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Iwi occupiers: we're protecting Crafar farms from Chinese

UPDATED: Ngati Rereahu protesters pitch themselves as a bulwark against the Shanghai Pengxin bid. 

Robert McCambridge and NBR staff
Tue, 21 Feb 2012

Update Feb 21: A group of iwi occupying two Crafar farms may be a little rough around the edges, but it's got a smoothly-polished PR pitch.

Ngati Rereahu is positioning itself as a bulwark against the Shanghai Pengxin bid.

Yesterday afternoon, the group setup on one of two neigbouring farms in the King Country that are part of the 16 Crafar properties up for sale.

Ngati Rereahu spokesman Edward Moana-Emery said his South Waikato iwi had claim to the the land the Treaty of Waitangi. Around 20 people were taking part in the occupation, Mr Moana-Emery said, with shipping containers being moved to the edge of State Highway 32 on the edge of one of the farms at Benneydale.

"What can we say to the Chinese people is: 'You’re inheriting stolen land'," Mr Moana-Emery told RNZ.

"They didn’t like it when the Brits invaded their part of the world. No Maori can go across to China and buy Chinese land," the protestor added.

"If they think they can come in and buy stolen land, they've got another thing coming."

Receiver relaxed
Crafar Farm receiver Michael Stiassny said, "We’re still trying to work out exactly what’s going on."

“We understand the containers etc will be erected on the state highway which is somewhat removed from our farming activities. We’re quite happy there’s a clear understanding that whatever happens on site will not be disrupting the milking operations."

Mr Stiassney said he was aware of the treaty claim. But the KordaMentha partner said the pa site in dispute was not part of the proposed Shanghai Pengxin sale - now subject to a High Court-ordered review.

Sell it to us
Mr Moana-Emery said the occupation was peaceful, and he hoped it would remain that way.

The Ngati Rereahu spokesman claimed, "We have got the money to buy these two farms. We don’t care how many millions it costs because of the cultural significance regarding it."

KordaMentha put the 16 Crafar Farms up for sale as a single entity.

Feb 20: The sale of the Crafar farms is becoming more intertwined in petty disputes following a claim by local Iwi calling for a return of their “ancestral land”.

Further controversy surrounding the Crafar sales has been added today when a group of local Iwi moved on to a Benneydale farm in their own version of an ‘occupy movement’, in a hope to claim their “ancestral land” to be returned to them instead of being sold off.

The Benneydale property is one of 16 Crafar farms included in the sale offer from Chinese company Shanghai Pengxin.

The occupiers, who claim they are not associated with the Sir Michael Fay group currently challenging the Chinese deal, say they “will not be going away”.

The protest group, from Ngati Rereahu, began setting up camp on Monday afternoon.

It is using shipping containers as a base.

A Ngati Rereahu spokesman, Edward Moana-Emery, told media the protest is a continuation of the 126-year fight with the Crown and is part of its Treaty settlement.

The land was once part of the iwi's ancestral whenua, Mr Edward Moana-Emery claims,  and two Maori land trusts were part of the Crafar farms purchase group trying to buy back the land.

The group's action is not a knee jerk reaction to the controversy surrounding the Crafar farms sale, he said.

On order of the High Court last week, the Overseas Investment Office (OIO) is reconsidering aspects of its consent recommendation for Shanghai Pengxin to purchase the farms.

After judicial review proceedings brought by the Fay-led group of farmers and local Iwi, the High Court ruled the OIO in recommending approval of the Chinese bid to the government, did not properly apply the economic benefit test in the Overseas Investment Act.

Robert McCambridge and NBR staff
Tue, 21 Feb 2012
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Iwi occupiers: we're protecting Crafar farms from Chinese