25 Jan 2012

Labour puts on pressure over Crafar farms

9:23 pm on 25 January 2012

Labour Party leader David Shearer is accusing the Government of dragging its heels over the Chinese bid to buy the Crafar farms.

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The Overseas Investment Office has been considering the Shanghai Pengxin application to buy the 16 farms since April last year.

In the meantime, a rival New Zealand group wants to buy the farms and says it will seek a judicial review if the Chinese application is successful.

During a visit to one of the Crafar farms near Taupo on Wednesday, Mr Shearer said foreign investment should deliver a return to New Zealanders and the proposed sale does not do that.

He says, instead, New Zealanders should be given the opportunity to own the land.

"Here we've got an opportunity to have New Zealand owners on New Zealand land still producing milk for the Chinese market - part of our free trade agreement - but actually still owning the land."

Mr Shearer also says it makes no sense to sell the Crafar farms to an overseas buyer that will then get Landcorp to run them.

He says the Government should release all documents relating to the Shanghai Pengxin bid for the farms.

The office of the Land Information Minister, Maurice Williamson, said the decision on the Crafar farms would not be announced on Wednesday.

A spokesperson for Shanghai Pengxin says it is not making any further commment until the Government announces its decision.

Farms sale discussed at Cabinet

Meanwhile, Prime Minister John Key says the sale of the Crafar farms was discussed briefly at the first cabinet meeting for the year on Wednesday but is refusing the comment on the issue.

He says the final decision on the sale rests with Land Information Minister Maurice Williamson and Associate Finance Minister Jonathan Coleman.

Mr Key says the rules on overseas investment prohibit him from influencing the decision and it would be inappropriate for him to give his view.