Harvard University Farm Purchase Draws Mixed Reaction
Harvard University’s decision to buy a 1300-hectare Otago dairy farm drew mixed reactions from New Zealand politicians. Winston Peters, New Zealand First’s Leader, criticised New Zealand’s Overseas Investment Office’s approval of the purchase. But Steven Joyce, Minister for Economic Development, strongly refuted Peters’ criticisms. Joyce said that foreign investors like Harvard were creating jobs in New Zealand. ‘What planet are you on Winston [Peters] if you are interested in jobs in this country’, Joyce told an interviewer. Peters said that valuable land producing New Zealand’s most valuable commodity was being sold out from under New Zealanders. ‘How can we survive if our good land is taken away from us? Every day we lose something else to overseas ownership and one day there will be nothing left for New Zealanders.’ The New Zealand First Party, along with the Labour and Green opposition Parties want to either end, or to severely restrict, farm sales to foreigners. The Overseas Investment Office assesses applications from overseas people wanting to invest in sensitive New Zealand assets. It cleared Dairy Farms Partnership, an investment company owned by Harvard, to buy a 1300-hectare farm in Otago’s Maniototo district. The farm is near two dairy farms that Harvard already owns. The Harvard Management Company, which manages Harvard University’s $US30.7 billion ($NZ36b) endowment fund, beat out China’s Citic to buy the cutting rights to the giant Kaingaroa forest in 2004. Harvard sold down that investment but has invested in dairying, buying Big Sky Dairy Farm properties in Central Otago in 2010. During last 20 years Harvard Management Company has had an average annual return of 12.29 per cent. New Zealander Andy Wiltshire leads its alternative assets team. He has a background in forestry.