Post-election options

Opposition parties have ideas about what they’d do with Landcorp should there be a change of government in October. By Jo Cuttance.

In Business3 Minutes

The National Party wants Landcorp to be run at the same level of expectation as a private entity, while the ACT Party would like to sell chunks of Landcorp to talented, ambitious farmers to own and run.

Improving Landcorp’s performance, productivity and financial return would be a focus for National if it becomes the government after the election.

National’s agriculture spokesperson Todd McClay said improved returns from Landcorp would provide another source of funding for the government to invest in New Zealand infrastructure.

He said under a National-led government, Landcorp would be one of many state-owned enterprises (SOEs) that would help fund New Zealand infrastructure, such as schools, hospitals, police, and so on.

“This would help reduce the amount of borrowing New Zealand is doing to fund these projects,” he said.

An independent review of Landcorp in 2021 found it had failed to meet financial forecasts, had high corporate costs and had invested in unprofitable off-farm ventures.

McClay said not a lot of attention had been paid to Landcorp in recent years and that had resulted in less efficiency. There was a perception that Landcorp could get away with not operating at maximum efficiency because it was an SOE.

National would not sell any Landcorp land, McClay said. It would look at how it was being run and ask if it was being run as well as it could be.

“It must be run to the expectation of a private entity.”

He said Landcorp had a role to play in the agriculture sector. There was a sweet spot being an SOE and this was where Landcorp could try new innovations and have cadetships both for training and to help people move to farm ownership.

ACT’s primary industries spokesperson Mark Cameron said the government should not be in farming. He said New Zealand had plenty of ambitious, talented farmers who deserved the opportunity to farm the land owned by Landcorp.

ACT would sell Landcorp off in chunks, with the proceeds being used to fund conservation on private land, Cameron said.

Landcorp land that would be precluded from sale because of Treaty of Waitangi concerns would be retained and provide long-term leases to the SOE. Cameron said in the hands of expert, profit-focused private owners, these enterprises could prosper on their own merits.

He said the role of government was to provide essential services – not to run businesses.

“Landcorp not only provides a poor financial return to taxpayers, but the government ownership of these farms is keeping Kiwi farmers out of the market,” Cameron said.