Dubai-funded farm deal collapse blow for vendors

A Maori hapu's bid to buy 28 Southland farms using Dubai funding appears to have collapsed.

Both Wynn Murray, the Invercargill man fronting the bid, and real estate company LJ Hooker have washed their hands of the project, advising the owners of 10 farms over which they had sale and purchase agreements that were to have been settled this week, that the deal was now off.

Mr Murray said the hapu, Ngai Tupango, had not responded to his questions and had failed to keep him informed on how the deal was progressing.

"They won't tell me anything.

"They haven't been telling me anything since December," he said when approached yesterday.

LJ Hooker agent John Wright said he decided to withdraw after the hapu failed "on several fronts to meet deadlines".

"We have advised our clients that we no longer feel comfortable supporting the project in its present form."

Mr Murray said he was sorry for the vendors, but it was out of his control.

He had not heard anything about the Dubai investors who were bankrolling the venture since he started signing up farms last spring.

The hapu claimed to have funding from Dubai to buy the farms, to whom it would supply food under a 99-year supply agreement.

Last week, the Otago Daily Times revealed that the hapu had scaled back its initial bid to buy 28 farms to 10, but with the intention of completing the sale transaction on the remaining 18 farms.

There were many in the rural sector who had their doubts the deal could be completed, with large rural real estate companies Southern Wide and PGG Wrightson both declining to be involved.

The purchasers were paying premium prices for the land, up to 30% higher than the recent market peak, but promised deposits had not been paid.

There was also a dispute over whether the deals needed approval from the Overseas Investment Office (OIO), with Mr Wright saying it did not but the OIO saying it did.

Southland Federated Farmers meat and fibre section chairman Martin Hall said he was sorry for those farmers who had signed up to sell but had been left in limbo, saying such situations put pressure on families.

"It creates instability on families who think the farm has been sold, but it hasn't."

Mr Hall was surprised because just a week ago the parties had said the deal was all go.


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