Malaysian firm to convert Southland farm into forestry block

A Malaysian company has been given consent to buy a nearly 460ha sheep and beef farm in Western Southland.

The Overseas Investment Office gave the consent to the 100% Malaysian-owned company Pine Plantations Private Ltd to buy the farm - near Tuatapere - from vendors Ayson and Karen Gill for $4 million.

The consent states the company intends to develop about 330ha of the land into a commercial forest, principally in pine trees.

Planting was intended to start in 2021-22, for the trees to be harvested in up to 30 years.

A house and 12ha of land on the farm was not required and would be sold.

Federated Farmers Southland meat and wool chairman Dean Rabbidge, of Wyndham, said he was frustrated Government legislation allowed for overseas companies to buy farms.

"It’s an alarming trend.’’

Similar developments had "devastated’’ small communities in Southland in the early 1990s, as families moved away and schools closed.

"Rural towns have become almost ghost towns.’’

The development of forestry blocks was resulting in "little towns getting wiped off the map’’.

Many of his friends dreamed of owning a sheep and beef farm but were competing against big overseas companies buying farms for forestry, both carbon and commercial.

He understood why developing forests was an "attractive option’’ for an overseas investor but he believed forestry would negatively impact the environment at harvest time including damaging soil structures and sediment loss.

"We are setting ourselves up for a disaster in 30 years time.’’

He respected the decision of the vendors.

"It may have been a difficult decision to make.’’

The Gill family were approached for comment but had not responded before deadline.

Tuatapere Community Board chairwoman Margaret Thomas said she was a friend of the Gill family and was unaware they were selling the farm.

She declined to comment on the sale due to concerns it would start "people passing opinions’’ on the matter.

"I’m not in the mood for that.’’

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