The OIO fob off? Selling out NZ? Is John Key just thick?
There’s no doubt that this National government’s ignoring of the issues posed by an increasing flow of multimillionaires from what is now acknowledged to be a predatory and aggressive Communist country, is disadvantaging New Zealanders. Allowing them to outbid our people to own our land, houses and businesses can be argued to be possibly treasonous, given that in a democracy, the first duty of the State is to protect its citizens.
This is not a question of xenophobia. Over the decades, Chinese New Zealanders have long made this country their home, assimilated well, and contributed to its prosperity. Some are themselves now extremely concerned at what seems the almost incredible blindness of this National government to what is happening.
As Spectator columnist and classicist Peter Jones points out, the Roman statesman, Cicero, took the view that the country’s security and common interests are best served by laws whose first aim is to safeguard its citizens.
Who would dispute this? It isn’t happening here.
All across this country, concern has been expressed at New Zealanders becoming second-class citizens as a result of both government policy – e.g. via the obvious inadequacy of the Overseas Investment Office (OIO) – and this National government’s fob-off of the crisis in Auckland’s housing market. Again and again we are told that this is simply a matter of not enough houses, and that more and more land needs to be freed up.
But this is not the whole answer, and dodges an equally important issue – apart from that of both central and local government’s incompetence in allowing this crisis to come about. What is being constantly ignored is the fact that the aim of building 30,000 new homes and apartments a year is grossly inadequate – if 70,000 new immigrants are now annually admitted. Moreover, if far wealthier immigrants from Communist China, now facing possibly its largest exodus in history, are able to outbid New Zealanders to confine them to the now also severely unaffordable renting market, then a great injustice is being done to the people of this country…who should be the government’s first priority.
This is an issue not only equally as important as the housing shortage, but even more so, given that we need to look at why this government is selling out New Zealanders.
John Key’s refusal to acknowledge that Auckland even has a housing crisis is extraordinary. First, because it suggests an apparent inability to face facts…He is denying what is demonstrably true. The question then: – would he peddle a blatant lie, if he knew this was the case? Surely not? Then is he being misled, deceived? Is no one telling him the truth? After all, the suspicion is growing (particularly in that the “Minister of Everything”, Steven Joyce, was more or less boasting recently of the hand he had in a pre-budget speech John Key delivered) – are these speeches simply supplied to the Prime Minister to deliver?
Is the real problem just that Key isn’t very bright? There has been no boasting about any academic record at school. He became a multi-millionaire by opting for a move into the money world. Currency trading requires a certain affinity with money-making, and arguably a gambling instinct. However, it does not necessarily equate to his being well-informed, well-read, well-grounded and well-educated – with the background knowledge of history, philosophy, and great literature which helps to produce a well-rounded, statesmanlike individual.
In fact, Key’s use of language is clumsy, ill-informed, even gauche. He can be cringemaking – as in his recent dodging the question of the name of the Islamic state leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. The Australian Defence Minister Kevin Andrews had the same problem, but adroitly dodged being cornered. Key, with his usual offhand deflection of questions he doesn’t like, is quoted as saying; “Ah look, I’ll get it wrong if I actually name his name. It’s al Jabiri something, but yeah, whatever.”
Why is National’s leader apparently unable to publicly acknowledge what’s happening in Auckland. Should we be necessarily discounting the possibility that he really is rather thick, ie. intellectually lightweight? For example, he thinks John Campbell’s nightly look at important current affairs should be “more entertaining”. Really- along the lines of Key’s named favourite TV programmes, which include Johnny English, and My Big Fat Gypsy wedding?
The man who likes to dance on stage at “ gay” festivals, being smoodged by drag queens when he regularly attends the Big Day Out, which many conservative NZers, and even some homosexual and lesbians, deplore as crass and exhibitionistic. The man whose mouth appears to run away with him, or doesn’t seem to realise describing some women as “hot” is basically offensive to many women uses the sort of vocabulary one doesn’t expect from a Prime Minister.
We do know that Key has a disconcerting record of memory blackouts – or vagueness about what he knows and doesn’t know – or what he was told, or wasn’t told. Oh yes – and when…Some regard him as being less than rigorous with the truth of issues. However, as long as he feels “relaxed” and “comfortable” – as he regularly claims, then it appears we are meant to settle for what many regard as evasiveness.
So when Key claims there’s no housing shortage in Auckland, what are we meant to think?
Most desperate home-hunters aren’t going to be forgiving with regard to his nonsensical claims – not when the housing market is near crisis point – when the New Zealand Herald accurately reports that “first-home buyers are being hit by explosive price rises, bank lending restrictions and fierce competition amid a severe shortage of available properties…and that “the previous generation’s quarter-acre, three-bedroom dream is fast becoming unattainable for today’s house hunters”.
