Williamson and English running racial interference on foreign investment

Yesterday, Land Information Minister Maurice Williamson claimed that opposition to foreign investment is more about racism than overseas ownership.

Speaking at a small-business conference at Massey University yesterday, Mr Williamson said he would not discuss the Crafar issue specifically, but the general attitude to foreign investment was usually linked to the ethnicity of the buyer.

“The number of New Zealanders who don’t like the idea of overseas investment and think it’s really a bad thing, really sort of frightens me, and it’s really amazing that some of them have actually got Pommy accents.”

“So what’s a foreigner? A lot of it’s more to do with racism. If you look different, you’re a foreigner but if you come from the other side of the world, from Scotland, then you’re not.”

Williamson needs to have a word to his colleague, Finance Minister Bill English, who last month seemed to be pandering to the supposed racism Williamson criticises:

Public debate over the issue “would benefit from more information” such as where most buyers were based.

“Just a tiny fraction of approvals are from countries outside of the UK and the US, France and the Netherlands,” he said.

In reality, Williamson and English are both running racial interference, albeit from opposite sides of the field, for continued slack regulation on foreign investment.  The ethnicity of foreign purchasers is a red herring.

The real issues are that extensive foreign investment is driving up the price of rural land to an extent that it is unaffordable for many would-be New Zealand farmers to own their own farms. High land prices also force farmers to make the maximum possible return from their land through ecologically unsustainable farming practices. The consequences of this are increased greenhouse gas emissions, increasingly polluted waterways, loss of biodiversity and poor animal welfare practices.  Increased repatriation of profits overseas by foreign-owned farms will also continue to drive the widening of the current account deficit.

Williamson and English do a disservice to the debate on foreign investment by trying to divert if from the genuine economic and ecological concerns of New Zealanders to a debate about racism and race.

17 thoughts on “Williamson and English running racial interference on foreign investment

  1. At the people and media level, individual possible foreign ownership deals are examined, so Shania buying the south island, or the Chinese buying the ex-Crafer farms, its all about a single specific target. So often it is presented in what could be termed racial language, for example “The Chinese”.

    The actual argument should be about foreign ownership, which isn’t about one deal, but about the concept.

    Trouble is, that doesn’t make for good conversations or TV news.

    Thus all the bad stuff that Frog notes comes to pass.

    The level of conversation needs to improve.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0 (+10)

  2. “Williamson and English do a disservice to the debate on foreign investment by trying to divert if from the genuine economic and ecological concerns of New Zealanders to a debate about racism and race.”

    move along, nothing to see here… just selling off the country itself..

    Key’s comment that he didn’t want to see NZers becoming tenants in their own country was interesting, but also very ironic from the perspective of Maori.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 2 (+8)

  3. Stuff poll: Maurice Williamson says much Kiwi opposition to foreign investment is racist. Agree or disagree?

    Currently:

    Agree
    759 votes, 26.4%

    Disagree
    2120 votes, 73.6%

    Total 2879 votes

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 1 (+6)

  4. Thanks for that McTap. Hickey asks:

    But why is this a bad thing? And why is it worse than say the Australian banks owning 91 per cent of our financial system or an Australian retailer owning one of our two grocery chains, Progressive, or Australian media companies owning our three biggest media companies, APN, Fairfax and Mediaworks?

    Well, I’m not too impressed with any of that either. But land is a finite resource that will be here forever and that we are custodians for, and as such is very different from companies on the sharemarket that can be here today and in liquidation tomorrow.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 1 (+8)

  5. “why is it worse than say the Australian banks owning 91 per cent of our financial system or an Australian retailer owning one of our two grocery chains, Progressive, or Australian media companies owning our three biggest media companies, APN, Fairfax and Mediaworks?”

    Some of us have been trying to oppose selling off NZ for over 30 years.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 1 (+7)

  6. Afraid I don’t share Maurice Williamson’s sense of humour. Perhaps John Key needs to explain what was meant to be funny about Williamson’s comments:

    Prime Minister John Key is downplaying comments from Land Information Minister Maurice Williamson that opponents to land sales to foreigners were sometimes being racist, saying it was a case of humour backfiring.

    …Mr Key, who has voiced concerns about foreign ownership and said he did not want New Zealanders to become tenants in their own country, said Mr Williamson was probably being flippant.

    ”Maurice is known for his strong sense of humour and I think it was on display yesterday,” he told media in Auckland today.

