Chinese might train on Crafar dairy farms

TOM PULLAR-STRECKER
Last updated 05:00 31/01/2012

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Chinese farmers could come to New Zealand to learn dairying at Crafar Farms if the controversial $200 million sale of Crafar's 16 North Island farms to Shanghai Pengxin proceeds, Landcorp chief executive Chris Kelly says.

Kelly said it was a fair question whether that would be in New Zealand's economic interests, "but they would be paying money and Chinese students can come to New Zealand universities and get the same information".

Landcorp yesterday submitted a proposal to Shanghai Pengxin that would see the state-owned farming corporation manage the Crafar properties on behalf of the Chinese firm, removing another potential obstacle to the controversial sale of the farms, which ministers approved on Friday.

Kelly expected to hear today whether Shanghai Pengxin would accept the management agreement.

However, legal action by a consortium of farmers, led by Sir Michael Fay, aimed at blocking the sale of Crafar to Shanghai Pengxin is continuing, with the parties due to return to court on Friday for a possible judicial review.

The 16 North Island properties that comprise Crafar Farms cover 8000 hectares, about the same land area as Lake Wairarapa.

Landcorp would set up an on-farm training facility that could teach 15 to 25 dairy farmers a year and support another 30 to 40 students on shorter, week-long courses, as part of its deal with Shanghai Pengxin, Kelly said.

It had yet to be decided who would select the trainees. "The way of farming we have in New Zealand is quite different to the way they farm in China, so I suspect it would not be terribly popular [with Chinese farmers]."

The management agreement between Shanghai Pengxin and Landcorp would run for several years, with rights of renewal, Kelly said. He would not discuss the value of the contract but said its structure would be similar to a "standard 50:50 sharemilking contract".

Fay's consortium has requested the judicial review in the hope of securing the farms for itself.

Bell Gully lawyer David Cooper, acting for the consortium, told the High Court at Wellington on Thursday that Shanghai Pengxin had agreed not to settle the contract to buy Crafar until 5pm this Friday, a small victory that appeared to give the Fay consortium space for its legal challenge.

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- The Dominion Post

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