New Zealanders are not in the mood for being fobbed off any further. The question has to be faced fairly and squarely. Why are we being done over in our own country? Is it just a matter of more land being needed for housing; of reforming the RMA; of government culpability and its sheer incompetence with regard to making sure that affordable housing remained within the reach of New Zealanders at large?
Or has something totally new entered the equation during this last decade in particular which gravely disadvantages New Zealanders? The answer is yes, of course. And yes, too, to the fact that John Key’s government has apparently no intention of facing up to this other important issue. There is all-round silence from his National Party colleagues, who apparently couldn’t care less about the almost impossibly difficult, in many cases even sad or tragic outcomes for decent hard-working New Zealanders now losing their dream of ever owning a home.
And is this helped by the stampede of real estate agents going over to China to persuade Chinese buyers to buy our houses – even advertising in Mandarin and Cantonese? They themselves will of course hugely profit. But how much thought have they given to the fact that they are working against the interests of those most disadvantaged New Zealanders – those unable to afford a first home? Family people and others who have saved for years now know that they have no hope of achieving what was taken for granted a decade or so ago. Is this really the New Zealand we all want?
And is what the real estate agents doing actually fair to fellow New Zealanders (not just those selling expensive property at a considerable profit)? Does it even matter? Or is it now just dog eat dog – and every man for himself? If so, what has happened to this country?
It’s not just in Auckland, although the latest official figures show the average Auckland house price soared to $775,555 by January 31. Trade Me also reported very recently a 26.5% jump in prices for properties of one and two bedrooms over the past year.
Is it simply a matter of no concern to John Key and his silent colleagues that, attending a recent luxury property expo in Shanghai, realtor Bayleys Canterbury reportedly found buyers for $5.4m worth of homes in three days – and that they hope for even more sales at a similar event in Beijing in April? Bayleys’ general manager Pete Whalan described the buyers as “mega rich”. The five Shanghai deals included a block of six Pegasus townhouses sold for $2.7m to an investor, a West Melton lifestyle block bought for $1.2m by intending immigrants, and sales of houses in Christchurch’s north-western suburbs for more than $750,000.
There is a very valid point of view that any government which keeps ignoring one of the very important reasons for New Zealanders being priced out of their own homes, their own farms and land is in effect showing it doesn’t want to know. If so, this is basically a disgraceful state of affairs, and the blame for it can be laid to the feet of a government which, for all its pretence, is basically working against the interests of its own people.
With good reason, there has been a great deal of criticism in recent years about the fact that the Overseas Investment office (OIO) basically rubberstamps any application for ownership of our assets. The OIO representative whom I recently contacted for a clearer picture of what exactly is happening, and why, helpfully forwarded clarification with regard to the requirements for consent. What apparently seems to be regarded as efficiently stringent is mind-bogglingly inadequate – even farcically so.
What is apparently accepted as an important factor acting as a control on the oncoming flood of applications is that -“Applying for consent is a relatively costly process, meaning that applicants will want to be fairly sure of success proceeding with applications for consent.” Does anyone really believe that this is an adequate safeguard, given that those applying are described as not just wealthy, but mega-wealthy? These include the so-called princes of the Chinese Communist Party hierarchy, many now reading the writing on the wall for themselves and their families in China.
A similar guide to applications to acquire sensitive land stipulates that “there is likely a benefit to New Zealand. “ Likely”… only likely?!
The ways in which such a benefit can be dreamt up, drummed up, flossied up – but never eventuate – undoubtedly exist. The OIO apparently does no follow-up in subsequent years – and in fact seems to have no power to do anything about the results of undertakings which never eventuate. Moreover, throughout New Zealand there are instances of land which was once able to be accessed by the public but is closed off by foreign buyers, no longer accessible. So much for New Zealanders’ interests being safeguarded.
In reply to my specific question to the OIO whether there is a limit to the amount of New Zealand farmland that can be sold off e.g. 50%, 70% etc. the reply was basically no – there is no limit. The answer provided meaningless padding, such as -“It is a privilege for overseas persons to acquire sensitive New Zealand assets. Therefore, overseas persons who want to purchase ·New Zealand assets are required to a) meet the criteria for consent set out in the act, and b) may have conditions of consent imposed on them if consent is granted. “
And again; “However, if an overseas investor wants to acquire farmland that is more than 10 times the size of an average of average farm of that type”, the OIO “is directed that certain economic factors set out in the Act and Overseas Investment Regulations are of high relative importance”.
New Zealanders who are now accustomed to the flood of verbiage emitted by bureaucrats will know this for what it is – basically meaningless – and centring on the word “relative”. Money is already greasing the wheels when individuals with over $10 million to supposedly invest are more or less automatically allowed into this country (preferably, but apparently not necessarily, if they have no criminal record…recalling the controversy which has already accompanied some who were granted entry with just that).
