National offers state-owned farms to young farmers

Young farmers would be able to buy state-owned farms after they have worked the land for five to 10 years, under new National Party policy.

Bill English and Primary Industries spokesman Nathan Guy made the announcement in Gisborne today.

"There are parts of the country where this will represent quite a significant opportunity," English said.

National would direct Landcorp to lease farms to young farmers and give them the chance to buy the land at market rates after they have built up enough capital.

The farms will be awarded on a lease-to-buy arrangement, through a panel and ballot.

The leasee will have to work the farm continuously for at least five years before they can buy it.

Guy said there would be no limits on how soon the farmers could sell the land after buying it from Landcorp.

He said he expected young farmers to build up an attachment to the farm and want to keep it for many years.

The Government owned a large number of commercial farms through Landcorp but Nathan said there was "no clear public good coming from Crown ownership and little financial return to taxpayers".

He expected about 100 young farmers to benefit from the programme. Not all of Landcorp's 140 farms will be sold, he said.

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"Many are subject to Treaty claims and others have a right-of-first-refusal for iwi. Some of Landcorp's larger farms will be divided into smaller units."

National said it expected it to take more than a decade to complete the sale and settlement process for the farms. Any revenue generated will be reinvested in public services.

English made the announcement to a group of about 60 at the Bushmere Arms just outside of Gisborne.

His plane flew up the coast above rivers and on the drive out from the airport his car passed orchards. Dozens of utes were parked outside the Arms, and the crowd clapped when he walked in.

English told the gathering the campaign Labour was completely wrong in thinking it could renegotiate trade agreements, and said the party was effectively saying it would pull New Zealand out of TPP 11, which would have a big impact on areas such as Gisborne.

"Trade deals matter. For the first time in an election campaign the multi-party support for pushing on in those deals has come apart."

He also said a big challenge in the regions was getting people to fill jobs, and record migration was in part driven by the strength of the economy.

He then addressed taxes - saying the uncertainty surrounding what Labour will do would slow growth down.

"It is just the same old grab-bag of failed policies of the past that would certainly slow things down, and stall the economy and mean we miss the opportunity."

English questioned why when the government books were in surplus more taxes were needed. He said the current system was fair and comprehensive.

"We are getting enough revenue to be able to do the things that people want done. We are able to run a $100 million fresh water clean-up fund."

He repeated the attack on Labour that it was treating hardworking Kiwis like an ATM, and said the proposed tax working group was akin to handing over your credit card to Labour without
knowing how much it would charge on it.

Beforehand English was given a tour of the estate's gardens by owner Robin Pierson, including avocado-laden trees and rose bushes.

English asked who did the lawns and Pierson told him it was the father of Jacinda Ardern's partner Clarke Gayford.

- NZ Herald

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