The Campaign Against Foreign Control of Aotearoa (CAFCA) congratulates the newly formed Save The Farms group, which has called for an immediate moratorium on farm sales to foreigners “so we can have a national debate”. This group, headed by wealthy members of the upper middle class, has attracted considerable media attention and obviously has serious money behind it to finance its campaign. This shows just how far that opposition to the relentless selloff of New Zealand rural land to foreigners (both corporate and individual) has penetrated through all sectors of NZ society, now including those whom would be usually be counted on to support such a policy, indeed to personally profit from it.

The increased public opposition to land sales, right across the political and economic spectrum, is because such sales have now moved beyond the previous sales of iconic high country stations to rich foreigners looking for a second home and/or toy farm (think Shania Twain) to wholesale bargain buyups of dairy farms and processing plants (the Crafar Farms et al), which is the current engine of the economy. And it is equally noteworthy that this unease about, if not outright opposition to, rural land sales has reached the very highest levels of the National government. CAFCA believes that this is the reason why the very long overdue review of the Overseas Investment Act (which Bill English originally said would be made public in mid 2009) is so far behind schedule, with no date yet announced for its release.

It is extraordinary that John Key has, on several recent occasions, expressed his personal opposition to such sales and said that he doesn’t want to see New Zealanders become tenants in our own country. CAFCA believes in giving credit where credit is due and we congratulate the Prime Minister for those sentiments (whatever his reasons for doing so). We can’t recall any senior members of the last Labour government using any such language. Keep it up, John, would you like to become an honorary CAFCA member?

Obviously the Government is hearing rumbles from its own Party members and voters that they, in fact, don’t want to become tenants and it is trying to work out ways to accommodate that concern whilst simultaneously promoting its policy of throwing New Zealand ever more wide open to the transnational corporations that dominate the global economy, nowhere more so than in this country. It wants to quarantine the hot issue whilst proceeding with business as usual in every other sector. To give just one example – the Government, with full support from Labour, is charging headfirst into a free trade agreement with the US, via the Trans-Pacific Partnership currently being negotiated. All these free trade agreements come with binding investment agreements as an integral part of them – if this one goes through, it will throw NZ wide open to US transnationals, including the world’s biggest agribusiness corporations. Already Federated Farmers has expressed “surprise” at the Chinese bid for the Crafar Farms as being an “unintended consequence” of the free trade agreement with China. There’s nothing unintended about it at all, and a free trade agreement with the US will make those “unintended consequences” look like chickenfeed.

The fact of the matter is that, for all the high profile attention they are getting at the moment, farm sales to foreigners are only part of a much bigger problem. For decades successive Governments, National and Labour, have actively promoted the sale to transnational corporations of anything not nailed down. Banks, railways, airlines, the wine industry, telecommunications, forests, the media, whole swathes of manufacturing, the finance and insurance sector, etc, etc, etc – name any sector of the NZ economy and odds on that it is dominated by transnational corporations. There are precious few that aren’t.

it’s not simply a matter of who  grows the steak 
but also  who processes it (and who brews the beer come to that)

So it is not just farm sales to foreigners that need to be subjected to a moratorium but the whole issue of the takeover of the entire New Zealand economy by transnational corporations. Tony Bouchier of Save The Farms said: “We’ve decided it’s time to really sit down and have a cup of tea and have a discussion about this”. Fine, let’s talk about the whole big picture, not just one part of it (important as that is). Bouchier also likened what is happening to what Maori experienced with colonisation and it is an appropriate comparison – NZ is currently undergoing a recolonisation, one by corporations. It is a bloodless invasion, a war without the shooting, and it is time for a ceasefire, so that the people of NZ who are being invaded and recolonised can take stock and say “hold on, this is not in the national interest, it’s not in the public interest, we need to establish real ground rules with teeth that mean that foreign investors only come here on our terms, as befitting guests in our home”.

If the Government really does want New Zealanders not to end up as tenants in our own country, then a perfect place to start would be with an Overseas Investment Act that actually adhered to those principles. That is CAFCA’s challenge to John Key – translate your fine words into actions. But we’re not holding our breath.

CAFCA Media Release August 30th 2010


click to visit 'Save the Farms

Targeting Guatemala: US Launches First-Ever Labour Rights Dispute Under an FTA

The article below, by Ellen Verryt , published on the social network UnionBook backgrounds  a move by the U.S. to a launch a labour complaint under the provisions of the  CAFTA-DR  Free Trade Agreement.  Unions in both the US and Guatemalan have been publicly seeking action on the subject since 2008.

 “In a landmark move, the US has launched a formal labour rights complaint against trade partner Guatemala under the Dominican Republic-Central America-United States Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR). US Trade Representative Ron Kirk announced the decision on Friday during a speech in Pennsylvania. It is the first time that any country has filed a formal labour case under a free trade agreement.

In its official request for consultations, the US claims that the Central American country has failed to enforce effectively Guatemalan laws that protect workers’ rights, such as the freedom of association, the right to bargain collectively, and the right to work in acceptable conditions.

This alleged lapse in governance “harms US workers by forcing them to compete against substandard labour practices and tilts the playing field away from American workers and business,” the Office of the USTR said in a statement. Kirk, in his speech, urged the Guatemalan government to take “specific and effective action - including, if appropriate, legislative reforms - to improve the systemic failures in enforcement of Guatemalan labour law.”

Read the whole article ...

Some Backgrounders

> Guatemala: Banana Workers Union Leader Assassinated
> Coca-Cola Sued for ‘Campaign of Violence’ in Guatemala
> If You Liked NAFTA, You’re Going to Love CAFTA
> Guatemala: Cultural Paradise…or Child Slave Labor Haven?
> The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) Resulted in Increasing Unemployment in the U.S.

