The sale of land to foreign buyers is shaping up to be a hot-button issue in New Zealand's Nov. 26 government election, with major opposition parties--Labour and Green--playing on domestic fears that foreigners are pricing locals out of the market.
"They are coming here to buy what is currently ours, and they will do it more often," Labour Party leader Phil Goff told lobby group Federated Farmers.
"No overseas person has the right to buy our land. It's a privilege...that I think we have granted rather too easily."
Goff said if Labour is elected, the party will make it more difficult for foreigners to buy agricultural land in particular. "I do not want, and I will not let us, become tenants in our own country," he added.
The Green Party is going one step further - leader Russel Norman is behind a bill to disallow any overseas investment in sensitive land, which includes rural land, properties outside of the country's main islands, and conservation or reserve areas.
New Zealanders have become increasingly concerned about land sales in the island nation as higher agricultural prices and a tightening on credit make it more difficult for local farmers to buy property.
Meanwhile, overseas interest in New Zealand land - for both farming and forestry - is growing as foreign entities look to shore up their supply chains, and soaring agricultural commodity prices make the sector more attractive.
According to the Overseas Investment Office, which approves the sale of large tracts of agricultural land, locals sold 60,324 hectares to overseas owners in the nine months to Sept. 30, compared with just 11,099 hectares in the same period a year ago.
While the locals' concerns about land sales to foreigners can mainly be attributed to a preference for New Zealanders to own New Zealand, there are deeper economic implications - the country's agricultural sector is often referred to as its "backbone" and contributes about 60% of export income.
Most local family-owned farms are also contributors to and shareholders of New Zealand's largest company, dairy cooperative Fonterra Co-operative Group Ltd.