Auction decides fate of family's farms

SEAMUS BOYER
Last updated 05:00 06/12/2012
Tawaha  and  The Cutting,

PRIME LAND: An aerial photo showing the two farms, Tawaha and The Cutting, owned by the Jaspers family.

Steph
LOREN DOUGAN/Fairfax NZ
FAMILY RIVALRY: Steph and Malcolm Jaspers at the auction of their family farms.
Alastair Jaspers
LOREN DOUGAN/Fairfax NZ
FAMILY FEUD: Alastair Jaspers at the auction of his family's farms.

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A decade of "niggle" between two feuding brothers has ended with one losing his farm and the other securing the family legacy.

Malcolm Jaspers, 42, and brother Alastair, 41, squared off in Greytown yesterday at an auction to determine the future of their two sheep-and-beef farms near Martinborough.

For the past 13 years the brothers have been at loggerheads over the properties. Their feud has included a series of legal proceedings against each other, and an attempt by Malcolm to "restrain" his brother's access to the farms.

In September, a High Court judge ordered the farms to be put up for sale after the brothers failed to reach agreement on how to distribute ownership of them.

Yesterday, in a packed White Swan auction room, Alastair successfully bid $3.1 million for the 113-hectare farm known as The Cutting, slightly above its government valuation.

And moments later Malcolm was outbid on the 297ha farm, Tawaha, which was sold to a dairy farming syndicate for $5.6m, nearly $1m above valuation.

The total sale proceeds of $8.7m will be split equally between the two brothers.

Malcolm will now have less than three months to leave the property before a March 1 settlement date.

Alastair said the farms were held in trust for both brothers, and he was thrilled to be able to keep one of them in the family.

"We're really happy, but I had hoped that we would end up with one farm each.

"It's just not the outcome that farming families want, it's a shame that it couldn't be worked out better than this. The wider family will definitely be sad because there's a lot of history there."

He described the brothers' situation as the cumulation of 13 years of ongoing "niggle".

The farms were owned by their father, Thomas, who worked the land for 35 years after taking over from his own father. In 2004, he became too ill to work the properties, and died in September this year, aged 86.

Before the auction, Alastair called the situation a "complete nightmare", saying there was an answer to the dispute "sitting right there in front of us".

"Our situation was the easiest we'd ever come across. There's two brothers, we're both farmers, and there were two farms.

"One gets one farm and one gets the other plus a little bit of cash. It's hard to understand how it actually got to this stage."

His wife Celia said the purchase meant they had secured a future for their 1-year-old daughter.

Malcolm's wife Steph declined to comment on behalf of herself and her husband.

Blair Stevens, of Property Brokers, said there had been huge interest in the properties. "There's been lots of viewing and the room is packed, as you would expect for properties of this calibre."

Both properties are within five minutes of Martinborough. Tawaha features a large homestead, cottage, woolshed and 1km oak-lined driveway. The Cutting features a three-bedroom cottage and views over Martinborough.

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The syndicate that bought Tawaha has members in Martinborough and Singapore.

BENEFICIARIES' CONFLICT LEADS TO SALE

The farms, run as a single 400-hectare sheep-and-beef block, were owned by the Jaspers Family Trust, with Malcolm and Alastair Jaspers the equal beneficiaries.

After mediation in April, the trust was placed in control of an appointed solicitor, John Greenwood, with instructions to sell the properties and distribute the proceeds equally. However, in August, Alastair applied to the trust to allow him to buy The Cutting for an agreed price.

His brother opposed the move, stating in an affidavit that he intended to tender for both farms. In September, the dispute ended up in the High Court at Wellington, where Justice Stephen Kos dismissed Alastair's application, meaning the farms had to be put up for sale.

- The Dominion Post

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