Iwi file new Crafar appeal

ANDREA FOX
Last updated 11:29 05/09/2012

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Waikato Maori trusts trying to buy three of the Crafar farms say their new High Court action and negotiations with the aspiring Chinese buyer of the farming estate are totally separate issues and should be seen as such.

The Tiroa E and Te Hape B trusts which want to acquire two of the former Crafar family-owned dairy farms in Benneydale, and are representing Tuwharetoa's wish to buy another central North Island farm in the in-receivership farming estate, have filed an appeal in the High Court at Auckland against a Court of Appeal decision last month which went against a challenge to the Chinese purchase.

Hardie Peni, chairman of the trusts, said the iwi court action was being taken because the iwi group believes the Appeal Court judges did not correctly interpret its arguments and position and "misdirected themselves".

The Appeal Court last month ruled the Crafar receivers' preferred bidder Shanghai Pengxin did have the sufficient business experience and acumen to run the 16-farm central North Island estate and surpass the requirements of the Overseas Investment Office in consenting to the purchase.

The challenge to Pengxin's farming business acumen had been brought by the Maori trusts and a group of Kiwi farmers led by businessman Sir Michael Fay, which have fought the Chinese purchase for more than a year.

Peni says iwi will continue to try to negotiate the purchase of the three farms from the Chinese company should it eventually settle the deal.

"There needs to be a clear distinction between the two (actions). We are still committed to buying the farms if we can."

State-owned farmer Landcorp, which is to manage the farms as a condition of OIO and Government consent for the Chinese purchase, is representing Pengxin in the sale negotiations.

Peni has previously said Landcorp offered to sell the three farms, widely acknowledged as difficult operationally and subject to extreme weather, for $66.5 million.

The price Pengxin has negotiated with receivers KordaMentha for all 16 farms is thought to be around $210 million.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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