6 Dec 2013

Farmers divided on Goff's farmland bill

2:54 pm on 6 December 2013

Labour MP Phil Goff's private members bill which would make it tougher for foreigners to buy farmland has been described as a bit simplistic by a farming leader.

Mr Goff's Overseas Investment (Owning Our Own Rural Land) Amendment Bill has been drawn from the ballot.

Mr Goff says dairy farming is a license to print money and believes the number of foreigners trying to get their own slice of the dairy pie is only going to increase.

He says his bill will stop New Zealand's productive agricultural land going to foreign speculators.

"There's only one purpose of having foreign investment in NZ and that is when it's of benefit to us, we're not running a charity, we're not giving free hand outs to overseas investors."

He says the bill will cut out is the speculator, the person with no farming expertise.

"They add nothing except to the inflation of land prices and the profits they can take out of New Zealand."

He says he believes most New Zealanders feel land is a special commodity.

Federated Farmers president Bruce Wills, however, says although a lot of farmers share Mr Goff's concerns that too much farmland is ending up in foreign ownership there are other arguments to consider.

"We have a bunch of farmers who wish to have the right to sell their farms to whoever they choose."

He also says property owners in Auckland, for example, can sell to whom they wish, so restricting pastoral property sales needs careful consideration.

"We've got people sitting on both sides of this debate."

He says lack of access to overseas capital can be a constraint on the growth of farming businesses.

But Mr Goff says most farmers are taking a longer term view and would not want to see their children tenants in their own land.