Hokkaido’s forests and water resources are being bought up by foreign investors in China and elsewhere. During the regular meeting held in Asahikawa City on Oct. 19, the Hokkaido Association of City Mayors decided to request the central government legislate regulations that govern foreign purchases. The Hokkaido officials determined their ordinance for conserving water resources in Hokkaido does not give sufficient regulation over transactions of important tracts of land including catchment areas.
During the meeting, Mayor Yoichi Mizutani of Abashiri City said that in regard to the land purchase made by foreigners, “It is difficult to see what the transactions involve. We need to ask Tokyo to legislate a land transaction regulation that takes regional conditions into account.” His proposal received approval from the participants, who then made a decision to start studying various options for the new regulation. They will submit a formal request to the Tokyo government in the spring.
Recently, Hokkaido is seeing a steep increase in foreign buy-ups of land including catchment areas, as well as purchases made by Japanese corporations close to foreign investors. Out of a sense of emergency, Hokkaido enacted the nation’s first ordinance to conserve water resources in 2012. However, the ordinance does not regulate foreign purchases of land. Instead, it only requires transactions to be registered with Hokkaido three months prior to the conclusion of the purchase agreement. The violation does not entail specific penalties either.
According to the Hokkaido government, there were, to the best of its knowledge, 99 purchases of Hokkaido forestland during the period between 2006 and end of 2015, totaling 1,878 hectare.
Deputy Chairman of Japan Association of City Mayors Masato Matsuura (Mayor of Hofu City, Yamaguchi Prefecture) attended the meeting in Hokkaido. He said: “Many municipalities require a regulation that governs land transactions. Since local government ordinances are not sufficient for conserving and maintaining national land, a national regulation is necessary. We cannot leave (the foreign threat) unaddressed.”