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Outdoor recreation body wants foreign ownership tide stemmed

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

An outdoor recreation organisation wants swift action from the new government to stem the flow of foreign ownership of farm land.

The call by the Council of Outdoor Recreation Associations of NZ (CORANZ) was in response by a recent report of Christchurch based organisation Campaign Against Foreign Control, of Aotearoa (CAFCA) highlighting the continuing sale of farmland to foreigners.

CORANZ’s co-chairman Andi Cockroft said last year the Overseas Investment Office approved the sale of 25,696 hectares of freehold rural land and 47,679 of leases in land to foreigners.

"That’s just in 12 months. Intertwined with this rural land is often outdoor recreation values," said Andi Cockroft. "However access to the outdoor recreation has been diminished as invariably the new foreign owners stop public access."

Under the previous New Zealand ownership of the "family farm" nature, access could usually be obtained by asking permission.

Andi Cockroft said the culture of locked gates and private exclusive estates was part of the UK feudal system from which the early European settlers sought to escape.

"The pioneers set up the foundations of an egalitarian society of equal opportunity for all particularly pertaining to the outdoors. They did not want hunting or fishing or the outdoors in general, the exclusive preserve of the wealthy upper class."

That was enshrined in laws such as the Conservation Law Reform and Wildlife Acts, relating to trout and salmon fishing and duck and game bird shooting respectively. However in recent past decades there had been an erosion of this principle such as with pheasant preserves charging $1000 or more a day to shoot pheasants. Fish and Game had done little to challenge the legality of pheasant preserves.

Foreign ownership was adding to the diminishing public access to the outdoors.

The CAFCA report said statistics on sale of land to overseas interests were poorly recorded or incomplete. CAFCA has estimated that almost 9 percent of New Zealand farmland including forestry or 1.3 million hectares was foreign owned or controlled and because of inadequate records could have reached 10 percent.

Andi Cockroft said CAFCA was to be congratulated on its vigilance and exposure of foreign farmland sales.

"We expect the new government in the light of election promises by its parties to act swiftly to stem foreign sales" he said.

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