China is slowly buying up Australian land by making farmers an offer they can’t refuse. Property owners near the NSW township of Gunnedah have become instant millionaires as Shenhua Watermark Coal – a subsidiary of the world’s biggest coal company Shenhua Energy – buys land to drill for coal. Forty three farmers were happy to sell out to the Chinese in the past two years because they were prepared to pay much more than their property was worth. One example is a house on 594 hectares in Breeza that sold for $376,000 in 2002 sold for $5.2 million last November. The Chinese government have paid the NSW government $300 million for an exploration licence covering 19,500 hectares and promised not to mine within 150m of the productive "black soil" farming country.
But alarm bells are ringing and the Mayor of Gunnedah Adam Marshall is worried. He said "It's perfectly legal, and some of the people have been able to make some very, very good money out of their properties and are very, very pleased.” He went on "But the concern is more that the Foreign Investment Review Board allows overseas-owned companies -- and in this case an overseas state-owned company -- to buy Australian land, to mine Australian resources and take them out of our country."
Let's hope the Foreign Investment Review Board is awake and taking note.