Dairy farms un­sold in cau­tious mar­ket

South Waikato News - - RURAL DELIVERY -

Twenty-nine dairy farms cre­ated by Carter Holt Har­vey around Toko­roa are still on the mar­ket.

The list­ing of the prop­er­ties was an­nounced in Jan­uary this year and in­ter­est in the farms was un­der­stood to be high.

But un­cer­tainty over for­eign land deals is thought to be weigh­ing heav­ily on ef­forts to sell the farms.

Carter Holt Har­vey had ini­tially hoped to sell the prop­er­ties for a to­tal of $224.5 mil­lion.

But a real es­tate agent in­volved in the mar­ket­ing ef­fort said in­ter­ested par­ties were wait­ing for the out­come of the Cra­far farms deal to set the tone on for­eign farm own­er­ship.

Bay­leys agent Mike Fraser-Jones said the Cra­far de­ci­sion was likely to have an im­pact on both prospec­tive buy­ers and price.

‘‘ It’s all about cost, I sup­pose and the ef­fort that peo­ple are putting in to do things, that if there’s not go­ing to be a re­ward at the end of the day, they don’t want to go down that track.’’

The Cra­far farms, now in re­ceiver­ship, are sub­ject to an Over­seas In­vest­ment Of­fice de­ci­sion on whether Hong Kong-backed Nat­u­ral Dairy con­sor­tium can com­plete the pur­chase.

The 16-farm deal is con­tro­ver­sial be­cause of the back­ers’ anonymity and the fi­nan­cial trou­bles of busi­ness as­so­ci­ate May Wang. Two months ago, the Se­ri­ous Fraud Of­fice said it was in­ves­ti­gat­ing the deal.

In Au­gust the Govern­ment said it was re­view­ing the ap­proval of agri­cul­tural land to for­eign­ers, which in re­cent times has av­er­aged about 82 hectares a day.

Stephen Franks, a com­pany law ex­pert and for­mer ACT list MP, said un­cer­tainty would re­main in the area of for­eign land sales un­til the Govern­ment re­moved the el­e­ment of po­lit­i­cal ‘‘ sec­ond guess­ing’’ in­volved.

‘‘Es­sen­tially I think they are sit­ting on their hands, won­der­ing what to do. They have. . . signed up to a whole lot of free trade agree­ments which say quite ex­pressly that you must treat for­eign­ers the same as New Zealan­ders.

‘‘So they’ve got this huge dilemma, how do they re­nege on their free trade agree­ments. . . and yet re­spond to New Zealan­ders’ fears of be­ing peas­ants in their own land.’’

Mr Franks said the OIO used to have a ‘‘ very clear set of cri­te­ria ad­min­is­tered out­side the po­lit­i­cal process’’ but ap­peared to be mov­ing to­wards the po­lit­i­cal Aus­tralian model and ru­ral land re­flected the un­cer­tainty.

But John Larmer, a Taranaki-based farm val­uer with Telfer Young, said farm sales all over the coun­try were low, as even lo­cals put pur­chase plans on hold.

With fluc­tu­a­tions in prod­uct prices and tighter bank loan cri­te­ria, buy­ing had dried up.

‘‘I don’t think it’s a con­scious ‘ hey I’ll wait and things will come down.’ I think they’re not in a space to make that de­ci­sion as they’re deal­ing daily with the ef­fects of the drought or their low lamb drop.’’

stuff.co.nz

FOR SALE, STILL: The 29 Carter Holt Har­vey farms are still on the mar­ket.

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