Opponents say Crafar buyers lack business acumen

HAMISH RUTHERFORD
Last updated 14:48 02/07/2012

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Lawyers for a group appealing the Government's decision to approve the sale of 16 North Island dairy farms to a Chinese group say buyers Shanghai Pengxin failed to demonstrate it had the necessary business acumen.

Appearing for the New Zealand Crafar Farms Purchase Group, Alan Galbraith QC said the law required buyers of sensitive land to demonstrate relevant business experience to back their applications.

The group has appealed a decision by the High Court to accept the Chinese application, with the hearing taking place in the Court of Appeal today.

Galbraith said while the directors of Shanghai Pengxin had demonstrated extensive detail of their ability in retail and commercial property development, there was very little detail of their track record in farming in their application to the Overseas Investment Office.

Legislation stated that it was a "privilege" to buy sensitive land and applicants had to demonstrate they would bring something to New Zealand by having their application approved, Galbraith said.

"We don't say, obviously, that you have to know how to milk a cow," Galbraith said, but applicants must demonstrate a knowledge of the sector.

Appearing for the Crown, David Goddard QC said the decision on the Crafar farms application by Shanghai Pengxin was delegated to the Land Information Minister who was entitled to take into account generic business experience on behalf of applicants.

While there was little detail about the experience of the directors of Shanghai Pengxin in farming, information contained in the application regarding business experience was not designed to be an exhaustive list, he said.

The hearing is expected to finish today.

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- BusinessDay.co.nz

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