China was the country’s biggest and fastest growing source of migrants last year. Shouldn’t we be concerned about this, given that New Zealand has no limits on foreign property ownership, except that sensitive land sales or deals worth more than $100m need official approval. Moreover, although China has relaxed its rules so the Chinese themselves can buy more global real estate, it bans the sale of its own land to foreigners…as do other countries from which immigrants are coming.
Then why is our government falling over itself to load the dice against our own people? Why do we have no real controls set in place so that New Zealanders do not become second-class citizens in our own country? Some argue it is already now well and truly happening.
The fact that the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment (Steven Joyce’s portfolio) has very recent stated that “it could not identify any welfare issues or find evidence of breaches of minimum employment standard law – in reply to Hutt South MP Trevor Mallard writing to it last August, is extraordinary. The issue is a highly serious one. Mallard asked for an investigation into whether Chinese workers dealing with asbestos were being paid far less than the minimum wage – even as little as three dollars an hour, and whether they were living in cramped conditions and did not have enough to eat.
The investigation has cleared the employer at the Hutt Railway workshops – although requested wage records were not released – on the grounds that because the Chinese employers of these labourers did not have a New Zealand presence, “the Labour Inspectorate was not able to require them to provide time and wage records. The Ministry had no idea how much the workers were paid.
Is this what we expect to see happening in this country – overseas employers -beyond the reach of our own law because they do not have “a New Zealand presence” whatever that means? Then why are they being allowed to operate in this country? If this isn’t a thumbing of the nose at our legal system and our sovereignty- let alone, if it is true, a straight-out abuse of the poor and the vulnerable, what is it?
This is now an enormously important issue, given the increased resentment of the worldwide disparity between the super-wealthy, cushioned by an all-too comfortable understanding across national barriers – and the equally dubious, barrier-penetrating golden handshakes given to and by these internationalists. Their fraternity and allegiances are now regarded as giving them a commonality they do not share with those fellow countrymen, who provide useful goods and services. Regarding now as having obtained their wealth basically by the manipulation of money –they are, en masse, a new phenomenon looking for safe havens to retreat or escape to.
Although their exodus is world-wide, enough of them are targeting New Zealand, overwhelmingly so from Communist China (and this includes those regarded as having obtained their wealth from the hierarchy and connections with the corrupt Chinese Party). And our Key-led government is only too willing to have them here.
Do we have a very real problem here, in that our multi-millionaire Prime Minister may tend to identify more with these equally super wealthy internationalists – rather than with his own countrymen?
From long-time sympathetic China-watcher, David Shambaugh, writing on The Coming Chinese Crack-up comes the warning. “First, China’s economic élites have one foot out the door, and they are ready to flee en masse if the system really begins to crumble. In 2014, Shanghai’s Hurun Research Institute, which studies China’s wealthy, found that 64% of the “high net worth individuals” whom it polled—393 millionaires and billionaires—were either emigrating or planning to do so. Rich Chinese are sending their children to study abroad in record numbers (in itself, an indictment of the quality of the Chinese higher-education system).
The best regional magazine of Pacific Affairs, the Australian News Weekly reports that “Mainland China has now overtaken the United Kingdom to become the largest source of immigrants in Australia since 2011…Widely-held concern that foreign purchases of houses, particularly from people born in China, are pushing up the price of housing in Australia, has prompted a federal parliamentary inquiry into foreign investment in residential real estate. There is no doubt that popular concern is driven by perceptions that Chinese buyers dominate the top end of the local property market. These perceptions have been fuelled by instances of Chinese buying multiple properties at recently-held auctions.”
The basic unfairness of New Zealanders being displaced in our own country, hopelessly outbid when faced with immensely rich Chinese house-buyers snapping up houses as fast as they come onto the market, to rent them back to New Zealanders, the renting costs alone pushed higher and higher by desperate competition from those needing somebody to live, has become a national scandal.
We are told that New Zealand has a rockstar economy, a quite simply unbelievable claim, given the noose tightening around so many of the essential services we use. Cash-strapped hospitals with insufficient nursing staff to cope, and unrealistic targets to meet; the police budget constantly being cut, so that 30 more police stations have closed, and the police stations have reduced their opening hours as police struggle to cope with yet another budget freeze. With resources stretched, responses to 111 calls are reportedly lengthening, falling below targets, and communications centres are struggling.
Everywhere over the country come the reports of businesses folding up, and shops closing down – as in Nelson, for example, where some commercial premises, even in the central shopping area, have had For Let signs up for many months – even some years, in some cases, with, one by one, other shops now closing down. In a shock to the local community, the region’s largest private logging company, Waimea Contract Carriers, with 80 trucks and employing 120 people, is now in voluntary administration.
Little by little, our industries are closing down. NZ Post plans to further layoff more than 2000 employees.
And the forecast budget surplus which John Key used as a campaign promise?
Did anyone really believe him?
© Amy Brooke, Convener – the 100 Days – Claiming Back New Zealand