The opposition Labour party in New Zealand has accused its government of having “rubber-stamped” NZ$6 billion worth of farm sales to overseas investors over the past three years.

Labour MP Phil Goff’s bill sought to curb rural land sales to overseas buyers, by imposing a rule that it must deliver benefits over and above what a New Zealand investor could produce, but the parliamentary vote this week failed by just one vote. An angry debate and accusations of racism ensued.

Goff accused the ruling National’s of rubber-stamping every one of nearly 400 applications from overseas investors to buy New Zealand farmland over the past three years. He said the legislation was necessary because the real estate market was not a “level playing field” for New Zealanders.

In response, National’s Melissa Lee accused Goff and the Labour of racism over their attacks on Asian property buyers. Lee said Labour lacked any “understanding and compassion for New Zealanders of ethnic origins”.

New Zealand farm