Tuesday, March 24, 2009

In praise of foreign ownership

Home Paddock takes Finlay McDonald to task over his Sunday Star-Times column objecting to foreigners coming here and buying land and businesses. (Personally, I found it amusing – a Pakeha complaining about immigration, and a weekly columnist in an Australian-owned newspaper complaining about overseas ownership. That’s beyond even Dim-Post’s powers of parody.) She points out that foreign investment brings benefits to New Zealand and New Zealanders, giving this example:
One of the farms we visited last week is owned by immigrants who brought a lot of money with them when they came. They poured it into their property and have worked hard to increase its productivity and improve it not just economically but environmentally. They employ other New Zealanders, send their children to local schools, are active in the community and have strengthened the economic and social fabric of the district.
I can give another example from the Waikato. The Walker family immigrated here in 2003 and bought 60 acres of rough, hilly farmland. Here’s what they are doing with it:
We are slowly converting our land from an extensive and neglected sheep farm to a more mixed and sustainable enterprise. We are finding the process incredibly gratifying, pleasurable and damned hard work!

Our aim is that the trees we plant should enhance the landscape, provide shelter for the animals, and timber for the holding. Our stock should graze next to and within the woodlands and be in balance with the capability of the land. We want our pigs to forage on the woodland floor, our sheep and cows to work the open pasture, and our goats and chooks to fit somewhere in between. We are trying to build a system which is as self sufficient as possible, working closely with nature, to produce high quality, really great tasting meat, vegetables and fruit. . .

In 2006 we joined an organisation called WWOOF (Willing Workers on Organic Farms and small holdings). This is a world wide network of farms and small holdings where the owners host travellers (“WWOOFers”) who receive food and accommodation in exchange for half a day’s help.

Here at Soggy Bottom we have so far hosted German, English, French, American, Irish, Japanese and New Zealand WWOOFers.
So it’s all free-range, organic and tourist-friendly – what on earth is there not to like about this? But if McDonald had his way, the Walkers would still be in England, the land would still be unproductive and I wouldn’t be able to buy the superb Soggy Bottom sausages at our local farmers’ market. The sausages clinch it for me.

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