“This country was built of foreign investment”: The Role of Regulatory Agencies in Transforming New Zealand Farmland into an Asset Class

Authors: Stefan Ouma*, Department of Human Geography, Goethe University Frankfurt, Tobias Klinge, Department of Human Geography, Goethe University Frankfurt
Topics: Economic Geography, Natural Resources, Australia and New Zealand
Keywords: finance, financialization, farmland, New Zealand, regulation, global financial networks
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/11/2018
Start / End Time: 1:20 PM / 3:00 PM
Room: Galvez, , Marriott, 5th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

This paper examines the politics of regulatory praxis in the context of farmland investments, using the New Zealand Overseas Investment Office (OIO) as an example. The Office has been a crucial broker for foreign institutional capital seeking greener pastures in New Zealand. While its practices of granting foreign investors access farmland and forestry have by no means been uncontested domestically, opening up New Zealand land to (institutional) foreign investment is often normalized in public discourse in a context where foreign investment is regarded as engrained in the national history and where an outward-oriented form of agriculture, historically grown on earlier ties to its settler-origin, the UK, has been key to the neoliberal transformation of the past 30 years. The case of the OIO not only invites us to engage more with the question how finance capital is being brokered into land, but also underlines the regulatory challenge of deciphering complex investment chains and ownership structures. This regulatory work is situated in the frictional interspace constituted by acting in the ‘national interest’ on the one hand and applying highly interpretative legal foundations on the other.

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