18 Jun 2012

Maori trusts hope to seal Crafar deal within months

1:43 pm on 18 June 2012

Two Maori land trusts in negotiations with a Chinese company to buy two of the Crafar farms hope to seal the deal within months.

Shanghai Pengxin was given government approval to buy the 16 farms in April, a move that is being challenged in court by a New Zealand consortium led by Sir Michael Fay.

Tiroa E and Te Hape B Trusts, which are still part of that consortium, are hoping to buy two of the farms.

Chairman Hardie Peni told Morning Report the trusts have been in discussions for about nine months and hope to have the land, south of Te Kuiti, returned to the iwi as soon as possible.

He told Morning Report that if the bid for the Benneydale 1 and Benneydale 2 farms is successful the properties would be run as dairy farms and would never be sold.

He says farming is the trusts' main business, with cattle and sheep operations across 10,000 hectares.

"We carry 120,000 stock units over the whole operation, so we have been in the game for a number of years."

The trusts have long wanted to buy the King Country whenua, which contain wahi tapu (sacred) sites, and Mr Peni says they don't mind who they deal with as long as they get their ancestral land back.

Mr Peni would not discuss how much the trusts are offering, saying only that the price is fair.

The consortium that that lodged a legal challenge objecting to the sale argued Shanghai Pengxin lacks business skills and farming knowledge.

Mr Peni says the Chinese company would be wise to sell the two farms to the trusts before the Court of Appeal is due to hear that case on 2 July.