Court orders govt to review Crafar sale
The government has been ordered by the high court to reconsider its decision to allow the sale of the Crafar farms to a subsidiary of Chinese company Shanghai Pengxin.
In a judgment released this afternoon by the Wellington High Court, Justice Forrie Miller has set aside the consent for the sale that was granted by Land Information Minister Maurice Williamson and Associate Finance Minister Jonathan Coleman.
The ministers announced on January 27 that they had accepted the recommendation of the Overseas Investment Office (OIO) to grant consent to Milk New Zealand Holding, a subsidiary of Shanghai Pengxin Group, to acquire the 16 farms. NZ government-owned Landcorp was to manage the farms.
The group cited its Bell Gully lawyer David Cooper as saying the judgment “confirms that the Ministers and the OIO misapplied the Overseas Investment Act and materially overstated the benefits to New Zealand arising from the transaction."
Cedric Allan, spokesman for Chinese Crafar farms bidder Shanghai Pengxin, said the High Court ruling was unexpected.
"We're really surprised. We did not read the requirement of the OIO as meaning we had to compare that benefits we could bring to New Zealand with the benefits a New Zealand farmer buying the farms would bring," he said.
Mr Allan said he was "hopeful" of a swift resolution to the matter - by the OIO reconsidering its recommending and Ministers making a decision on it - given it is more than a year since Shanghai Pengxin announced it was interested in buying the properties.
"We're required to bring benefits - to lift productivity and improve the quality of farms - there's no guarantee, or requirement, that a New Zealand farmer would do that," Mr Allan said.