly one involving private as opposed to Government ownership that henceforth would not directly benefit them), namely Lochinver Station, as a way to claw back some credibility.

…Whatever the case a few months after the sale was quashed in 2015, Lochinver Station did go on to sell to a private New Zealand buyer and although, like Jericho, it was for an ‘undisclosed amount’, thanks largely to Government intervention, I am doubtful that it would have been for anywhere near the asking price.



Article by Tim Walker

Edited by Polly T Call

Photography by Hypo Crute

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