Federated Farmers has expressed unease over the potential
sale of the vast Lochinver Station to a high-profile Chinese
company, saying it might not provide sufficient benefit to New
The sale of the 13,843ha central North Island property to
Shanghai Pengxin, which also owns the 8000ha Crafar family
farms and has a controlling stake in SFL Holdings, which
bought 4000ha of Canterbury farms from Synlait Farms, is
subject to approval from the Overseas Investment Office.
While New Zealand needed foreign investment, it had to be of
benefit to the local and national economy, Federated Farmers
president Dr William Rolleston said.
''That is why a 'substantial and identifiable benefit' test
was incorporated into the overseas investment decision tree,
further bolstered in 2012 by a High Court decision adding a
'with and without' counterfactual test.
''This was to ensure any investment, such as the one being
proposed, has benefit over and above just making a farm work
''Since Lochinver Station is highly regarded in farming
circles, there must be something very special and we are keen
to know what it is,'' Dr Rolleston said in a statement.
Given the location of Lochinver Station to Shanghai Pengxin's
other landholdings, it would increase speculation that
vertical integration by way of processing could be ''on the
In December, 2010, the Government tightened the rules around
foreign ownership by way of an ''economic interests'' factor
in the Overseas Investment Office's consideration.
That allowed ministers to consider whether New Zealand's
economic interests were adequately ''safeguarded and
promoted'' in the case of land aggregation or vertical
Considering Lochinver Station was three times the land
aggregation trigger level, let alone when added to the former
Crafar farms, that would be a test of the OIO's rules, Dr
The proposed sale again highlighted the need for research
into what the extent of overseas investment in New Zealand
farmland was, he said.
Stevenson Group, the concrete, quarrying and engineering firm
that owns Lochinver Station, said it would reinvest the funds
in other businesses.
Farming was not the company's core business and it was
freeing up capital to invest in other businesses, such as
expanding its Drury quarry, chief executive Mark Franklin
While Lochinver had a rateable value of more than $70
million, the purchase price had not been disclosed.
Both Conservative Party leader Colin Craig and New Zealand
First leader Winston Peters have made it an election issue,
while the Greens want restrictions on such sales.
Mr Peters said he would block the sale if he became part of
the next government.
Labour's finance spokesman David Parker said sales of rural
land to overseas buyers would be banned ''in all but the
rarest of cases'', under a Labour Government.
- Additional reporting BusinessDesk