16 Feb 2012

Crafar decision no surprise - Peters

4:33 am on 16 February 2012

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters says he is not surprised the High Court has nullified an Overseas Investment Office decision allowing the sale of the Crafar farms to a Chinese conglomerate.

Mr Peters says the Land Information Minister Maurice Williamson has been told many times the OIO has been failing to properly assess foreign bids for New Zealand land.

He says he believes the previous Labour government also erred in the way it dealt with overseas bids to buy land.

Minister of Land Information Maurice Williamson says he is expecting a fresh OIO report on the Crafar farms sale within days.

The High Court has ordered the Government to reconsider the Shanghai Pengxin bid to buy the 16 North Island farms, following a judicial review sought by a New Zealand consortium.

The Court's decision found the economic benefits of the bid were materially overstated by the OIO.

Maurice Williamson told Checkpoint it is incredible that after seven years of the Government applying the law, the Courts have said it should be done differently.

NZ group welcomes decision

The group of New Zealanders interested in buying the Crafar farms has welcomed Wednesday's High Court decision.

Spokesperson for the Crafar Farms Purchase Group Alan McDonald says the judgement has confirmed his group's reasons for opposing the Shanghai Pengxin bid.

Mr McDonald says the Purchase Group and its legal team are now taking time to fully consider the details of Justice Miller's decision.

He says the group's bid for the Crafar farms is still on the table.

However, a spokesperson for the Chinese conglomerate Shanghai Pengxin says he believes its bid will still be approved.

Cedric Allan says there has never been a purchase of an asset in this country that has been subject to such rigorous scrutiny as the purchase of the Crafar farms by the conglomerate.

He told the Checkpoint that Shanghai Pengxin has had its proposal evaluated in the finest detail by the OIO for nine months and it is confident the office has come to the right conclusion.


Decision will be reconsidered - Key

Prime Minister John Key says the Chinese bid for the Crafar farms will have be reconsidered by the OIO, following the court's decision.

Mr Key says the court has decided to reinterpret the law and the OIO will have to reconsider the application and apply the new tests as applied by the judge.

John Key says the Government is still seeking Crown Law advice about the full implications of the judgement.

High Court Judge Justice Miller ruled the OIO overstated the economic benefits of selling the Crafar farms to a Chinese conglomerate.

In his decision released on Wednesday, Justice Miller said the error was not a mere technicality and he says the Ministers who signed off on the deal must reconsider

Earlier this month, the Crafar Farms Purchase Group led by Sir Michael Fay, sought a judicial review to prevent the 16 North Island farms from being sold to Chinese consortium Shanghai Pengxin and to have its own bid accepted.