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The Michael Fay-backed Crafar Farms Purchase Group has vowed to continue to fight against the land from being sold offshore and says today’s decision to approve the farm sale to Shanghai Pengxin Group “sets up open season for foreign buyers”, the NZ Herald reported.

According to the report, the Chinese Government-backed Shanghai Pengxin bid for the 16 Crafar farms has been approved – but under strict conditions including that the owners continue to be of good character, must invest $14 million in the properties and cannot become majority owners of milk processing facilities in New Zealand.

The decision has been slammed by the Crafar Farms Purchase Group, which said it was “wrong in law and, if not overturned by Judicial Review, sets up open season for any foreign buyers wanting New Zealand land”.

The group confirmed today that it would proceed with a Judicial Review launched earlier this week to try to stop the land from being sold offshore.

Group spokesman Alan McDonald said Shanghai Pengxin did not meet the criteria for overseas investment in New Zealand.

“By its own admission, Shanghai Pengxin Group does not have experience in dairying which is why they are trying to use the New Zealand Government’s own SOE, Landcorp, to put the veneer of a Kiwi face on this deal.

The fact that Shanghai Pengxin does not have this dairy farming experience makes them nothing more than a passive investor and on this basis we believe the application should have been rejected.” he said.

Group member Hardie Peni of Tiroa E and Te Hape B Trusts said his people were “dismayed but not deterred” by today’s ministerial decision.

“All public opinion polls have been overwhelmingly against the Shanghai Pengxin bid, with more than 80 per cent of New Zealanders against the sale of large parcels of productive farm land to overseas buyers,” he said.

“This is one issue where all Kiwis, Maori and Pakeha, urban and rural, stand together. Kiwis are right to be mightily concerned that this National/Maori Party Government has stood by and waved foreign buyers through our farm gates.”

Land Information Minister Maurice Williamson and Associate Finance Minister Jonathan Coleman today announced that they have accepted the recommendation of the Overseas investment Office (OIO) to accept the bid from Milk New Zealand, a subsidiary of Pengxin.

“It is clear that all criteria under sections 16 and 18 of the Overseas Investment Act 2005 have been met, therefore we accept the recommendation of the OIO to grant consent,” Mr Williamson said.

The offer is believed to be for $210 million.

Milk New Zealand intends to engage Landcorp Farming Limited (Landcorp) to manage the farms. The Overseas Investment Office considers that the involvement of Landcorp makes it more likely that the expected benefits will occur.

If an agreement between Milk New Zealand and Landcorp cannot be reached, Milk New Zealand will have to sell the properties.

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