The sale of a South Wairarapa sheep and beef farm to a foreign forestry company is the first to be granted under the new, higher “benefit to New Zealand” threshold.
Overseas Investment Office decisions for October included approval for the sale of the 256ha Cannock Road property to United Kingdom-owned NZ Forestry Partnership. This is the company’s second land purchase in NZ.
After pressure from rural communities watching vast areas of farmland being bought by foreign buyers and converted to forestry, the government elevated the threshold forestry investors must meet for approval to buy NZ land.
The previous special forestry test, which required investors to use the land exclusively for forestry, replant after harvesting and not live on the land, has been elevated to purchases being of benefit to NZ.
That test has factors that must be met through creating jobs, introducing skills and technology, improved productivity, introducing processing as well as community and environmental benefits.
The NZ Forestry Partnership purchase has met the new test.
In its decision, the OIO said the property is Land Use Class 6 and 7.
“The investment is likely to benefit to NZ through increased job opportunities, increased revenue from the land, increased development expenditure, various ecological benefits, advancing significant government policy and potential increased public access,” it said.
“Consent was granted as ministers were satisfied that the applicant has met the investor test criterion and that the investment is likely to result in benefit to NZ.”
In September an application to buy a 300ha farm in West Otago under the “benefit to NZ” test was declined, even though it cited similar benefits.
One difference was that the Otago farm was 80% Land Use Class 4 and 20% Land Use Class 6.
The October decisions also include granting approval to Japan-based Oji Fibre Solutions to buy a 302ha sheep and beef farm at Rotorua under its standing consent provisions granted in 2020.
That approval allows it to buy up to 15,000ha by September next year. This is its second purchase.
Approval was also granted to Ingka Investments to buy existing forests in Taranaki and Whakatane, and to Ponga Silva to purchase a Tokomaru Bay forest.
Since the start of 2022, the OIO has issued 89 sale decisions in the agriculture, forestry and fisheries sectors, covering 226,275ha.