Shanghai Pengxin – the Chinese company currently seeking approval from the Overseas Investment Office to buy one of New Zealand’s largest, most valuable farms – was recently assigned conservation land as part of an earlier land deal, TV3 has revealed.
The conservation property, including seven hectares of the Rakaia riverbed and five hectares of "stewardship land" was signed over by the government when Shanghai Pengxin took a 75% stake in the 4500 hectare Synlait Farms in Canterbury earlier this year.
The revelation prompted New Zealand First leader Winston Peters to vow to buy back strategically important farms sold to foreigners if he's part of the next government.
Mr Peters is trying to make up lost ground on the issue, after Conservative Party leader Colin Craig broke the news on Friday that the OIO was considering the sale of Lochinver Station, a 13,800ha property near Taupo, to Shanghai Pengxi.
In 2012 the government controversially approved the sale of the 16 central North Island Crafar farms, which total almost 8000ha, to the Chinese company.
Federated Farmers has also expressed concern over the proposed Lochinver Station sale.
“Since there is no requirement to publicly notify applications to the OIO, Federated Farmers is frankly uneasy about the potential sale of Lochinver Station to Shanghai Pengxin,” the lobby group says in a release.
“New Zealand absolutely needs foreign investment but it has to be of benefit to the local and national economy.
“That is why a ‘substantial and identifiable benefit’ test was incorporated into the overseas investment decision tree.”
The farmers organisation says the proposed sale highlights the need for research into the extent of foreign investment in New Zealand farmland. Given Lochinver Station’s proximity to the Crafar farms, “it will increase speculation that vertical integration by way of processing could be on the cards”.
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