Maori trusts shot down in second Crafar Farm sale appeal bid

Supreme Court rejects a second attempt by two Maori trusts to overturn the purchase by Chinese buyer Shanghai Pengxin.

BUSINESSDESK: The Supreme Court has rejected a second attempt by two Maori trusts to overturn the sale of the Crafar Farms to Chinese buyer Shanghai Pengxin.

The Tiroa E and Te Hape B Trusts were part of a bidding group led by millionaire Michael Fay that was the under-bidder for the North Island farms being sold by receivers.

The sale has been approved by the Overseas Investment Office and the Court of Appeal has already rejected an appeal by Fay and the trusts to buy the 16 properties.

In the Supreme Court ruling today, Justices John McGrath, William Young and Susan Glazebrook dismissed the application to appeal and ordered costs of $2500 be paid to Milk New Zealand Holdings, the Pengxin vehicle, and the Crown respondents.

The second appeal had turned on whether the ministers involved were able to conclude the buyers had relevant business experience when giving consent to the sale.

It covered both the Chinese buyers and whether their experience could include Landcorp, the state-owned farmer that would manage the farms.

The judges "see no obvious error in the careful and common factual assessments made by the High Court and Court of Appeal", the judgment says. "Overall, we do not see that it is necessary in the interests of justice for the court to give leave to the applicants for a further appeal."

The Court of Appeal has concluded that Pengxin's Jiang Zhaobai's ability to bring himself from humble beginnings to become "a person of some stature in the Chinese commercial world" would satisfy the minister making the decision in approving the sale of the Crafar family farms.

That court was not swayed by the argument that Land Information Minister Maurice Williamson had not delved deeply enough into the success of Pengxin's agribusiness investments.

The farms were tipped into receivership in 2009 and owed its bankers some $274 million as at April, according to the latest receiver's reports.

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