If a country can’t be taken away, what exactly is being shipped off to China in vast shiploads?

Maybe with bigger trucks we could shift the lot by the end of the century...

Alf salutes the PM this morning, on reading that John Key doesn’t want New Zealanders to become tenants in their own country as foreign companies seek to buy up farms.

The Government therefore may look at law changes.

The issue has arisen in the wake of a Chinese company’s bid to buy the Crafar farms.

Key would not comment directly on the Crafar farms issue because it’s before the Overseas Investment Office, although it’s fair to think that in this case the OIO is taking a bit more time to look into the matter than it normally tends to do.

If we had Olympic Games for rubber stamping overseas investment approvals, the OIO would be among the medal winners, probably with a gold and a world record.

The PM was also coy when asked if his preference was for the land to stay in New Zealand hands. But he did say:

“As a general and broader principle I think New Zealanders should be concerned if we sell huge tracts of our productive land.

“Now, that’s a challenging issue given the state of the current law and quite clearly it’s evidentially possible and has been achieved that individual farms can be sold. Looking four, five, ten years into the future I’d hate to see New Zealanders as tenants in their own country and that is a risk I think if we sell out our entire productive base, so that’s something the Government will have to consider.”

Alf likewise is bothered by the prospect of Kiwis becoming tenants in their own country because tenants can be (a) evicted and (b) screwed.

Two Herald reports today illustrate this point.

First, the Herald says some landlords are expected to evict tenants to cash in on higher-paying renters during the Rugby World Cup.

Tenants Protection Association manager Helen Gatonyi is bracing herself to deal with renters being booted out. “I’m sure there will be some opportunists who will do it.”

Ms Gatonyi plans to send out newsletters telling tenants of their rights and responsibilities and encouraging landlords to adopt good practices.

Alas, the prospect of tenants being given the boot has given Labour’s Moaner Mackey something to bleat about.

She is Labour’s housing spokeswoman, and she is banging on about trying in vain to get tenants’ protections added to the Residential Tenancies Amendment Bill now before Parliament.

She said that during the Wellington rugby Sevens tournament, tenants of low-socio-economic boarding houses were kicked out to make way for fans – and she fears this will happen again during next year’s Cup.

“Do we really want to be pouring people, making them homeless, out on the streets of Auckland during that time?

“We shouldn’t be allowing families to be kicked out of their homes just so someone can make a quick buck.”

Alf, for what it’s worth, has no problem with landlords kicking out tenants to make a bigger buck, so long as the landlords are National-supporting Kiwis, and not foreigners.

Call it xenophobia if you like.

Alf calls it patriotism, although he knows this invites the retort that patriotisim is the last refuge of the scoundrel.

The second news item today tells us that thousands of tenants in Auckland’s CBD face rent rises from next year as hundreds of millions of dollars worth of waterfront land begins returning income to its Maori owners.

Leasehold rent payments on the ex-railway land bounded by The Strand, Quay St and Beach Rd have been suspended since Ngati Whatua bought the 20ha block in 1996.

But from August next year, the iwi will begin sending monthly bills to owners of valuable real estate, including Vector Arena, the Countdown supermarket, Quay Park Health, Grand Central Railway campus, a string of hotels, high-rise apartments, shops and restaurants.

Rent will be struck at 5 to 6 per cent of the unimproved value of the land, which Herald calculations put at about $460 million.

Rent payments on most of the land have been suspended for 15 years as part of the purchase deal.

It’s worth noting that the Ngati Whatua O Orakei Maori Trust Board’s chairman is a bloke called Grant Hawke, and he is saying the leasehold income would be hugely beneficial, which obviously it will be.

But he also urged caution so the rents did not look like “a gold rush” by iwi.

He wasn’t saying it should not be a gold rush. Rather, iwi should try to disguise things so it doesn’t actually look like a gold rush.

Ngati Whatua O Orakei’s corporate chief executive is a bloke called Tiwana Tibble, a name which would look splendid on cans of cat food.

He does not seem to have taken much notice of the warning.

He refused to say how much money would come in but referred to speculation of every apartment-owner paying $10,000 a year as being based on leasehold payments on Beaumont Quarter opposite Victoria Park.

“We’re not going to bend over and give huge discounts. We don’t see why we have to,” said Mr Tibble.

Alf is damned sure foreigners would not be bending over backwards, either, but rather would want to screw every last buck out of tenants.

But whoa there.

Making it harder for foreigners to buy land would require tougher overseas investment regulations, and as a good Nat Alf prefers to shy from words like “regulation”.

But he is not at all convinced by the free-market argument against regulation, which is that foreigners may well buy up our land, but they can’t haul it away.

This, of course, is garbage, and balderdash as well.

Alf has observed the Australians greedily digging up their continent and shipping off the money-earning bits to China in vast volumes.

It could take time, but eventually they will have dug up all of their country and exported it.

This would not altogether be a bad thing.

We no longer would have to worry about being thrashed by Australia at cricket and the continent’s disappearance would put an end to the difficulties we have been having trying to send apples to the bug-shy bastards.

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