NZ dairy leader sells farm for $25m to Italians

FARM SALE: Federated Farmers' dairy leader Willy Leferink and his wife have sold their Rakaia farm for $25.1 million to Italian interests.
FARM SALE: Federated Farmers' dairy leader Willy Leferink and his wife have sold their Rakaia farm for $25.1 million to Italian interests.

Dairy leader Willy Leferink and his wife are satisfied the Italian family who bought their Rakaia dairy farm through the Overseas Investment Office process for $25.1 million have the "right intentions".

Leferink and his wife, Jeanet, sold the top 413-hectare property at Dorie to the Barilla family who have interests in the food industry in Italy.

The Leferinks plan to use some of the sale proceeds to build wintering barns to show that dairy farmers are investing in lightening the load on the environment.

Leferink, who is the Federated Farmers dairy chairman, was impressed by the hoops they had had to go through to ensure the overseas buyers were of good character with good intentions.

They did not want the farm to go to just anybody. They did their homework to make sure the right people would take over an operation which was in the top 10 per cent for profitability nationally.

"It took a year and I was impressed with the process," Leferink said.

"Looking in from the sideline and being involved is a totally different kettle of fish. ... The people who own the farm they have no intentions of taking money away. They want to have it as an asset in New Zealand they can be proud of."

A sharemilking couple will lease the farm and run the operation.

Leferink said he was comfortable with selling the dairy farm to the Barilla family as it provided opportunities to do other things he wanted to achieve.

"This [will help us] mitigate all the environmental effects and show Canterbury we can farm under the new regulations."

The Leferinks had been working on new developments such as wintering barns for the last two years. It was a "bit sad" the report last week by the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment Dr Jan Wright on water quality was bashing dairying again, he said.

"Because we are all in this together and this is about trying to bring solutions to farming."

The $25.1m paid for Brook Farms Ltd, owned equally by the Leferinks, put the farm's value in line with some of the best sales of dairy operations in Mid-Canterbury at just over $60,000 a hectare.

The landholding had modern dairying assets including centre pivots, an effluent pond and a rotary milking shed.

The Overseas Investment Office announced today it had granted consent for the sale after scrutinising overseas investment in "sensitive land".

The office was satisfied the benefit to New Zealand criteria warranted the investment.

In the decision the Leferinks applied to sell the land to make additional investment in the dairy farm located on the property and to develop significant indigenous biodiversity on the farm.

In a column this week Leferink said he was introducing wintering barns as a different solution suited to light soils.

"These don't come cheap but it means you can still farm intensively and meet tough nutrient limits by capturing all the nutrients and irrigating it back to pasture over summer.

"Home gardeners may use 'zoo doo' and sheep pellets as fertiliser, we just supersize it as a liquid fertiliser."

Wintering barns should get the tick from animal rights people because cows went indoors when the weather was cold and wet, but grazed outdoors on pasture when it was warm, he said.

The Leferinks hold interests in five other dairy properties.