GUEST BLOG: Bryan Bruce – Why are we selling and not leasing land to foreign companies?



The government’s decision to allow Japanese-owned  Pan Pac Forest Products to bypass the Overseas Investment Office and make up to 25 purchases totalling 20,000 hectares of land for forestry for the next three years tells you how deeply embedded neoliberal thinking is entrenched in our government.

RNZ ( 24 Oct) reports that ” despite Labour, the Greens and New Zealand First opposing land sales to foreigners in the past, the OIO has approved more than $2.3 billion of forestry-related sales since the government was formed.”

Why? Because , according to Land Information Minister and Green MP Eugenie Sage “if we are going to sequester the carbon that we need to, to meet our Paris Agreement commitments, we need more trees.”

OK…. so we need to plant more trees to meet our obligations under the Paris agreement and arguably we need some foreign investment to do that. (Although during the Great Depression we seemed to be able to plant large state owned forests without the assistance of foreign companies).

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1. Why sell the land? Why not pass a law that only allows foreign companies to lease land for a set period? (99 years for example would give Pan Pac 3 crops of mature pine trees before their land use could be reviewed)

2. Why, in principle, allow ANY foreign company a free ride over NZ land purchase ? Having done it once makes it harder to deny other foreign companies the same right. Result? One day you look around and we can no longer make decisions about our destiny as a nation because overseas interests own us lock stock and barrel.

3. Are pine trees , which will get cut down 25 to 35 years from now, the best ones to grow to meet our LONG term climate change ?

Were any of these issues raised at the cabinet table before making this decision?

Can we believe any of the parties in government when they say they are opposed to selling land to foreigners?

I had hoped we might see some change at the last election in the way we run our economy but we haven’t. Neoliberal austerity and pandering to foreign interests is the mind frame that still rules.

Bryan Bruce is one of NZs most respected documentary makers and public intellectuals who has tirelessly exposed NZs neoliberal economic settings as the main cause for social issues.


    • Right! Head fucked by NeoLiberalism.The Zombie economic religion that cannot be challenged! Gurgle gurgle gurgle as NZ society what’s left of it goes down the plug hole! 🙁

  1. I have ALWAYS maintained we dont SELL our land to foreigners but we LEASE it to ’em.

    Screw them.

    If they want to make a buck out of us, – then lets bloody well make damn sure we make a buck out of them. We dont travel on over to Japan to buy up their land and create a large scale profit making forestry industry.

    The Samurai would rise from their graves and attack us for our impunity.

    Why therefore do we prostitute ourselves and bend over every time these foreigners come calling?

    Why do we get continually saddled with these politician prostitutes?

    Why is it when National are in they get criticized but when Labour and the Greens are in they don’t?

    Why hasn’t NZ First done anything about this?- not even a whimper?

    Who had the right to sell off this land and why weren’t we, – the public, – informed in a timely fashion?


  2. Great question Bryan. Try going to China with any amount of $$ and buy their land. Not only do we virtually gift our land to foreigners but we also give away the goose that lays the golden egg. Epic false economy…..aka “rock star economy”.

  3. The Government is sovereign, and any future government can expropriate foreign-owned land at any time, with or without compensation. So I can’t see any alienating difference between selling the land or leasing it out for 99 years. (If a foreigner were to lease the land a New Zealand entity would have to be willing buy it to be the owner and lessor.) What is important is what is done with the land, which is what the Government has focused on, and of what benefit what is done with it is to New Zealanders.
    It’s on the latter point that this Government fails, like its predecessors. What New Zealand needs is a universal land tax on all land (including the land beneath the family home). That is a way to ensure that foreigners occupying New Zealand land use it in a way that benefits New Zealanders.

  4. But the big four foreign banksters own vast tracts of AO/NZ in the form of mortgages etc and in so doing it’s safe to assume they, like westpac as an example, take $550 million dollars in profit out of AO/NZ every six months along with parasitising our sovereignty. We’re no longer a Crown entity. We’re a business model.
    It’s no longer about what’s going on here, it’s now a matter of what to do about it.
    So? What shall we do? Now? Today?
    What. Are. We . going.To. Do. About. It?
    Because if we do nothing to protect our AO/NZ we’ll go down in history as the whiny wee bitches that sat back and watched as they took over our country.
    What are we actually, physically, practically going to really DO about [it]?
    Have we really become that head-fucked?

  5. A great big WHY on many fronts. In many places right now courageous people are rising up against such things as externally imposed austerity, the entrenched power & privilege of the globalisation establishment, ineffectual party politics & systemic corruption.

