The initial Overseas Investment Office (OIO) decision to allow the Crafar farms to be sold to a Chinese company is not denting the National Party's support, Prime Minister John Key says.
The Sunday Star Times reported yesterday that Key's office had received over 100 emails or letters opposed to the decision, with many from National Party supporters saying they were withdrawing their support for the party due to the decision.
But this morning, Key dismissed claims that the decision was hurting National's support in heartland New Zealand, saying on TVNZ's Breakfast there would always be a range of views on any decision made by the government.
"I've been around quite a lot of rural events recently, from the Waimumu field days right through to Golden Shears on Saturday night, and there's no evidence that's eroding our support at all," Key said on Breakfast.
"What the Sunday Star Times breathlessly printed was a couple of emails that had been sent to my office - I think they said there had been 100 in total. Hate to tell them the bad news, but pretty much on any issue in New Zealand I will get 100 emails, and sometimes I get 10,000 emails if it's a significant issue," Key said.
"So there is a mixture of views, no doubt about that. Some farmers come up to me and say, 'I own the farm, it's my property right, and I should be able to sell it to whoever I like'. Others say [they] don't want farmland going overseas. There's definitely a range of views, but I don't see it hurting National's support," he said.
Later on Newstalk ZB, Key said issues farmers were raising with him included the government's proposed amendmends to the Dairy Industry Restructuring Act, the piece of legislation that created Fonterra in 2001. See the government's proposed amendments in a January article here.
Key said on Breakfast he was not aware how long it would take for the Overseas Investment Office to revise its original decision to allow Pengxin to buy the farms. That was overturned by the High Court in February, which ruled the OIO did not apply the 'economic benefits' test of the Overseas Investment Act correctly, and needed to revise its decision.
The OIO is currently seeking legal advice on how to interpret the ruling, which means it effectively has to compare Pengxin's bid to that of a hypothetical New Zealand purchaser.
(Updates with comment from Newstalk ZB)