14 Sep 2017

Nats pledge to sell Landcorp land to young farmers

5:40 pm on 14 September 2017

National is promising to sell some state-owned farms to young farmers after they've worked the land for five to 10 years.

Organic milking teat cups.

Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

The party announced today it would direct Landcorp to lease some of its farms to young farmers, and give them the opportunity of buying them at market rates when they have built up enough capital.

National primary industries spokesperson Nathan Guy said the government owned a large number of commercial farms through Landcorp, but there was no clear public good coming from Crown ownership and little financial return to taxpayers.

He expected about 100 young farming families to benefit from the programme, he said.

Landcorp has about 140 farms but not all of them would be sold, Mr Guy said.

Many were subject to Treaty of Waitangi claims while iwi had right-of-first-refusal on others, and those rights would be respected.

A strategic review earlier this year advised the government to sell Landcorp, but State Owned Enterprises Minister Todd McClay said that would not be happening.

Minister for Primary Industries Nathan Guy on a farm visit as he announced support for flood-hit Otago farmers.

Nathan Guy Photo: RNZ / Ian Telfer

Mr Guy said the existing 700 Landcorp staff would still be needed until the scheme got off the ground.

Christchurch-based agri-business accountant Pita Alexander said he supported National's proposal, as he believed young couples would work the farms better than Landcorp.

It had become increasingly difficult for young families to become farm owners in recent years, outside of farm succession and a big lump of cash he said.

National 'buying' votes - Greens

The Green Party has labelled the plan a desperate and risky ploy to win a few more rural votes.

Primary industries spokesperson Eugenie Sage said the plan also sounded like a repeat of a previous asset sales programme.

"National seems desperate to get a few more votes and is buying them effectively from the rural community."

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Eugenie Sage Photo: VNP / Phil Smith

It was "nonsense" to say the farms would end up in the hands of young people, she said.

"They will end up in the hands of overseas investors and institutional investors, as happened with the sell down of our power companies."

Labour's associate spokesperson for primary industries, Meka Whaitiri, questioned why such a plan had been announced just 10 days out from an election, without consultation, particularly with Māori.

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