Minister for Land Information Damien O’Connor and Associate Minister of Finance Barbara Edmonds declined consent for United States-owned Port Blakely Ltd to acquire a freehold interest in about 800ha in an undisclosed location in South Otago.
Port Blakely, which has about 30 years’ experience investing in New Zealand production forestry, intended planting about 650ha of Pinus radiata trees. The company’s total estate in New Zealand comprised nearly 40,000ha.
The property, which included about 40ha of existing forestry, had rolling terrain and the land was a mixture of Land Use Capability 3 (about 60%) and LUC 6. New Zealand’s LUC system ranges from class 1 — the most versatile multiple-use land with minimal limitations, to class 8 which has very severe or extreme limitations. The vendor farmed 7608 stock units, comprising 170 cows and heifers and 7010 sheep.
Port Blakely claimed the investment would benefit New Zealand economically through increased job opportunities and increased revenue off the land, including the provision of 50% of the new timber for domestic processing. It also claimed the investment would provide various environmental, public access and advancement of significant government policy benefits.
But consent was declined as the ministers were ultimately not satisfied the likely benefit was proportionate to the sensitivity of the land and the nature of the overseas investment, the decision said.
The applicant and the vendor entered into the sale and purchase agreement in September last year. The vendor had received no offers from domestic farmers to buy the land and had only received offers from overseas buyers to convert the land to forestry.
It was one of the first applications made under the benefit to New Zealand test for the conversion of farm land to forestry since the Act was changed in August last year. An assessment report released with the decision said Linz considered the investor test had been met.
In August, applications from Swiss company Corisol New Zealand to convert a sheep farm on rolling hill country in Otago to a 473ha production pine forest, and another property to 211ha of pine plantings, was declined.
In September decisions, Netherlands-owned Ingka Investments Forest Assets NZ Ltd and Ingka Investments Management NZ Ltd were granted consent to acquire about 364ha of nearly exclusively existing forestry land at Whakatane for $10.65 million, and a 279ha property, with existing forestry, in the Stratford district for just over $4m.
Oji Fibre Solutions (NZ) Ltd, of which the Japanese government owns a 38.4% stake, was granted consent to acquire just over 300ha of land, which was being converted into commercial forest, at Reporoa for $5.04m.
Consent was also granted for the UK-owned NZ Forestry Partnership LP to acquire a 256ha property in South Wairarapa for $3.5m to plant 193ha of pine trees and Ponga Silva Ltd, which is 49.2% German owned, to buy a 557ha property at Tokomaru Bay which already has plantation forestry.