UPDATE: The Michael Fay-fronted low-ball bidder for the Crafar farms group has confirmed the launch of legal proceedings to prevent the sale of the dairy empire to China-based Shanghai Pengxin.
The first hearing in the action would be on Thursday morning at the High Court in Wellington before Justice Forrie Miller.
Alan MacDonald, a spokesperson for the Fay group said in a statement: "Our concern is that there has been no transparency around the OIO's involvement in this matter so far and that appears unlikely to change, forcing us to launch litigation this morning."
Mr MacDonald said the action was being launched now - before a formal decision had been announced by ministers - to ensure the challenge occurred before settlement.
"There is a very real risk that a final decision could be made without anyone receiving the information needed to launch an effective judicial review, and there is therefore a very strong public interest in the OIO recommendation being made available," he said.
Mr MacDonald said the Fay-fronted group believed the OIO had recommended the farms be sold to Pengxin, and any judicial review of the OIO's recommendation or ministerial decisions should be completed before KordaMentha's 31 January deadline.
The Fay-fronted group includes a number of businesspeople in its consortium, including iwi, with each party proposing to by a few farms each.
The group has employed Alan Galbraith QC, and Bell Gully, to represent them in their action.
The Michael Fay-fronted consortium trying to buy the Crafar farms has filed an application for judicial review of the Overseas Investment Office. The legal challenge concerns the OIO's handling of the proposed purchase of the farming group by the China-based Shanghai Pengxin.
The National Business Review understands several officials, including Land Information Minister Maurice Williamson and Associate Minister of Finance Jonathan Coleman, were this afternoon served with the proceedings filed in the High Court in Wellington.
The proceedings also name the chief executive of Land Information New Zealand. The two ministers are tasked with acting on the OIO recommendation.
The OIO has made a recommendation to the government on the Pengxin bid – but ministers are staying mum. A spokeswoman for Mr Williamson confirmed he was in receipt of the OIO decision.
"That is the case, he does have the OIO recommendation – but we’re not making any more comment," she told NBR.
Mr Williamson's spokeswoman declined to comment on the judicial review application.
This afternoon's developments indicate an end to the long-running Crafar farms saga could be near.
The dairy farming group collapsed in 2009 and an attempt by receivers to sell the farms to another Chinese firm was scuttled when its frontwoman, May Wang, was bankrupted and charges of corruption and money-laundering were laid against the bid's principals in Hong Kong.
Foreign interest in the farming group has catalysed popular dissatisfaction with overseas investment in New Zealand land holdings and played a key role in the recent election campaign.
The group fronted by Mr Fay had indicated legal action was likely if the Pengxin bid was approved.
Tue, 24 Jan 2012