7 Oct 2010

Harvard University to buy Central Otago farmland

9:23 pm on 7 October 2010

Federated Farmers is welcoming the purchase of a big slice of farmland in Central Otago by Harvard University for $34.1 million.

Approval has been given by the Overseas Investment Office for Harvard to purchase more than 1600 hectares of the Big Sky Dairy Farms in the Maniototo district.

Big Sky Dairy Farms was set up as a dairy farm conversion in 2001 but the company went into receivership in 2007, though it continued its operations.

In September, the Overseas Investment Office granted Harvard the right to buy the farm from three vendors.

Receiver Murray Frost says the sale includes all livestock, rotary sheds and several houses. Twenty-two employees are expected to keep their jobs.

Federated Farmers president Don Nicolson backs the sale because it will bring in foreign capital.

Harvard already has intestest in another Otago dairy farm operation and is the majority investor in the central North Island's Kaingaroa Timberlands.

Lobby group Save the Farms is calling for a moratorium on foreign investment in agricultural land following Harvard University's purchase. Spokesperson Tony Bouchier says the lastest purchase highlights the need for action.

The Otago Maori Trust Board warns New Zealand needs to ensure that local investors are not pushed out of the dairy industry.

Chairperson of Te Runaka o Otakou Edward Ellison says it seems many foreign investors are taking more of an interest. However, he says he hopes Harvard's latest purchase will mean better care for the Maniototo farm, which earlier had problems with effluent and water quality.