Monday 1 July 2013

Micromanagement gone mad

The members of the Manakau Golf Club have, I gather from media reports, in large numbers (more than 80%) approved selling their existing grounds to a housing developer, and will move to a new site near Ardmore Airport. More houses get built, in a market where increased supply is vital, and the golf club gets the money for a new course. Given the size of the majority to accept the plan, club members were clearly convinced they've had a good deal.

Win win all round. Except that the Overseas Investment Office needed to give its approval, since the housing developer (Fletcher Building, as it happens) is, by a small margin, majority foreign owned.

As a policy regime, this is a nonsense, comparable to Helen Clarke's Cabinet deliberating over exactly how many eggs a small artisan producer could sell at the side of the road before coming within the ambit of onerous Elf 'N Safety regulation of wholesale egg producers. Or the Irish Cabinet deliberating over the youngest age pedigree greyhound bitches could be allowed to breed. An observer from Mars might feel that these examples are too bizarre to be true. If only.

What governments need to do, is to butt out of willing buyer, willing seller transactions. There is no market 'failure' - quite the opposite. The market has produced a deal that works for everyone.
The only reason the OIO has been dragged into an involvement, to be brutal about it, is that politicians have been pandering to the voters who think that a Jones or a Murphy can buy a golf course, but a Chang or a Kim or an El Masri needs to go through the hoops.

For a country that (often rightly) prides itself on its egalitarianism and progressive attitudes, this is a disgrace.

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