Sunday, January 29, 2012

For a few blankets more...

There's a common theme in films involving time-travel of eerie warnings sent back to the present from the future.

This has always struck me as doing things exactly the wrong way round.

So, without further ado, I give you ... a Warning from History about selling land to foreigners courtesy of my ancestors.

Let's not make the same mistake they did.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Tragedy. Farce. Stupidity. And a few blankets for land.

This morning's announcement that National had approved the sale of the Crafar Farms to Chinese owned Shanghai Pengxin brought to mind Marx's dictum that when History repeats, it does so the first time as tragedy and the second time as farce. He might well have added that it third repeats as stupidity.

This isn't the first time a minority have sold off something that belongs to all of us to foreigners.

A century and a half ago, the problem was endemic in Maori society.
One guy would flog off tribal land to a British-owned company for some trinkets and quickly squandered personal wealth.

You'd think we'd have learnt not to trade our land, heritage and birthright for blankets and glass beads!

I am, of course, aware that the Crafar Farms were privately owned and thus not strictly something we held collective title over ... but we could have.

Landcorp has been administering the farms for some time now, and will apparently be required to still do so under Chinese ownership. It will pay $18 million a year for the privilege.

Eighteen Million.

To do what it's been doing to this point for no charge.

And the Prime Minister has the nerve to say we're not being made tenants in our own country!

What strikes me as even more odious is the fact that Landcorp was set up and endowed by previous governments to buy up and run farmland.

Farmland precisely like the Crafar Farms.

The difference between the Fay-led bid and the Shanghai Pengxin bid was around $30 million.

That's a little under two years worth of the rent we'll be paying to the Chinese.

And under Landcorp, the profits wouldn't be going overseas, they'd be being reinvested here.

So the questions almost ask themselves ... Why aren't we doing that?
Why are we not allowing the state organisation we've set up to buy and manage farmland ... to buy and manage Kiwi farmland?  Why are we allowing the profits to go offshore and why are we allowing the Chinese to buy our productive assets when we're not allowed to buy theirs?

For that matter, why are we allowing some foreigners to buy land in the name of investment and fostering growth ... but not allowing others like Kim DotCom (a resident and an entrepreneur) the same privilege?

Apart from some $100,000 in donations to the National Party and the fact the Chinese had rather more weight at the negotiating table, what's the difference?

We forced DotCom to rent rather than buy. Why should we not get the Chinese to do the same?

Interestingly, this is exactly the Chinese position on foreign land ownership - and with good reason. The Chinese have learnt from their own history. They know what it's like to be economically colonized by a foreign superpower (in this case, the British) and they've never forgotten it.

I only wish we could do the same.

Think about it. On asset sales, on ACC privatization; on John Banks in government and on a race-relations policy that can quite literally be described as "Separate But Equal" ... we haven't learnt.

And that brings me to another cliche I'll use to close.

"Those who do not learn from the mistakes of history are doomed to repeat them!"