18 Jul 2010

Firm denies bid to buy another 100 NZ farms

7:21 am on 18 July 2010

The Hong Kong-based company trying to buy a group of Crafar family farms in receivership is denying claims it has signed up to buy another 100 farms.

Natural Dairy (NZ) Holdings is seeking Overseas Investment Office approval to buy out an associated company, UBNZ, which has a conditional agreement to buy the 16 North Island mainly dairy farms.

Allan Crafar says he believes the companies also have conditional offers to purchase more than 100 other farms around the country if the current deal is approved.

A spokesperson for Natural Dairy, Bill Ralston, says the company has looked at other farms around New Zealand but has no formal application to buy any of them.

Mr Ralston says Natural Dairy has always said it has up to $1.5 billion to invest in New Zealand, however a significant portion of that is intended for processing facilities.

Federated Farmers 'ridiculous' says Key

Federated Farmers' president, Don Nicolson, has said New Zealand shouldn't allow the sale because China is a communist state and wouldn't allow any of its land to be sold to New Zealanders.

But Prime Minister John Key says the organisation is being ridiculous about the bid, as it makes no sense for New Zealand to set its policies according to what happens in China.

Mr Key says if he were to follow Mr Nicolson's approach New Zealand would have to rewrite its investment rules when China changed its rules.

The Prime Minister says he welcomes foreign investment if it adds value to New Zealand, although he says he can't see how a straight land purchase brings any extra value to the country.

Labour leader Phil Goff says Mr Key has talked about New Zealanders not being tenants in their own country but it's his government which is loosening the Overseas Investment Act, making it easier for people to buy strategic assets in this country.

Mr Goff says Natural Dairy should be allowed to buy the farms only if it can prove it is bringing real value to New Zealand.