NZ First MP and Cabinet Minister Shane Jones says changes to the Overseas Investment Office (OIO) rules are needed to protect Kiwis from governance failures. His comments stem from the recent sale of a Westland dairy cooperative to China, and says without reforms Fonterra could follow suit.
Backed into a corner, farmer-owners, convinced by their farmer directors, recently voted to sell to China’s Yili conglomerate. Under the current rules, the $588 million deal only now needs approval from the High Court, after receiving OIO approval and the support of Westland Milk’s farmer-owners.
The move disappointed many, and Minister Jones said that New Zealanders “need to be able to rely on the Government to ensure the OIO regime does not empower farmers to continue to sell our nation’s birthright”. Though he does not want to blame Yili investors who Mr. Jones said, “were simply obeying the OIO rules”.
"But I, as steward of the Provincial Growth Fund, was never approached (by Westland directors) as to whether or not we could look at restructuring and help shore up that company. That was never an option put to us,” the Minister added.
Warning New Zealanders of what could happen in the future, Mr. Jones says that we Kiwis should ask ourselves how much of our dairy industry we want to alienate to foreigners.
"Obviously farmers want it to happen or they wouldn't have voted for it," he added.