Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce has accused Labour of "xenophobia" in their opposition of the potential sale of Lochinver Station to the Chinese company that bought the Crafar Farms.Let me make a couple of points here. For efficiency reasons we want resources to be in the hands of those who value them most highly and the way to do that is sell them to the highest bidder. We want land (and other resources) to be used in the most efficient manner and the country of origin of the buyer is irrelevant to this. A thought experiment: ask yourself, Why are auctions used for so many goods? Its a way of finding out who values the good most highly. Whoever bids the most gets the goods. This is how we maximise the probability of getting an efficient allocation of resources. Secondly would a Labour government compensate the seller of the land for their policy? Under the Labour policy the seller would be forced to sell their land at a lower price than they would otherwise get (or not sell at all) and would a Labour government make up the difference between the actual sale price and the highest possible price? And if not, Why should the seller receive a lower return than they otherwise would?. And if this is a good policy for land why not implement it for other goods as well? What makes this idea land specific?
Mr Joyce and Grant Robertson, economic development spokesman for Labour, appeared on TV3's The Nation this morning and discussed the sale.
Mr Robertson said under Labour the sale would not go ahead.
"Our criteria would definitely mean that a sale like this would be highly unlikely."
Mr Joyce said the opposition were "electioneering" in relation to the issue.
"When did [Labour] go out and oppose the purchase of James Cameron's land?"
"A little xenophobia from the Labour Party to start the day," he said.
While I'm thinking about this let me add that the "logic" of our xenophobic friends must be symmetric. That is, if it is bad for foreigners to invest in New Zealand it must be equally bad for foreign counties to have New Zealanders investing in them. So why are New Zealand First, the Conservatives and Labour not announcing their intention to introduce legislation preventing New Zealanders from investing overseas?
Update: There are comments on this issue at Kiwiblog and Homepaddock and by Tim Worstall.