Barry Soper is Newstalk ZB's Political Editor

Barry Soper: Peters is laughing all the way

NZ First leader Winston Peters has been demanding a foreign buyers' list for years. Photo / Jason Oxenham
NZ First leader Winston Peters has been demanding a foreign buyers' list for years. Photo / Jason Oxenham

This year is shaping up to be Winston Peters year, thanks to his political opponents. It'll be the last throw of the political dice for him, but so far it's game on as the ballot box beckons.

You'd think the dice was loaded the way it's being thrown by the Beehive. The latest to give Peters straight sixes is figures showing almost half a million hectares of land was sold to offshore buyers last year, five times more than a year earlier.

It's as though the new Land Information Minister Mark Mitchell's head has been buried in the cow pat for the amount of interest he's taking in the latest figures. The former cop says there's no evidence of a big buy up of our land, which given the Overseas Investment Office figures is a little baffling.

He'd argue the figures can be misinterpreted because some of the land was bought jointly with Kiwi investors.

As a prerequisite for gobbling up our land, foreign buyers often have to offer incentives, like creating more recreational opportunities, providing jobs and being sensitive to the environment.

It's the casual attitude as to whether the promises made on purchase are being carried out in practice that should be of some concern. The Investment Office relies on public tip-offs to see whether the conditions are being met along with enforcement checks. There have been breaches of conditions but Mitchell couldn't give a figure on how many.

But in the absence of a foreign buyers' register, and there's no appetite in the Beehive for one, it seems we'll remain in the dark about who's doing what and who's paying.

What we do know is that the Chinese topped the land buyer list three years ago, knocking American land grabbers out of the top slot followed by the Poms. Up until then the Chinese were fifth on the list but what's happened since then remains something of a mystery.

And that's where Winston Peters is laughing all the way to the ballot box. He's been demanding a foreign buyers' list for yonks, introducing to Parliament last year a private members bill for a formal land buyers' register which he says would bring us into line with other countries. Unfortunately it was voted down but fortunately for Peters it seems for him there'll be plenty of smoke around his mirror on this one between now and the election.

And besides without a register, how will be know before it's too late whether John Key's warning seven years ago will come true, that we could risk becoming tenants in our own land?

- NZ Herald

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Barry Soper is Newstalk ZB's Political Editor

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