28 Feb 2016

ACT calls for sale of Landcorp farms

8:35 pm on 28 February 2016

The Act Party wants farms run by government agency Landcorp to be sold and the money used to establish native wildlife sanctuaries throughout the country.

David Seymour at the 2016 ACT conference

David Seymour at the 2016 ACT conference Photo: RNZ / Benedict Collins

MP David Seymour told the party's annual conference in Auckland today, that the money raised by selling the 140 Landcorp farms would go to a Sanctuary Trust which would distribute funds to applicants wishing to operate the sanctuaries.

David Seymour said there was no good reason for the government to be involved in farming. He said the farms contributed to deforestation and pollution, while a Sanctuary Trust would boost bio-diversity and the abundance of endangered species.

Mr Seymour said he believed the government could be receptive to selling the State-owned Enterprise.

"Well they've just done it with three power companies, so they've had a bit of a warm up, and I think they could be persuaded by a strong enough Act Party to dispose of an environmentally damaging asset and create one that is aimed to restore New Zealand's environment," Mr Seymour said.

Mr Seymour said ideally there would be a native wildlife sanctuary in every town. He likened it to what the party had done with charter schools - "invite social entrepreneurship, measure performance according to agreed targets, and get out of the way".

"We're not talking about converting the actual Landcorp farms, we just want to get the cash out because it's a stupid thing for the government to own in the first place," Mr Seymour said.

Landcorp Farming owns or leases 376,942 hectares of land. As one of the country's largest agricultural businesses it operates 140 farms and 1.6 million stock.

It also manages large sheep, beef, deer and dairy farms for other individual and corporate owners.

Last year, Landcorp formed an environmental advisory group and in December pledged to become carbon neutral within a decade.

Change Nats' "timid tinkering"

Mr Seymour also told the conference that only a stronger ACT could change the timid, tinkering approach of the National government.

In a statement, Mr Seymour said that after eight years John Key had not done anything that a Labour Cabinet could not have signed off.

"On (Resource Management Act) RMA reform, the government has only tinkered, despite housing costs being one of the biggest causes of poverty in New Zealand.

Mr Seymour said the staple of a centre-right government should be tax relief and the age of retirement should be raised.

"All politicians privately agree that New Zealand should follow the rest of the OECD by signalling a higher age of entitlement for superannuation as life expectancies increase, but both major parties have their heads in the sand."

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