Local speculation surrounding the recent sale of three substantial dairy farms near Oamaru can finally be confirmed now that approval from the Overseas Investment Office (OIO) has been given.
The three farms west of Oamaru - Arnmore (328 hectares), Windsor (428ha) and Waiareka (403ha) - have been bought by Craigmore Sustainables, which acts as a fund manager for the Craigmore Farming Partnership and the Craigmore Forestry Fund.
All three properties are owned by the Craigmore Farming Partnership, whose additional recent acquisitions, apart from the three North Otago dairy farms, comprise farmland in Canterbury and Gisborne, totalling 4230ha.
Established in 2008 by South Canterbury businessmen and farmers Forbes Elworthy and Mark Cox, the company manages more than $150 million of capital invested in a mix of dairy, grazing, horticultural and forestry land spread over 15,000 hectares in both the North Island and South Island.
Craigmore Farming chief executive officer Mark Cox said the company was excited about the purchases.
"Craigmore has a sustainability programme to ensure we strike a balance between respecting the environment and running a sustainable and profitable rural operation," he said.
The purchase prices of the properties remains confidential, but Cox confirmed the first three purchases formed the basis of a "cluster" of farms the group hopes to buy in the locality in the near future.
Cox said Craigmore aimed to be a long-term producer of high-quality food products through farming the land sustainably and by partnering with the best operational managers in New Zealand.
"We are in this venture for the long haul. We are certainly not absentee landlords," he said.
One of the latest purchases, Waiareka, was fully stocked with in-milk cows when the purchase was finalised, but Cox said the cows have now gone from the farm and refurbishment work was well under way.
"To get it right, it wasn't possible to keep the cows on the property so these went before Christmas last year," he said.
"We have an extensive development programme in place, including building another dairy shed, upgrading the existing irrigation infrastructure to make better use of the available water resources and native planting to assist with nutrient management.
"This development programme will result in additional jobs and crucial investment during both the development phase and over the longer term as a result of increased production.
"The refurbishment work will involve quite a large cheque and where possible we are using local contractors."
One of the key principles underpinning Craigmore was the belief that the best farmer was the owner-operator or family farmer.
"We see the need to reward high-performing managers and offer equity partnerships for top quality managers."
Cox said the new acquisitions in North Otago would be managed by Craigmore operations manager Francois Tillard, with on-farm managers and a team of capable staff.
"We are proud of our track record in developing and managing farmland and our ability to bring together a mix of practical, strategic and analytical farming expertise."
Local communities, sports and school groups were also set to benefit.
"We also aim to be good corporate citizens and will be working with and supporting our communities, plus schools and sporting groups to grow their successes as well," Mr Cox said.
"We are seeking to improve public access to recreational opportunities and have specifically agreed with the Alps2Ocean Cycle Trail to provide access across the properties for an extension to their network of public cycleways."
CRAIGMORE SUSTAINABLES NZ
Craigmore Sustainables was established in 2008 by Forbes Elworthy.
The Elworthy family is a significant investor in both the farming and forestry funds and has been farming in New Zealand for 150 years. Forbes' father, Sir Peter Elworthy, was president of New Zealand Federated Farmers and chairman of the independent directors of the Reserve Bank of New Zealand.
Mark Cox originally farmed in the Gisborne region of the North Island, where he grew squash and frozen vegetables for export. He established Coxco in 1996 to provide a packing service to the squash growers of the Poverty Bay flats.
The SafeNZ Quality Assurance System was developed by the Coxco Group to enable Coxco, Coxco Farming and growers to provide customer confidence and assurance through guaranteed traceability, safe and sustainable growing practices, GMO-free, sound environmental management, independent audits and verification and food safety.
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