Farmland foreign ownership bill to be discussed

By Kate Shuttleworth

Green Party co-leader Russel Norman. Photo / Greg Bowker.
Green Party co-leader Russel Norman. Photo / Greg Bowker.

A bill that would tighten rules on foreign companies owning New Zealand farmland by stopping it from being bought will be debated in Parliament today.

Green Party co-leader Russel Norman's members' bill will tighten rules of overseas ownership and will prevent foreign companies buying New Zealand farmland bigger than five hectares. If passed, the Overseas Investment (Restriction on Foreign Ownership of Land) Amendment Bill will amend the Overseas Investment Act 2005 and prevent the sale of "sensitive" land such as the sale of Crafar farms to Chinese company Shanghai Pengxin.

Under existing law, sensitive land can be bought with consent from the Overseas Investment Office.

Land is classified as sensitive if its non-urban land over five hectares, land on islands, foreshore and seabed, on the bed of a lake, land held for conservation purposes under the Conservation Act, land subject to a heritage order and historic places.

Land next to any of these sites can also be classified as "sensitive" land.

Dr Norman's bill will prevent all sensitive land from being sold.

The Labour Party, the Maori Party, New Zealand First and the Mana Party will support the bill - while National, United Future, and Act will oppose it.

The bill will not pass its first reading.

Dr Norman said it was an important piece of legislation.

"Most New Zealanders support it, I think the job of Parliament is to support the will of the people and people don't want land going into overseas ownership," he said.

Labour Party finance spokesman said it supported the bill to first reading so that a debate could occur,

He said Labour did not support a blanket ban on sales of New Zealand land to foreign companies.

Bills by National MPs Todd McClay and Chris Auchinvole, and Labour MP Annette King will also be debated in Parliament tomorrow.

Mr Auchivole's Habeas Corpus Amendment Bill will amend rules around habeas corpus court applications, which prevent people being unlawfully detained when arrested.

Proposed changes would mean the High Court or a Judge will be able to rule that habeas corpus applications do not take precedence over all other business and could rule habeaus corpus application hearings would not have to be heard within three working days.

Mr McClay's bill would prevent gang patches from being worn in all government premises, including schools, hospitals and public service buildings such as Work and Income offices.

Labour MP Annette King's Local Government Bill will create more scrutiny around pay rises for local government executives.

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