The approved sale of a large Otago dairy farm to Harvard University in the United States is not in New Zealand's long-term interests and shows a lack of clear and strong rules on foreign ownership of New Zealand land, says Labour.
The Overseas Investment Office (OIO) recently gave approval to the university for the purchase of Big Sky Dairy Farms in the Maniatoto district.
The 1760ha property grazing 3300 cows is one of the nation's largest milk producers and the sale price was listed on the OIO papers as being $34,152,494.
The OIO is also looking at an application by Chinese-backed Natural Dairy to buy 16 dairy farms owned by the Crafar family before being put in receivership this year.
Following public unrest about that application, the Government last month announced changes to screening processes involved when foreigners apply to buy land here, including introducing economic interest and mitigating factor tests.
Labour's agriculture spokesman Damien O'Connor said today it appeared National was frightened by reaction to the Natural Dairy bid but considered the Big Sky sale wasn't as contentious.
"But the issue has never been about China or any other country of origin," he said. "It's about having rules that work effectively and that can be clearly understood by everyone."
Mr O'Connor said the review of overseas investment was not even "a half-hearted effort to protect New Zealand against increasing foreign ownership of land".
He said the Big Sky sale was not in New Zealand's long-term interests and was another case of a bank receiver selling on an overseas market at a price New Zealanders couldn't afford.
The Green Party said yesterday sales of rural land to foreigners was simply driving up land prices and making it more difficult for locals to own farms themselves.
When new OIO rules are implemented, ministers will have more power to veto purchase applications from foreigners.
Land Information Minister Maurice Williamson pointed out last month that during 2000-2008, while Labour was in government, more than 650,000ha of land was sold to foreigners.Under National, 22,450ha was sold in 2009 and 8599ha had been sold this year up to August.