The Christchurch Press - Farms Should Stay in NZ

ISLAY McLEOD doesn't want farms sold to foreign interests.

In a recent Weekend Press (April 10), three seemingly unconnected articles tolled a distant reminder of New Zealand's glorious past and that it is a past we should urgently revisit for our future prosperity in sheep meat and wool.

First was the clever woman with Cosy Toes making merino socks for children. Wool is naturally warmer and growing wool is a sustainable industry. Currently, we're exporting wool to China and importing it back as woollen clothes. Cheaper but at what cost?

In another article, Sir Brian Lachore was lamenting the lack of cohesion in the wool industry, especially in single-focused marketing. If the Government can overthrow regional and city councils, surely it could equally as arbitrarily establish a Wool Commission. Its role would be establishing the wool production and value-added industry as a top priority for New Zealand, with research funding to establish improved strains and qualities, providing new jobs and export dollars.

And, while we're all wearing wonderful wool, we can eat what's under it.

The third article, The Way We Were, recalled the first frozen sheep export from Lyttelton in 1883. The boost that frozen meat exports gave to the New Zealand economy, ironically had the opposite effect in Britain.

According to Charles Spencer, writing in January's Vanity Fair, "in the late 1870s 80 per cent of the country's acreage was owned by 7000 families, principally those of the 431 hereditary members of the House of Lords. Beginning in the 1880s, the export of grain from the Americas, followed by the arrival in Europe of refrigerated meat, halved the agricultural income in Britain".

Who'd have thought that the English aristocracy would be brought to its financial knees by our frozen meat? But then has anyone thought about a New Zealand future where corporations and overseas interests own our farms? And New Zealanders would be brought to our financial knees by those farm exports?

I've been watching with increasing disbelief as New Zealand rides the waves of profit from dairy exports.

The legendary cow cockie is being bumped aside as the Queen Street farmers make a comeback, affording the resource management consents to lay lush and green the spectacular wastes of our high country.

Now there's the row about selling dairy farms to foreigners and I desperately fear there's nothing to stop that happening.

The obvious problem with selling dairy farms offshore is that not only the profit goes offshore but the product goes offshore too.
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The United Nations is concerned that in 40 years time, the world will need to produce 70 per cent more food and there's no more land to produce it from. That's why "overseas interests" aren't just eyeing up our paddocks, they're getting out the cheque books.

In Spencer's Vanity Fair article, he also quotes Edmund Burke, the 18th-century philosopher and his upper-class representation of the (land owners') social contract - "a partnership, not only between those who are living, but between those who are living, those who are dead, and those that are yet to be born".

In the 21st century, every New Zealander needs to live by that same code.

Keep the New Zealand land that New Zealanders have inherited for our own future generations and ensure that what that land is capable of growing sustainably and naturally is there in abundance.

Next time we're a nation of sheep, we won't be the butt of any jokes.

* Islay McLeod, from Christchurch, has a background in communications consultancy and events management.

credit: Fairfax NZ News