See Landcorp planning to pay $18m a year rent to a government-linked Chinese firm to run the Crafar farms. So New Zealand is in the enviable position of having to pay rent to foreign owners to farm our own land. Key promised we wouldn’t be tenants in our own land. What’ll be Key’s priority: cutting Kiwi workers’ wages or keeping our land in Kiwi hands?
Here’s what Key said about Crafar farms last year:
“As a general and broader principle I think New Zealanders should be concerned if we sell huge tracts of our productive land.”
“Now, that’s a challenging issue given the state of the current law and quite clearly it’s evidentially possible and has been achieved that individual farms can be sold. Looking four, five, ten years into the future I’d hate to see New Zealanders as tenants in their own country and that is a risk I think if we sell out our entire productive base, so that’s something the Government will have to consider.”
Landcorp put in a bid for about $175m for the farms but it was turned down. Pengxin is thought to be offering about $200m. For the sake of $25m from a government that regularly throws far larger sums to bailout out private companies, we could end up paying tens of millions in perpetuity for our own land.
When Key eventually comes back to New Zealand from holiday, will his first move be to help a company cut the wages of 300 workers or to keep $200m of New Zealand farmland in New Zealand ownership?
The answer will be telling.