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Overseas Land Ownership - Stronger Controls Needed

Thursday 27 June 2002 – Wellington

Stronger Controls Needed On Overseas Land Ownership

The Forest and Bird Protection Society is calling for changes to the Overseas Investment Act and stronger controls on overseas ownership of New Zealand land including pastoral leases.

“Alienating some of New Zealand’s icon landscapes and key natural areas to wealthy overseas financiers and corporates is not in New Zealand’s interest,” field officer Eugenie Sage said.

Forest and Bird is calling on political parties to clarify their position on the sale to offshore interests of important landscapes and potential conservation areas. The call comes with revelations today that Young Nick’s Head is to be sold to New York financier John Griffin.

“Areas which should be protected as part of the public conservation estate are being lost. The Department of Conservation and the Nature Heritage Fund are unable to compete with the high prices being offered by wealthy overseas buyers.”

“In Canterbury the Department of Conservation was recently outbid by Wall St billionaire, Julian Robertson and unsuccessful in its efforts to purchase part of the 4,538 ha Brooksdale pastoral lease to make important additions to the Korowai/Torlesse Conservation Park near Porters Pass.

“Mr Roberston now controls access to the Kowai Valley at the base of Porters Pass. This is the major tramping route into the park and to Mt Torlesse.

“Another American businessman, Tom Sturgess now owns several strategically important pastoral leases including Rainbow Station close to Nelson Lakes National Park, Lake Tekapo’s Godley Peaks Station at the foot of Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park and Mt Albert Station surrounded by Mt Aspiring National Park. Mr Sturgess also owns other key natural areas such as part of D’Urville Island and the lease for Puponga Farm Park at the base of Farewell Spit.

“Forest and Bird’s analysis of information compiled by the Campaign Against Foreign Control of Aotearoa (CAFCA) suggests that more than 220,000 ha of high country (largely pastoral lease land) is now owned by foreign interests. This is the equivalent of more than seven Paparoa National Parks,” Ms Sage said.

“The outstanding and dramatic landscapes of the South Island high country makes it attractive for tourism or lifestyle properties. Foreign owners purchasing for these reasons can be less supportive of free public access than New Zealanders.

“Trampers, hunters and recreationalists were repeatedly denied access to Lilybank Station near Lake Tekapo when owned by the Suharto family of Indonesia. Hunters have had problems getting access to Glenhope Station in the Waiau valley near Hanmer Springs because the American owner has established a safari hunting game park.

“Foreign ownership can imperil tenure review and the restoration of pastoral lease land to full Crown ownership and control as conservation land. On Lilybank Station, agents for the Suharto family actively contested and blocked for around five years the surrender of 25,500 ha of land to the Crown. Surrender has been previously agreed as part of a 1970s retirement agreement.”

“Government should direct the Overseas Investment Commission that as a matter of Government policy, the sale to any overseas person of any interest in or control over pastoral lease lands is not in the national interest and amend the Overseas Investment Act,” Ms Sage said.


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