Northland companies need to leave prejudice against foreign investors out of their business and accept the emerging influence of Chinese investors and middle income tourists over the next 25 years, a former Prime Minister says.
Dame Jenny Shipley, now living in Russell, said Northlanders could lease land to foreign investors instead of selling it, following the agreement earlier this month by China's Hunan Dakang Pasture Farming to buy Pinny Farms - 10 Far North properties totalling 3600ha - for about $42.7 million.
The application is still being processed by the Overseas Investment Office (OIO).
In March, the OIO also approved the sale of the 2.5ha Whatuwhiwhi Holiday Park for $3.8 million to the Chinese company Carrington Holiday Park Jade.
It is part of the expansion of the adjoining Peppers Carrington Resort, a 1000ha five-star resort on the Karikari Peninsula bought by Chinese real-estate giant Shanghai CRED from US businessman Paul Kelly for $28.7 million in 2013. The resort is to be marketed to wealthy Chinese tourists.
Dame Jenny was speaking to a packed room of more than 200 women at the Copthorne in Waitangi on Thursday evening for the launch of the Bay of Islands Women's Nexus, a new business networking group.
She challenged the Northland businesswomen to abandon outdated, inherited prejudice against foreign investment.
"I challenge you as businesspeople to not suspend your judgment or values, but don't bring your prejudice to the table," she said.
"Are we open for business or have we grandma on our shoulder?
"There are many business models that can provide a win/win for everyone.
"The sphere of influence in the last 25 years included the US, Europe and Britain. They allowed New Zealand to be wealthy.
"In the next 25 years, that will shift as the Chinese are the emerging population."
Dame Jenny said Asian tourists also wanted to experience the "treasures" of Northland - access to blue skies, clear water and a clean environment.
Northland was ripe with trading opportunities with Ngapuhi set to become a major economic driver after its Treaty claim settlement. And she was shocked Maori stories were not being told.
She said too that Northlanders needed to remember that Russell was a thriving international trade harbour in the 1800s, with local Maori doing business with 130 ships per month from America, Britain and France.