29 Feb 2016

No plans to sell Landcorp farms

7:04 am on 29 February 2016

The government has rejected ACT party leader David Seymour's call for it to sell off the farms it owns and use the funds to establish a network of native wildlife sanctuaries.

ACT MP David Seymour

David Seymour Photo: RNZ/ Tom Furley

At ACT's annual conference in Auckland at the weekend, Mr Seymour said that by selling off the 140 Landcorp farms and using the cash to fund wildlife sanctuaries the government would be disposing of an environmentally damaging asset and replacing it with one that restored the environment.

"Selling them off, cashing them up, and putting that money into a trust that will sponsor group's proposals from the community who are willing to create sancturies, we're not talking about converting the actual Landcorp farms, we just want to get the cash out because it's a stupid thing for the government to own in the first place."

Former National and ACT leader Don Brash liked the sound of it.

"The logic of the New Zealand government being the largest farmer in the country is a logic I've never understood. Selling off Landcorp, probably not as a single corporation but as a series of farms, seems to me to make very good sense and I think a lot of farmers would actually support that."

State Owned Enterprises Minister Todd McClay said that while "Landcorp needs to be more profitable and return better dividends to the Crown" the government had no plans to privatise it.

Attack on Green MP air travel

Mr Seymour launched a blistering attack on Green MPs, who he accused of being outrageous climate change hypocrites when it came to their personal consumption of fossil fuels.

Mr Seymour said while the Greens said climate change was the crisis of our time and we must reduce emissions, Green MPs flew more in the last three months of 2015 than the MPs of any other major parties.

"Excluding government ministers, who have a very special role, the Greens are the biggest spenders on air travel - and bear in mind they don't even have electorates they have to get back to every weekend to serve constituents.

"They've got more scope to reduce their air travel than any other party and yet they're the biggest spenders - it's outrageous."

The average Green MP spent $8500 on air travel in those three months - ahead of Labour, National and New Zealand First MPs. Mr Seymour spent $7400 on air travel over the same time.

The Green Party was keen not to respond to anything Mr Seymour said at the conference, and had advised journalists the day before it began that it would be refusing to comment.

ACT has miniscule support in the polls and its survival relied on a nod and a wink from Prime Minister John Key to National voters in Epsom to support Mr Seymour.

Departing president John Thompson said ACT drove members away with its poor behaviour but was starting to get them back.

"We acted badly at times, obviously with the John Banks and the Dotcom saga. We had all that controversy going around there, so there were reasons that people would question the support for the ACT party.

"And let's be honest we all enjoy backing winners and we weren't acting like winners at the time.

"We are now acting like winners."

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