21 Apr 2012

Relationship with China taken into account on Crafar deal

5:34 pm on 21 April 2012

Land Information Minister Maurice Williamson says New Zealand's broader relationship with China was taken into account before the Crafar deal was approved.

The Government on Friday approved an application from a Chinese consortium to buy the 16 farms, after considering a fresh recommendation from the Overseas Investment Office.

Among other reasons, the recommendation says approval would advance New Zealand's China strategy which aims to grow the countries' commercial relationship.

Mr Williamson says he and Associate Finance Minister Jonathan Coleman did take that into account.

He says they also asked the Minister of Foreign Affairs for advice on the implications if the application was to be declined.

An official from the Chinese Embassy in Wellington says New Zealanders should welcome foreign investment from China.

Political counsellor Cheng Lei says the public should take investor interest in this country as a positive sign.

Objectors xenophobic - NZ China trade association

The New Zealand China Trade Association says given the amount of land in this country that is owned overseas, some people still opposed to Chinese ownership of the Crafar farms are being xenophobic.

The association's executive director Graham Kearns says investors from the United States, Canada, Italy and Luxembourg each own significantly more of New Zealand than the 9,000 hectares which make up the Crafar farms.

Mr Kearns says less than 2% of New Zealand is owned by overseas investors.

'Local' benefits favoured

An iwi appealing the sale of the Crafar farms says New Zealand would benefit more by keeping the farms locally owned.

In February, members of Ngati Rereahu occupied one of the farms at Bennydale in the King Country.

Spokesperson Edward Moana-Emery says his tribe owns farms from which produce and profits remain in the country.

Mr Moana-Emery says he's heard anecdotally that Shanghai Pengxin are considering selling two of the farms to his iwi.

He says he will consider another protest if the appeal fails and the Chinese company does not offer to sell the two farms.

Mr Moana-Emery says the farms are on land that was confiscated from his iwi in the 19th Century.