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Alarm at Foreign Takeovers of Farm and Forestry

An outdoor recreation organisation wants swift action from government to stem the flow of foreign ownership of farm land citing Marlborough examples of the takeover.

Andi Cockroft chairman of the Council of Outdoor Recreation Associations of NZ (CORANZ), said Marlborough seemed vulnerable to foreign buy-ups. Campaign Against Foreign Control of Aotearoa (CAFCA) in its latest issue of “Foreign Control Watchdog” listed foreign purchases of land by 100% UK interests at Port Underwood, 100% Australian interests at Okaramio and foreign purchases at the Waihopai Valley and Northbank of the Wairau Valley.

Andi Cockroft said a recent sale at Kaiuma Bay, near Havelock comprised 1358.5 hectares of land going from wholly New Zealand ownership to Australia’s Marberry Estate.

“Also recent information shows that six of the ten biggest private landowners in New Zealand are foreign-owned forestry companies. It’s no surprise to learn that the forestry sector is nearly 75% foreign owned,” he said.

In 2018 the Overseas Investment Office approved the sale of 25,696 hectares of freehold rural land and 47,679 of leases in land to foreigners.

Foreign ownership was resulting in diminishing public access to the outdoors.

“Intertwined with this rural land is often outdoor recreation values, fishing, hunting and tramping,” said Andi Cockroft. “However access to the outdoor recreation has been diminished as invariably the new foreign owners stop public access.”

Assurances before the 2017 election by all three government coalition partners - Labour, Greens and NZ First - to curb sales of land, were shown statistics to be worthless. Since the Labour-Greens-NZ First government was formed the Overseas Investment Office (OIO) had approved more than $2.3 billion of forestry related land sales - about 31,000 hectares previously New Zealand owned.

It was also disclosed that the Labour-led government had actively encouraged further foreign purchases of land for forestry through a stream-lined “special forestry test.”

“So much for election promises,” he said.

He said CAFCA’s vigilance and publication also listed other foreign purchases throughout New Zealand in regions such as Wairoa, Hawkes Bay and Wairarapa.

On outdoor recreation access, under the previous New Zealand ownership of the “family farm” nature, access could usually be obtained by asking permission. Much of the land was forestry or farmland destined for exotic forestry by its new foreign owners.

Andi Cockroft questioned the environmental impact of exotic forest monocultures saying the plantings resulted in depleted water ways since pines were “much more thirsty” compared to native forest, acidification of soils and heavy silt laden runoffs at clear felling time with the latter adversely affecting the inner Marlborough Sounds and Marlborough rivers.

Andi Cockroft said the exposure of sales of farmland and forestry sales showed the lack of integrity by governments’ three parties. All three had pledged to stem the foreign sales flow while the Green Party seemed ignorant of the adverse environmental impact of large scale pine monocultures

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