23 Aug 2010

Call for ban on sale of farmland to foreigners

9:11 pm on 23 August 2010

An overseas company trying to buy 16 Crafar properties says halting sales of farmland to foreign buyers would strangle the New Zealand economy.

Lobby group Save The Farms is demanding a moratorium on all transactions while the Government conducts a review of its offshore investment policy.

The group is made up of 10 individuals from legal and professional backgrounds and has no direct links to farming. It says it has no political ties and is not seeking financial support.

The group says it formed in response to an attempt by Hong Kong-based company Natural Dairy NZ Holdings Limited to buy farms owned by the Crafar family. The application is with the Overseas Investment Office.

Save the Farms spokesperson Tony Bouchier says members are concerned about overseas corporates buying up agricultural land. However, it supports immigrants who come to New Zealand and buy land to farm it themselves.

The group says it is anticipating a huge amount of support from New Zealanders who want farmland to remain in local ownership.

But Natural Dairy NZ Holdings says a ban would cost jobs, reduce export earnings and spell disaster for the economy.

A spokesperson for Finance Minister Bill English says a review of the Overseas Investment Act is underway and the Government will not call a halt to land sales while the review is in progress.