    So we have an unpatriotic capitalist government that puts foreign interests, exploitative short term gain, environmental degradation & their own party political maneuvering before all else, so WHY can’t we do such street fighting man/women stuff here in little ole muddle earth?

    Are most of us just too well off, absorbed by our own individual, family or tribal interests or too far gone down the globalisation thinking & consumerist life style trail to come out & vent our rage against the machine anymore? All this & more I fear

  6. ummm
    Where’s Winnie on this?
    The resident xenophobe who blusters endlessly about State Ownership and ‘selling the family silver’?

    U have a few good points here Bryan.
    Getting Kiwis to work, however, might be a bit of a problem if ‘we’ were to implement the ‘think big’ of the depression years.

    Just thinkin, like.

  7. So New Zealanders can buy up land in Tokyo now with reciprocation? Like hell. I’m sorry but in terms of ownership these people are no more Kiwis than I am Japanese. And this planting of trees to save the planet is fantasy stuff when you see the deforesfation overseas, which is probably greater in area annually than that of NZ. It’s akin to volunteering an hour of your time to pick up plastic on the beach, while a company like Coca Cola produces 12 million plastic bottles in that hour (Laville, 2019). After the water bottling fiasco, the withdrawal of ETS and now this OIO free-for-all, my respect for Sage and the other big talkers is disappearing.


    Laville, S. (2019). Coca Cola coca admits it produces 3m tonnes of plastic packaging a year. Retrieved from

  8. Rather fond of Pan Pac, having grown up next to Whirinaki Mill in Napier. The Japanese were gentle bosses. The boss eventually settled here. World Cup secures their resurrection from WW 2.

  9. Government in NZ, whether it be local body or central government is staffed with incompetent over-paid bureaucrats and politicians who have NO concept of business, however they are in charge of the biggest business in NZ.
    These people who if they had their own business would be broke in 5 minutes. Unfortunately they are so intrenched they are like a cancer eating away at the the body of our country.

    If we are going to prosper as a country we must work as a team, currently it is dog eat dog!

    • Dexter,

      I agree with you 100%.

      The greater good of NZ is routinely lost in the mist behind the greater good of individual politicians and more especially, their party.

      Here’s my fantasy. Do away completely with all political parties. There are no opposition parties. Each candidate in every electorate applies to be an individual politician within the NZ Government. Cabinet positions are allocated on merit after a democratic vote. The PM is found via the same method. The person with the second highest number of votes becomes Deputy PM.

      Cut away all the dead wood bleeding NZ dry with all their perks and party priorities. Have mid-term elections where ministers not performing are demoted etc.

      Play Government like a game of football. All the best players in the right positions and with the best captain leading the way. Have an excellent subs bench ready to step up.

      I’m so over Labour v National, good v bad. Party politics is an enormous fail. It’s corrupt, divisive and has also spawned dirty politics.

      • Jacindafan – The no-party state becomes the one party state, which has sort of been tried before; hold your breath, and see if TOP (who have a lot of brainy people on board), or another new party sprouts better than the Greens seem to be.

        I think it’s fair to say that the Nats are much dirtier than Labour have ever been; one reason I say this is all the dirt that Nicky Hager has documented about them – I think I have four of his books. Similar Books of The Dirt have not been written about Labour, because the dirt simply is not there to write about, just Janet and John tripping over themselves every now and then.

        The handful of right-wing plonkers scatter-gunning the left on principle (for want of a better word) is very encouraging, because it suggests they realise that people other than themselves, may benefit from a style of government different from that of their
        own greedy whimpering Natty luvlies; they feel threatened, and I don’t care if they do.

        I am not sure if I could stomach yet another of Paula B’s sex type of accusations, and wish she that would get another hobby horse, or just stick to eating fish and chips on Piha Beach – oops, a quarter fish and one chip, in her own reduced stomach circumstances. There’s much worse reduced circs all over NZ than Paula B’s tummy.

        A disciplined one-party state could work, but it invariably changes; we need a few giants among our leaders, or, perhaps a benevolent dictatorship, so consider whether
        you could be it.

        • I agree with Jacinafan here Snow White. (Glad to see yo’r still Snow White), I suspect that when the Westminster system was first envisaged political parties were not part of the concept. They have come along and ruined it. If individuals were elected by their electorate ; a small enough population that a large proportion of electors know who they are , and they are sent down to Wellington to manage the affairs of the country with only the interests of their electorate and the wider population to consider we would be far better served. Better still if they served a maximum of two terms so they didn’t get into a situation where remaining in office became a goal in itself.
          D J S

  10. So NZ First trotted out this billion tree plantings in this term that taxpayers have to pay for, then the govt sells a whole heap of land covered in forests plus there is this kiwibuild carry on. How are we to create affordable housing if all our forests are owned off shore? Is this tree planting just another corporate subsidy?

