AFP | 30 May 2011
WELLINGTON — New Zealanders could not afford to be "totally xenophobic" towards Chinese investment because it has brought jobs and capital into the country, Prime Minister John Key said Monday.
Key, who has previously said New Zealanders risked becoming "tenants in their own land" if foreign firms were allowed to buy farms without restrictions, said there were positive aspects to investment from Beijing.
He said China's Bright Dairy & Food Co took a controlling stake in South Island milk producer and processor Synlait last year and was now expanding the business.
"So they're not buying the land, they're bringing in capital and that's creating jobs," Key told TVNZ.
"So I don't think we should be totally xenophobic about investment in New Zealand -- it doesn't matter whether really it comes from China, Australia or the US."
Asked if he was concerned at reports that a $300 billion Chinese sovereign wealth fund had set aside NZ$6 billion ($4.9 billion), to invest in New Zealand, Key said he was worried about anything that increased foreign debt.
"Bluntly, we don't want to keep owing the level of debt we have to the rest of the world, and we certainly don't want it to rise forever," he said.
"Ultimately, no, it probably doesn't matter whether it comes from China or somewhere else."
Many New Zealanders, including Reserve Bank chief Alan Bollard, have raised concerns that Beijing could buy farms in their country but move processing to China.
Finance Minister Bill English rejected suggestions of a potential Chinese "land grab" last week while visiting Hong Kong, saying Wellington has regulations to avoid large-scale foreign purchases of its agricultural land.
"(The Chinese) don't want to be seen as profiteering or plundering in the way that they've been characterised, perhaps, in places like Africa... they know that they need to tread pretty carefully," English said.