New Zealand Farmers Seek Reciprocal Rights for China Land Buys

Sept. 3 (Bloomberg) -- New Zealanders should have the right to buy land in China if investors in the Asian country want to purchase agricultural properties in the world’s largest dairy exporter, according to a farm group leader.

“We are saying let’s have like with like,” Federated Farmers of New Zealand President Don Nicolson said in an interview on Bloomberg television today.

Natural Dairy (NZ) Holdings Ltd., a Chinese company listed on Hong Kong’s stock exchange, in July lodged an application with foreign investment regulators for approval to buy 16 New Zealand properties known as the Crafar farms. The properties were placed in receivership in October.

“We can trade land or assets with many countries through a regulatory process now but not many of the countries we are talking about in this equation have the same willingness to have the regulatory process in the way we have it,” Nicolson said.

The final decision on the recommendations from the Overseas Investment Office rests with Land Information Minister Maurice Williamson and Conservation Minister Kate Wilkinson.

“Natural Dairy is confident it offers the best return to creditors of Crafar farms,” Vice Chairman Graham Chin said in the statement in July. No details of the bid were revealed.

Farmers were opposed to moves that would prevent foreign investment in New Zealand, Nicolson said.

“We value the ability to sell to the highest bidder on the day and if New Zealanders are going to take that right away from us then we are going to demand compensation,” he said. “New Zealand needs foreign investment.”

Prime Minister John Key has said there were risks from selling the country’s “productive base.”

“Looking forward five, 10 years into the future I would hate to see New Zealanders as tenants in their own country,” he told Television New Zealand last month.

To contact the reporters on this story: Phillip Yin in Hong Kong at Pyin4@bloomberg.net; Wendy Pugh in Melbourne at wpugh@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: James Poole at jpoole4@bloomberg.net