Workers Rights under Attack

It’s time for a fair go
CAFCA in the Square (Christchurch) at the CTU Fairness Rally Saturday August 21st

Among the raft of legislative changes being rammed through parliament by the National-Act-Maori Party Government is yet another attack on the hard won rights of ordinary  Kiwis.

The latest batch of changes in labour law, if passed,  will take away workers' rights, remove protections, cut pay, reduce holidays and diminish access to sick leave.

The CTU are asking as many people as possible to submit to Parliament's Transport and Industrial Relations Select Committee and explain why the Government's proposed changes to employment law are unfair.

You can access an automated (basic) submission here  which you can send as is or amend to stress the points you think are most important. 

Florence Coen "90 days" unfair dismissal story


Click and go

Hungry Foreign Investors Eye Australian Agricultural Giants

“Australians have been all too busy backslapping each other and toasting their good fortune about the enormous quarry in the backyard to notice that a looming global food shortage has placed the country on international investment radar screens and the world is ready to pounce."

Perhaps a warning of things to come our way

Checkout this article from yesterdays DomPost 


Chinese Buy Up Of Dairy Farms

Get Used To It

This Is What A “Free” Trade Agreement Looks Like 

The most unbelievably naïve reaction to the news that a mysterious Chinese company is hoping to buy up to $1.5 billion worth of dairy farms came from Federated Farmers, which said that this is an “unintended consequence” of the NZ/China Free Trade Agreement. Pull the other one. There’s nothing unintended about this consequence, this is
how “free” trade agreements are supposed to work. They all come with embedded investment agreements which protect the rights of investors from the countries which are party to the Agreement, and those foreign investors’ rights are backed up by the force of legal sanction. For example, the NZ/China FTA includes a provision that NZ cannot make or amend laws (without China’s permission) that “discriminate” against Chinese investors. So this is the outcome of what our brilliant politicians (both Labour and National) have signed us up to.

And this is only chickenfeed compared to what will happen if we keep up this mad headlong rush into an FTA with the US via the new Trans-Pacific Partnership (negotiations started in March). Dairying is the white gold of NZ agriculture at present, and it would be thrown wide open to the predations of the massive agribusiness transnational corporations that dominate US agriculture. And it gets worse – the politically very well connected US dairy lobby has already made it very clear that it will fight, tooth and nail, Fonterra’s access to the US market. To quote Bernard Hickey (“Why bother with a US FTA?”): “Get the picture? These guys really want to use the Trans-Pacific Partnership to shut out Fonterra from America…These FTAs are never about free trade from an American point of view. They are about creating another opportunity to strong-arm smaller countries into granting trade concessions to large American businesses”. CAFCA could not have said that better ourselves.

So, cow cockies, be very careful what you wish for, as you join the lemmings of politics and their media cheerleaders charging towards the cliff of a US FTA (the “holy grail” to its proponents). You may well end up with the worst of both worlds – locked out of the American market and finding your own dairy farms being bought up from under your feet and you being reduced to the position of Third World peasant farmers, waving goodbye to your product at the farm gate, while others make the money from it. Some holy grail.

As for the Chinese agribusiness buyup of dairy farms, the description of it by its own mouthpieces paints a perfect example of vertical integration, whereby the Chinese owners control every stage of the process from NZ paddock to the sales of the finished product in China. They clip the ticket at every stage of the hermetically sealed process, with minimum benefit to NZ. It’s simply a new, Chinese, version of the British economic colonisation that dominated this country’s agriculture up until the 1970s. So, instead of being a “farm for Britain”, NZ will be a milk cow for China. Apologists for foreign land ownership always say “they can’t take the land away”. Why would they want to? It is much more profitable for them to leave it right here, and milk it (pun intended) for all it’s worth.

The media has already highlighted a number of aspects of this proposed massive buyup that look distinctly Mickey Mouse. The Chinese company was actually a mining company which has changed its name to Natural Dairy (NZ) Holdings Ltd. That sounds much more nice and “green”, doesn’t it? The company is registered in the Cayman Islands tax haven; it lists a street address in Hong Kong but has no phone number; and one of those involved in the deal is the subject of her own article in today’s Herald, again by Bernard Hickey, entitled “Should May Wang be allowed to buy NZ’s dairy farms?”. The fact that the only confirmed part of the deal is that Natural Dairy is buying Alan Crafar’s fallen empire of dairy farms shows the dangers of monoculture in farming, of putting all one’s eggs into one basket, of the gold rush mentality (it used to be forestry, kiwifruit, goats, ostriches, Chathams Islands crayfish) and of a complete lack of any overall planning when it comes to the most vital productive sector of our farming industry. Crafar is the perfect illustration of an era just past when every man and his dog got into dairying – in his case, the dog might have done a better job.

This is definitely not “foreign investment” – it’s a mortgagee sale. And don’t expect our “oversight” authorities to do anything about it. Natural Dairy has already bought four farms and “neglected” to get approval from the Overseas Investment Office. No worries to our heroic rubberstampers – it “rebuked” them (what exactly does that mean?) and gave them retrospective consent, a standard procedure for the OIO. Expect more of this stuff as the realities of an “open economy committed to foreign investment and free trade” become more glaringly obvious by the day. Never mind Gerry Brownlee throwing the conservation estate open to foreign miners, the Chinese are already here to mine milk. And the Americans won’t be far behind if the Government (either National or Labour) persists in this childlike fixation with “free” trade.

Text from CAFCA media release 
25 March 2010

Also see
> Campaign demands halt to farm sales

> Work on privatisation under way 
China link to Nats' $200,000 

Cartoon Tom Scott