OPINION

It's a big day on Thursday for the West Coast: Westland Milk's sale gets voted on.

And in that vote is the great concern carried by people like Winston Peters, who has spent most of his career rallying against what is most likely about to happen.

Peters doesn't like Chinese encroachment on this country, and he's not alone. He dresses it up a bit, and doesn't use the word "Chinese", especially now he's Foreign Affairs Minister.

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But the actions tell the story. He's pumped billions into the Pacific to counter their approaches for influence, he travelled to Washington last year and gave about as blunt a speech as you can get in terms of political speak warning the Americans, and he gets upset when Fonterra sells Tip Top offshore.

Well, he ain't going to be happy Thursday because Yili, a Chinese company, has made a spectacular offer for Westland Milk. And short of a complete change in human nature, the shareholders will snap it up and run straight to the bank, which most likely will be Australian-owned.

Westland is an independent milk processor, one of the last in this country. There are a couple of big shareholders but mainly it's farmers, about 400 of them. The shares are worth, at best, about $1.30, and could be as low as 80 cents.

Yili has offered $3.40, and they'll take all the milk, they'll pay what Fonterra pays, and each farmer will get an average of half a million bucks. Which way do you think the vote is going?

And yet again, as the vote unfolds, we have a quintessential example of theory versus reality. For every person who dislikes Chinese or foreign interest, when that interest arrives at your doorstep, whether it's your house, your farm, your business, or your stake in a dairy processor, what do you do? Do you stand in a patriotic way and reject the foreign "invader", the person you're told is taking over your country?

Or do you pocket the cash? You know the answer.

And here's the next question for all those who criticise this stuff, would you do it differently? And given you wouldn't, and you still complain, doesn't that make you a hypocrite?

Foreign investment, like it or not, makes this country run. A tiny set of islands at the bottom of the world with fewer than five million people needs the world, and it needs the world's money.

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Russia, China, or the US might be able to stick a figurative wall or two up. We can't, have never been able to, never will. Which is why the whole debate has been so futile. Dislike, or distrust foreign money, influence, or politics all you like, but it's not changing a thing.

The latest example of the real world in action versus drumbeating xenophobia will be played out in three days' time on the West Coast of our South Island.