13 Aug 2012

Maori abandon legal fight on Crafar farms

12:45 pm on 13 August 2012

Maori interests challenging the sale of the Crafar farms to a Chinese buyer have ruled out any further legal action, but are still interested in buying some of the farms.

The Court of Appeal rejected an attempt by the Crafar Farms Independent Purchaser Group to block the deal.

Ngati Rereahu and Tuwharetoa affiliates were part of the group which lost a legal fight against the Government decision to sell the 16 North Island farms to the Shanghai Pengxin company.

Earlier this year, iwi groups discussed with Shanghai Pengxin the possibility of buying three of the farms but pulled out of negotiations because the asking price of $66.5 million was too high.

An iwi spokesperson, Hardie Peni, chairman of the Tiroa E and Te Hape B farming trusts, is not ruling out further negotiations, but says continuing the legal challenge through to the Supreme Court is not an option.

"Various reasons - the cost, and the chances of winning it - have been taken into consideration and we won't be pursuing any more legal action," Mr Peni says.

Other parties are welcome to sit down and negotiate, he says, but the outcome would depend on the price and, with the failure of the appeal, iwi are not in a strong negotiating position.

"If there is a fair and reasonable price that we can all agree to, then that's where I'd prefer to be.

"But we're right on the back foot now - there's nothing there that the other parties have to agree to. Ultimately, they've been given approval through the Government and been given approval by the courts."

Shanghai Pengxin spokesperson Cedric Allan says the company will be happy to hear from the Maori interests. He says Shanghai Pengxin offered to sell two or three properties, and that offer is still on the table if they wish to revisit it.