When economic self-sabotage becomes economic treason
Maurice Williamson was on radio and TV soon after he and the other Minister had approved the sale of the Crafar Farms to the Chinese saying his hands were tied and he had to approve it. He was insistent he had no choice, although he also seemed very much in favour of it anyway. That would make quite a damning piece of evidence against the government's process as far as getting a court to reverse the decision, let alone in establishing a motive for a wider crime. As it happened the court did derail the decision, though not for Williamson's telling comments. As usual Michael Fay (the rival bidder) uses the legal system to get his way rather than possessing any business acumen; but at least thanks to his efforts the decision has to be made again with a higher threshold than simply whether an overseas buyer has the money.
The Crafar farms buy-up by the Chinese is based on LandCorp running it. So the Chinese are going to be absentee landlords and nothing more. They have no special skills or value to add to the farms or to the country - on that basis alone the "investment" should fall over.
But what of Landcorp's role? Looks like a corporate farmer from their website, with dividends and announcements to market, etc. But what they don't seem very proud of - because they don't want to mention it in lights anywhere - is that it is an SOE, a government owned company.
So we have a government owned company in league with a foreign buyer. The government itself is trying to sell off the nation's productive farmland to foreigners - in this case a front company for a foreign government. This is an astounding, sickening twist in the Crafar farms saga - a perverse situation. This has gone beyond just economic self-sabotage.
This National government will sell it all without flinching, without conscience or regard to the interests of this nation.
Keep well in mind that the reason they are selling the power companies and Air NZ off is not because of deficits or paying for the Christchurch earthquake or anything at all to do with the current situation. National have had a policy to sell off assets in the second term well before the financial meltdown of 2008. Asset sales for the Nats have nothing to do with practicality, pragmatism or efficiency. It is an ideological commitment, nothing more, nothing less.
The Ministerial approval came just a week before a trade conference in NZ where Ministers and Chinese delegates met. We hear from the Greens that Chinese officials met Overseas Investment Office staff for a briefing. This deal was a long time in the making at government-to-government level. They are fully in cahoots and no Chinese walls - as it were - and bureaucratic technicalities were going to withstand orders and undertakings made at the top.
Now the Crafar farms are going to become Chinese state assets (by proxy) with the NZ government supporting the purchase. With our own entranced, second-rate intellectuals confidently asserting that China owning chunks of the value chain - although not actually "investing" any capital beyond the purchase of the land - is going to somehow benefit the country. Some farmers have said they don't mind! Not the quickest, our farmers.
It may be that the Crafar farms represent a small area, that the overseas buyers to date only own 1% or so of total land; but an aggressive state-backed aggregator of land, like the Chinese, in for the ultra-long haul and who will not sell-down will quickly change that scenario. If the Chinese population can rise from 1% to 5% or so in only 20 years due to government policy, there is no reason why 20 years from now the Chinese (that is to say the Beijing-controlled businesses), due to government policy, may be owning well over 5% of farmland.
With a NZ government the right hand of Chinese investment we are now in the realms of economic treason.