27 Nov 2013

Perspective urged on foreign ownership urged

6:35 am on 27 November 2013

The issue of overseas investors buying farm land needs to be put into perspective because only a small amount of land is in foreign hands, says an economist who has been studying foreign investment in New Zealand.

New Zealand Institute of Economic Research senior economist Chris Nixon told a future farms conference in Wellington that just 1-2% of New Zealand land was in foreign ownership, and that this country had avoided the land grab that had gone on in other parts of the world.

"And the reasons are it's too far away. Land is fully priced. Food production is not where they've traditionally been interested in - they've more been interested in the resources boom," Mr Nixon said.

Australians had bought the most land, followed by Europeans and Americans, while Asian ownership was slowly increasing.

"The point about this is we'd like to see more Asian investment given that those economies are on the rise. Other economies have not shown the promise," he said.

"We want people investing here who are going to participate in New Zealand's growth."

Mr Nixon said foreign investment and land ownership was an issue if it left people feeling disenfranchised, and that the Government had a key role to play in reassuring the public that it was not a threat.