Thursday, November 30, 2023

NZ rejects Swiss bid to buy Otago farmland

Neal Wallace
Likely benefits of sale disproportionate ‘to sensitivity of the land and nature of overseas investment’.
Reading Time: 2 minutes

Government officials have declined the sale of an Otago farm to a foreign forestry company, saying the purchase does not meet its new benefit test.

But sales of farmland are still happening, with two approved to Kauru Forestry in Northland and Wairarapa under a standing consent that the Swiss- and German-owned buyer was granted by Land Information NZ (LINZ) in 2021.

Information provided by Land Information NZ said this standing consent provision allowed the company to acquire up to 6000ha of land in up to 20 transactions by September 30 2023.

Kauri has now bought nine properties this way, the last two a 374ha property near Masterton and 372ha at Pukehuia near Whangārei. Part of the Northland property will be planted in totara or mānuka.

Earlier this year LINZ raised the bar that foreign forestry companies must clear when buying farmland to convert to forestry.

Instead of the lower special forestry test, such transactions must now meet the higher threshold of being of benefit to NZ.

Under this test, Swiss company Corisol NZ Ltd has had its application to buy 300ha of Otago farmland declined as the likely benefits of the purchase were disproportionate “to the sensitivity of the land and the nature of the overseas investment”.

The low-altitude rolling hill country is currently used for dairy farming and winter grazing to support the vendor’s main farm 25km away. The land is 80% Land Use Class 4 and 20% Land Use Class 6.

Corisol intended planting approximately 211ha of radiata pine and claimed the investment would benefit NZ by helping meet its climate change obligations, increase job opportunities and export receipts, advance government policy, increase biodiversity and increase public access.

The sales of three forestry blocks to foreign investors were approved.

They include the purchase by Pan Pac Forest Products of a 120ha existing forestry block at Kotemaori, in northern Hawke’s Bay and two by Netherlands-based Ingka Investments for forestry blocks in Taranaki, 161ha at Matau and 1135ha at Hawera.

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