Thursday, April 25, 2024

Otiwhiti training school will survive Aus sale

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Farm forestry estate acquired by New Forests with OIO approval.
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Otiwhiti Land Based Training School will continue operations despite part of the station being subdivided and sold.

Part of Otiwhiti Station, in the Turakina Valley near Hunterville, Rangitikei District, has sold to a fund managed by Australia-headquartered global forestry investment manager New Forests, following a deal negotiated by Arotahi Agribusiness.

The 1246 hectare estate, known as Otiwhiti Farm Forest, was acquired by New Forests following Overseas Investment Office approval. 

The vendor, Otiwhiti Limited Partnership, will continue to provide a licence to Otiwhiti Land Based Training School to operate its successful agricultural education venture on the remaining portion of the property.

New Forests intends to establish and manage production forests on its newly acquired land, while working alongside the training school to assist in providing enhanced rural educational opportunities to young people.

Arotahi Agribusiness Managing Director Jeremy Keating, who led the sale process with colleague Wyatt Johnston on behalf of Otiwhiti Limited Partnership, said the sale kicks off an exciting new chapter in the story of Otiwhiti Station and, in particular, the Otiwhiti Land Based Training School.

“We are delighted to have successfully negotiated an agreement with New Forests, a highly experienced global forestry investment manager which is ideally placed to establish a successful forestry enterprise at Otiwhiti and positively contribute to the training school,” Keating said.

“While we were always confident that we had the right investor on board with a very strong business case, the process turned out to be somewhat protracted given the level of scrutiny these transactions rightly receive and the change in government. Despite delays, we are delighted to have played our part to finally secure an excellent outcome for all parties.”

Joe Duncan, director of Otiwhiti Limited Partnership, said the subdivision and sale to New Forests followed a strategic land use review, which identified that the highly productive front (western) end of the farm offered the best potential to continue supporting the training school, which has been operating since 2007.

Close to 500ha of Otiwhiti Farm Forest is already planted under a Crown forestry right, which along with several successful neighbouring forests, proves the suitability of the land for forestry, Duncan said.

“Optimising land use is an ongoing part of any farming enterprise. With the Otiwhiti Farm Forest portion of the station identified as ideally suited to forestry, we are very pleased to have secured a win-win outcome.”

Dan Bridgman, director of Investments, Australia and New Zealand at New Forests, said the acquisition of Otiwhiti Farm Forest is part of the company’s ongoing strategy to establish and manage production forests in New Zealand.

“We view New Zealand as a positive investment destination where the future harvest is likely to continue to benefit the country’s broader forestry and wood processing industry. What we really like about the Otiwhiti opportunity is being able to partner with Otiwhiti Land Based Training School to assist in their delivery of positive educational opportunities into the future.”

Charles Duncan, managing director of Otiwhiti School of Agriculture, said some of New Forests’ initial plans for partnering with the school include contributing towards capital project upgrades and communications infrastructure, installing a rooftop solar system to improve operational resilience and funding an annual scholarship.

“We look forward to working with New Forests to continue providing significant benefits to the local community, and nationally, in the agricultural sector. We will be identifying potential positives for both organisations as we build and strengthen our relationship. It’s exciting to be embarking on this new chapter alongside New Forests as the school continues to enhance its offering for young people looking to forge careers in agriculture.”

New Forests is one of the largest forestry investment managers globally, with over AU$11 billion ($11.7bn) in assets under management covering 1.3 million hectares of land in Australia and NZ, the United States, southeast Asia and Africa.

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