“Withdrawn applications”

“OIO a closed shop”

“Applications declined”

Introduction

It has become extremely difficult, some would say almost impossible, for offshore investors to acquire farmland in NZ. It is an assertion not without evidence although to say it is impossible is an exaggeration based on our experience.

The OIO process may have become tighter and tougher but is the failure to produce an acceptable application a failure of the OIO or the applicant?

Is it a case of it being easier to blame OIO than admit to having selected the wrong strategy, backed the wrong horse?

At the risk of pointing out the obvious, what has worked in the past won’t work now.

The standard ‘buy it, farm it as before but with more capital and more inputs’ strategy, is dead.

Sayonara; Vaya con dios; RIP.

There is a way forward but it is up to the ability, understanding and appetite of those who seek to access the NZ agriculture/farmland sector, and in particular the dairy sector, from an investment perspective.

The intensive industrialised farming approach has damaged NZ waterways (severely), has raised public ire and is unacceptable to iwi and the current government.  Indeed, it could reasonably be argued that this was one of the primary reasons there was a change of government in NZ last year.

“NZ has too many cows”, says Minister for the Environment”

Stuff.co.nz- 6 May 2018

“Swimmable Rivers or More Hooves on Pastures – is there a way of Improving water quality without paralysing the primary sector? Or has agriculture reached an environmental tipping point?”

NZGeo.com- August 2017

“…..I think we’ve kind of got to what they might call peak cow”. We’ve said very clearly that we want water quality to improve. We want to stop any further degradation, and some of that is being impacted by intensification of dairy in farming. We know that.”

Damien O’Connor

Minister of Agriculture, Biosecurity, Food Safety, and Rural Communities

Scoop.co.nz – June 2018

 In simple terms our assertion is that if you are not succeeding with OIO it is because you have the wrong strategy.

Your problem, not theirs.

Options

In dealing with the issue of OIO, investors in our view have two options:

Option 1- Give up and go home.

Or

Option 2- Find a strategy that will succeed.

A strategy that genuinely adds value, socially, financially and environmentally.

A strategy that local stakeholders will accept, back and even be enthusiastic about.

A strategy that will win.

What Strategy?

A strategy that specifically and measurably targets improved environmental outcomes such as biodiversity, GHG emissions and perhaps most pertinently; water quality. That will also generate higher value outputs, whilst delivering those improved environmental metrics.

Find the right strategy and the ability to execute the strategy and OIO will be successfully negotiated.

You will have found the solution to the ‘problem’.

There are very specific management/strategy attributes that will be required to create and deliver that strategy, without which the risk of failure is high.

There is currently a groundswell of local support for genuine, coherent impact investment. In particular, water quality driven high value production strategies across multiple regions in New Zealand and notably those with important/vulnerable water catchments. This will undoubtedly carry weight with the OIO.

This ‘impact investment’ environmentally driven regenerative approach is, however, knowledge intensive and totally dependent upon having or securing the relevant expertise. It significantly increases the operational risk to proceed on the basis of ‘learning on the job’. Our experience is extremely clear that this approach inevitably involves many mistakes (negatively impacting performance) which are foreseeable, understood and entirely avoidable if the requisite knowledge and experience is in place.

We imagine most prospective investors will essentially accept Option 1. This is disappointingly limiting as it may eliminate the objective of achieving real asset agriculture exposure or securing NZ dairy within an agriculture portfolio. A failure to secure allocation to the world’s largest supplier of global dairy products, and one known for its low cost pasture based production, would be a conspicuous hole in a genuinely representative agri-portfolio.

The upside of this choice is that it becomes a system of self-selection which rewards those with the capability of recognising the opportunity offered by Option 2, securing them an advantage in terms of performance, market and reputation.

Ecology in action.

In conclusion:

Get the right strategy (Option 2) and succeed, or give up and go home (Option 1).