23 Feb 2010

Overseas Investment Office considers Crafar farm sales

3:10 pm on 23 February 2010

The Overseas Investment Office (OIO) has put on hold an investigation into the sale of two North Island farms until it can consider an application for retrospective consent for the sales.

It began inquiring last week into the possibility that the sales breached foreign ownership laws.

The farms, at Waitotara in Taranaki and Norsewood in southern Hawke's Bay were owned by a member of the Crafar dairy farming family, Robert Crafar, who's company Nugen Farms, was put into receivership late last year.

The receivers sold the properties to UBNZ Assets Holdings Ltd, which also bought two other farms in Manawatu this month.

Overseas Investment Office manager Annelies McClure says the new owner's major shareholder, UBNZ Trustees Ltd, may be based offshore and may not have had the proper consent to buy the farms.

However that investigation will go on hold after her office received notice from lawyers acting on behalf of UBNZ Assets Holdings Ltd that they will be lodging an application for retrospective consent to buy the farms.

The Overseas Investment Office will take up to three months to decide on the application from the farms' new owners.

The receivers who made the sales, McDonald Vague, say they were unaware of the OIO investigation and as far as they were concerned they sold the farms to a New Zealand registered company.