New Zealand welcomes foreign farmers
Published: 29 Jun 2012
Posted in: New Zealand
ACROSS the Tasman, where New Zealand agriculture enjoys the sort of national income status equivalent to mining in Australia, farm ownership is a sensitive topic.
But while Kiwis are suspicious about foreign corporate investment in agriculture, they tend to welcome immigrants who buy land to farm themselves, and they are happy to have high profile, high wealth individuals from overseas investing in NZ farms.
"An excellent example is Hollywood's most successful director James Cameron, of Titanic and Avatar fame (he earnt about $US257 million 2010), who most New Zealanders are comfortable with owning two farms north of Wellington," said Federated Farmers of NZ chief executive officer, Conor English.
In general, however public opinion was cool on overseas investment, especially large land sales to corporate interests where the owners were unlikely to work the country themselves.
Farmers looking to buy land also felt foreign bidders had unfair access to cheaper funding and could too easily outbid the locals.
There was also concern about vertical integration of processing and marketing of produce from farms owned by corporations.
This was a particularly sensitive theme in the dairy industry where big scale production by overseas interests might threaten the strength of giant NZ dairy processing co-operative Fonterra, which accounts for 25 per cent of NZ exports and 7pc of national GDP.
"Agriculture generates two thirds of all NZ's exports - New Zealanders understand the farm export sector is important," Mr English said.
"We have an interest in land and good land management every day."
But one of the big challenges to NZ making the most of its farmland in an increasingly protein-hungry world had emerged from within its own land ownership ranks.
The area of productive farmland had shrunk about 20pc in 20 years because of urban sprawl, particularly around Auckland, and a boom in lifestyle blocks which now totalled 175,000 and covered 873,000ha.
"The Kiwi 10-acre block has done a lot of damage - it's neither big enough to produce anything much or small enough to manage well," Mr English said.
"There's a lot of wasted space."
Source: The Land