19 Jan 2012

Crafar farm bidders set for legal action

10:03 pm on 19 January 2012

A New Zealand group wanting to buy the Crafar family farms is threatening a legal challenge if the farms are sold to a Chinese company.

The Crafar Farms Purchase Group includes iwi and farming interests and is headed by businessman Sir Michael Fay.

It says it will seek a judicial review if the Overseas Investment Office (OIO) approves the sale of the farms to Shanghai Pengxin Group.

KordaMentha, the receivers of the 16 North Island farms, has given the Chinese company until the end of January to make the sale unconditional.

Shanghai Pengxin is still waiting on a decision from the OIO, which has yet to make its recommendation to the New Zealand Government nine months after receiving the application.

A $171.5 million bid by the Crafar Farms Purchase Group was rejected by the receivers.

A spokesperson for the group, Alan McDonald, told Radio New Zealand's Checkpoint programme that legislation requires a buyer to have the business acumen and experience relevant to the investment - which Shanghai Pengxin by its own admission clearly does not have.

The group has asked for details of the bid that have never been made public and says a legal challenge appears to be the only way of getting some transparency in the approval process.