OIO permits overseas investment in vineyard

A $2.1 million overseas investment in a Lowburn vineyard has been approved by the Overseas Investment Office (OIO).

The OIO has granted consent for Aotearoa New Zealand Fine Wine Estates Ltd Partnership to pay $2,195,000 for ''sensitive land'', being 27.34ha at 5 Swann Rd, Lowburn, near Cromwell.

The land is being bought from Roger Simon Gibson and Mary Jean Gibson.

It was announced last year they had sold their Lowburn Ferry Wines vineyard and brand to Aotearoa New Zealand Fine Wine Estates, subject to approval by the OIO.

The OIO decision says Aotearoa New Zealand is a joint venture between Steve Smith, an internationally recognised New Zealand winemaker, and Brian Sheth, co-founder and president of Vista Equity Partners.

''The applicant plans to develop a premium fine wine brand in New Zealand and has acquired the investment as part of this strategy.

''It has already acquired two other land parcels on which it is undertaking vineyard development works, and also plans to undertake similar works on the land.''

A statement issued last year by Lowburn Ferry said Mr Sheth was an investor, wine connoisseur and wildlife conservationist from Austin, Texas.

Mr Smith was a Master of Wine who had co-founded Craggy Range, based in Hawke's Bay and Martinborough.

Aotearoa New Zealand had also bought Pyramid Valley Wines in Waikari, North Canterbury, and a small piece of land in the Gimblett Gravels appellation in Hawke's Bay, the statement said.

The Gibsons said last year they looked forward to seeing Lowburn Ferry ''grow into greater things'' under the ''ownership and stewardship'' of Mr Smith and Mr Sheth.

The new owners planned to plant more grapes on parts of the land they were buying, they said.

The Gibsons would continue to live on part of the Lowburn Ferry property which had been subdivided.

The OIO decision said benefits from the investment would include the creation of new permanent jobs, oversight and participation by New Zealanders, and an increase in export receipts.

''The investment will also increase the productivity of the land and introduce into New Zealand new capital for development purposes for the construction of processing and visitor facilities on the land.

''Combined we consider the benefits to New Zealand that are likely to occur as a result of the investment are substantial and identifiable.''

The Gibsons and Aotearoa New Zealand chief executive Michael Henley could not be contacted for comment.

pam.jones@odt.co.nz

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