  11. Because of the TPPA or whatever its called now? CPTPA?? The Protection Racket Rules for For Foreign Investors.

  12. Previous sellouts:-
    Taumata Plantations Limited (101,854 hectares): Taumata Plantations purchased the former Carter Holt Harvey forests and has kept a significant majority of the land, recently on-selling some of it to New Zealand companies. The company is ultimately owned by several overseas investment funds and banks. The largest shareholder is Manulife, a major Canada insurance company.

    Tiong family (77,686 hectares): The Malaysia-based, family-owned Tiong Group own forestry, media and property assets around the world. Their land holdings in New Zealand include the Ernslaw One forests, New Zealand King Salmon, and land owned by their property and land development company, The Neil Group.

    New Forests Asset Management (77,465 hectares): New Forests is an Australia-based assets management company that operates several investment funds in New Zealand, owned by several subsidiaries. It has amassed its forestry land portfolio in less than four years, starting with purchases in the Wairarapa in 2016. An Overseas Investment Office investigation into one subsidiary’s purchases resulted in a formal warning, an $80,000 charity donation and $20,000 in costs.

    Matariki Forests (73,509 hectares): Another forestry company, three-quarter-owned by the US-based Rayonier. The remaining quarter of the company’s shareholding is owned by an Australian-registered company, Waimarie Forests Pty Limited.

    Port Blakely Limited (35,889 hectares): Another US-owned forestry company.

    Global Forest Partners LLC (33,706 hectares): Global Forest Partners, registered in the Cayman Islands, is the ultimate owner of two private investment funds that own forestry land in New Zealand.

    Sumitomo Forestry Company (25461 hectares): Japanese forestry giant, part of the Sumitomo group. Most of the company’s New Zealand land is in Nelson and Tasman.

    Lone Star Farms Limited (22365 hectares): A farming corporate owned by American businessman Tom Sturgess. Land holdings include five South Island farms. Lone Star is also the shareholding company of Verity Farms NZ, which owns Godley Peaks Station in Canterbury.

    Corisol New Zealand Limited (18231 hectares): Swiss-owned investment company, which purchased forestry land from Ngāi Tahu in 2011.

    Nelson Forests Limited (18135 hectares): Owned by Australian forestry investment company OneFortyOne, which purchased the company and its land from another foreign-owned company last year.

    China Forestry Group New Zealand Company Limited (17087 hectares): Ultimately owned by the Chinese government’s State Forestry Administration. Owns forests throughout the North Island.

    The Westervelt Company (15341 hectares): US-owned timber company that operates forestry, honey cultivation, hunting and tourism businesses on Poronui Station near Lake Taupō. The land includes the exclusive Poronui Lodge.

    Oceana Gold (New Zealand) Limited (13682 hectares): Australian-owned owner and operator of the Waihi gold mine.

    Southland Plantation Forest Company of New Zealand Limited (13366 hectares): Ownership of this South Island forestry land is split between three major Japanese companies – Fuji Xerox, Itochu Corporation, and Oji Holdings.

    Lees Valley Station, LLC (13114 hectares): The US company purchased Mt Pember Station, one of New Zealand’s largest sheep and beef farms, for $30m in 2013 and converted it to dairy. Unable to determine the ultimate owners of the US company.

    Greenheart Mangakahia Forest Land Limited (12558 hectares): Hong Kong-based investment company that owns forests in Northland.

    Doug and Mari Harpur (12512 hectares): North American deer farmers and foresters, the Harpurs purchased neighbouring Southland farms Fairlight Station and Cainard Run in the early 2000s.

    Juken New Zealand Limited (12435 hectares): Owned by Japanese forestry company WoodOne. Juken’s forests are in the Wairarapa and near Gisborne, where it owns a mill.

    Christian Welte (12309 hectares): A Swiss bio-engineer, Mr Welte’s New Zealand company Monte Capital Limited owns several East Coast farms in the North Island as well as forestry blocks.

    Anthony Czura (9580 hectares): Swiss national Anthony Czura is a co-founder of Swiss-based investment firm Czura Thornton. He owns Ngatapa Station in Hawke’s Bay.

    • And the worst thing about all of the above list is ?

      We’d all have to pay exorbitant rent if we asked to live in a dirty old tool shed down the back of any one of these company’s lands because they know darn well that there is no more land left for New Zealanders…

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