$6.6m fund to be set up from sale

Steve Hill.
Steve Hill.
Clutha ratepayers should soon benefit from a $6.6million investment fund to be created after the sale of six council-owned forestry blocks around the district.

The council put the blocks, totalling more than 456ha, on the market in September after deciding it would get a better return from selling them than from projected future earnings from the forests.

Clutha District Council chief executive Steve Hill said the council had been reviewing its forestry portfolio since 2014.

A previous attempt to sell had not resulted in an offer the council felt it could accept.

Forestry blocks were put up for sale in September, with 12 tenders received by the  November 4 deadline.

The council agreed at a non-public meeting late last month to accept two tenders on lots in Hillend, Milton, Lawrence, Kaitangata, Slopedown and Port Molyneux.

"Together these two tenders  ... were considered to be strong offers."

Individual offers for lots in Invertiel, Heriot and Tapanui were not considered high enough  and those lots were likely to be remarketed in the future or retained until ready to harvest.

The sale netted $6.6million for the council, which would be held in an investment fund separate from the council’s existing investment fund and be invested to provide an annual return to ratepayers.

The names of the buyers and how much was paid for each lot would not be publicly available until the official possession dates in late January-early February.

While the council was considering whether to sell its forests, it encountered some public opposition.

Mr Hill said the position of opponents was taken into account.

"The council was aware some community members were opposed to sales, but after considering all industry expert advice, and with the strong offers that were received, the forestry blocks being sold will provide the best return to ratepayers."

Mayor Bryan Cadogan said he was happy with the process that culminated in the sale.

"I’m extremely comfortable with the fact that the best long-term returns will be achieved for the ratepayers now and into the future."

It was his intention the proceeds from the sale would help offset rates for generations to come, he said.

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