    ”Sometimes humour can backfire a little bit and I think this is an example of that, but as a general rule everyone knows that Maurice has got a strong sense of humour and they accept it comes with the minister in question.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1 (+1)

  7. Sometimes humour can backfire a little bit it happend to me once over a light-hearted comment I made about a cannibal feast!
    Some people are awfully sensitive and should lighten up, chortled the effervescent Mr Key, yuk, yuk, yuk!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 2 (+2)

  8. Hickey makes some interesting points, and as the comments to his piece show, plenty of people disagree with his equating land ownership with business ownership.

    Check the comment that follow Hickey’s analysis.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 (0)

  9. Prime Minister John Key is downplaying the National Party’s election manifesto saying it was a case of humour backfiring.

    “All that stuff about catching up with Australia, improving the economy, getting the country on track, come on, people know we’re a bunch of humourists at heart. You can’t tell me the sensible mums and dads of New Zealand really took this seriously.”

    “Gerry and the greenies had a good laugh when he joked that he was going to mine national parks, and I pretended I was going to give the Urewera to Tuhoe – that caused giggles all round.”

    “The National Serious Party is intent on taking the dullness out of politics – that’s a promise – or a joke – depending on the public’s reaction,” Mr Key concluded.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1 (+2)

  10. today on nat-rad…finlay macdonald quoted that marxist-maxim ..

    ‘own/control the means of production’…

    (something china has got ‘down’…)

    i think some want us to be even more foreign-owned serfs’service-workers…

    ..than we already are…

    phil(whoar.co.nz)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1 (+1)

  11. History tells us that Foreign ownership leads to Gun boat diplomacy. It has nothing to do with race.
    Sooner or later a Nation must try to take back the means of production or die in serfdom. We have gone from a well paid producer Nation to a low paid service Nation in my lifetime. Take a stand now or face the gun boats (as they protect their assets) in the future.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0 (+5)

  12. I think Maurice Williamson is very funny; like the majority of Kiwi’s I laugh at him all the time. Every time he opens his mouth he puts his foot in it.

    Just to extend Kelpie’s comment; what do we say about the politicians who have, in the last thirty years slashed our tarrifs causing our manufacturing to either go under or go off-shore?

    I see it like giving licence to a small group of smugglers and to hel! with the rest.

    People like Williamson seem to be all for this elite and to hell with New Zealand.

    And they have the audacity to paint themselves as patriots.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0 (+1)

  13. Williamson was bang on….Kiwis are very racist…certainly where Asians and land ownership are concerned and combined with their small minded, mistaken socialist pig-think economics etc, it makes a nasty,embarassing mix.Listening to the cringe inducing rednecks on talkback go on about the yellow peril makes me ashamed to be in the same country…They seem to believe that hordes of bandy legged coolies in conical hats will take the farms away piece by piece to China in wicker baskets (after ravishing all our womenfolk first,naturally..) the chink swine!

    If Asians were white people there would not be a peep out of the low foreheads.On this issue we see that the Winston Peters right amd the Labour/Green left are not so different from each other…but then thats been true for quite some time..

    Who cares who owns a farm or anyplace else? If they have payed the market rate for it and respect the rights of others then their race is irrelavant.If Kiwis are not willing to buy a property then let the foreigner who will.

    Just because you are born on a certain geographical landmass doesn’t mean you have any greater right to decide what happens to other parts of it that you don’t personally have a private property right in.One name,Alan Crafer…is all it takes to dispel the nationalist/racist nonsense about homegrown Kiwis aways being better caretakers of NZ that Johnny foreigner can be.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 4 (-4)

  14. “If they have payed the market rate for it and respect the rights of others then their race is irrelavant.”

    Exactly – but the issue isn’t about race, it’s about the perils of the absentee landlord. It’s about whether you have a long-term commitment to a place that goes beyond milking it for profit or stripping away a resource. Foreign ownership is just part of the mix – a merchant banker in Auckland who owns farms in Southland may be just as irresponsible an owner as a company in China – it’s just much easier to enforce law on a New Zealand resident. The law is a poor substitute for genuine commitment and responsibility (which usualy comes with long-term residency in a community) but it’s all we’ve got at present.

    “Just because you are born on a certain geographical landmass doesn’t mean you have any greater right to decide what happens to other parts of it that you don’t personally have a private property right in.”

    Rubbish – we have collective responsibilities as citizens. The nation-state might not be a good vehicle for expressing those responsibilities, but that’s no reason to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1 (-1)

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