Key knew tourism business being sold out by foreign owners
17 September 2014 MEDIA STATEMENT
John Key knew tourism business being sold out by foreign owners
John Key was aware that a highly successful tourism business would be shut down because new foreign buyers were cutting its access rights to farmland, Labour MP Clayton Cosgrove says.
“John Key is the Tourism Minister but has done nothing to stop New Zealand’s highest-value offshore excursion business effectively being shut down with the loss of 16 jobs after an American company bought the Flock Hill Station farm lease it operated on and cancelled its access rights.
“Instead John Key dismissed the loss of jobs at High Country Explorer Tours in Canterbury. He called it a ‘red herring’ and said: ‘You are losing the plot if 16 jobs there can’t be measured against the benefits of foreign investment’.
“That is arrogance of the highest order. The Tourism Minister should not gloat over the loss of a major tourism operation and 16 jobs. He should apologise to High Country Explorer Tours head Rod Bennett and those people set to lose their jobs.
“There is no benefit in this sale to New Zealand apart from the seller getting rich and the foreign buyer getting 35,000 acres of Kiwi land.
“Mr Key was informed of the issue last Friday by Mr Bennett. He has not responded, despite the urgency of the situation.
“Land Information Minister Michael Woodhouse has been aware since August that High Country had laid a complaint with the OIO but he has done nothing about it. The OIO turned down High Country’s appeal yesterday.
“Yet again National ministers have been missing in action. The overseas investment process is clearly broken if a successful tourism business can be effectively shut down because a new foreign owner cuts the access rights it has held for 23 years.
“High Country has invested in Flock Hill Station by upgrading the road for tours. It also has 62 cruise ship tours lined up that will have to be cancelled.
“This is a travesty but National has nothing to say about it.
“Under Labour this would never have happened. Labour believes in keeping Kiwi land in Kiwi hands and will, in effect, prevent farm sales to foreigners,” says Clayton Cosgrove.
Attached: Rod Bennett email to John Key
Background information on Flock Hill Station
• US company Coast Range NZ LLC purchased 24.9% of the perpetual lease of Flock Hill Station in 2008 (which did not require Overseas Investment Office approval).
• They applied to the OIO to increase their holding to 100% in 2009, which was approved in February 2010.
• The OIO approval was made because it supposedly satisfied several Overseas Investment Act criteria including: 17(2)(a)(i) – Creation/Retention of jobs.
• The application of the US leaseholders made no mention of the existence of High Country Explorer Tours Ltd (HCET), a company which has operated successful tourist activities on and over the station since 1991.
• HCET operates high value shore excursion tours for major Cruise Ship Lines that visit Canterbury and employs up to 16 hard-working Kiwis (depending on the season) and makes a significant contribution to the tourist economy of the region. It is the highest-value onshore excursion in New Zealand.
• HCET has operated for 23 years with a number of leaseholders of the station in a mutually beneficial fashion, providing significant betterment in the form of guaranteed incomes, farm security and animal welfare, access road construction and maintenance as well as brand enhancement and marketing of the station in the international marketplace.
• After negotiating with the foreign leaseholders for 12 months, on June 12 2014, HCET were given three months notice that their access to the Station was being terminated.
• As of September 12 2014 HCET was effectively put out of business by being denied access to Flock Hill Station by the foreign leaseholders.
• HCET will have to cancel at least 62 already-booked tours from cruise ship visits over the coming season from October 2014 to April 2015 costing several jobs and significant economic income.
• Flock Hill Station is 35,000 acres.