Anne Gibson

Property editor of the NZ Herald

Superstar's ex-husband boosts his southern holdings

Country superstar Shania Twain's ex-husband has bought Queenstown's Coronet Peak Station, adding a fourth property to give him a vast 55,406ha South Island high country holding.

Music producer Robert "Mutt" Lange's Soho Property already controls 33,195ha of Crown pastoral leases at Glencoe Station, Mt Soho Station and Motatapu Station.

But now the Overseas Investment Office has given approval for him to take the Crown pastoral lease purchase on the 22,211ha Coronet Peak Station.

Lange is a Zambian-born British record producer and songwriter. He and Twain split in 2008 and she later wrote a book telling how she put her "heart, soul and dreams" into her New Zealand home - while her husband of 14 years was having an affair with his secretary Marie-Anne Thiebaud. Twain ended up marrying Thiebaud's former husband Frederic.

Twain and Lange made international headlines when they bought Motatapu and Mt Soho high country stations, between Arrowtown and Wanaka, six years ago for $21.4 million.

Two years ago, Lange bought Glencoe Station for a secret amount.

The Coronet Peak Station lease was sold by Malta-based Irishman Eamon Cleary, who also owns several Queenstown and Arrowtown commercial buildings, but the amount paid to him is being kept a secret.

Cleary appeared on this week's NBR RichList as New Zealand's fourth richest man, with $2 billion.

Murray Horton of the Campaign Against Foreign Control of Aotearoa criticised Lange's purchase.

"You know CAFCA's views about rich foreigners buying New Zealand rural land. There don't seem to be any poor ones doing it. How about a soundbite saying that NZ has got enough mutts of its own without importing any more from overseas?" Horton said.

The Overseas Investment Office said the station's sale to Lange would benefit New Zealand.

"Coronet Peak Station is steep and mountainous and, despite its large size, has little low country with even moderate pastoral value," it said in its approval.

"It is also seriously degraded, has a serious feral goat problem, and has significant problems in relation to wilding trees and other unwanted plant species.

"The applicant intends to continue to use Coronet Peak Station primarily for general farming. Merino sheep will be farmed on areas identified as having sustainable farming value and those areas will be developed in line with the applicant's practices on its existing farming operations. The applicant expects to be able to carry 4000 sheep.

"The applicant proposes to extend its pest and noxious plant eradication programme to Coronet Peak Station.

"Acquiring Coronet Peak Station presents a unique opportunity to minimise the risk of reinfestation by plant and animal pests through the acquisition of the significant natural boundary offered by the Shotover River.

"The applicant also wishes to capitalise on eco- and adventure tourism opportunities which go hand in hand with the extensive conservation work already undertaken by the applicant on its existing farming operations at Glencoe, Mt Soho and Motatapu Stations."

Approvals have been granted for foreigners to buy New Zealand assets valued at $3 billion in the first seven months of this year, up on the $962 million approved at this time last year.

Eleven applications were approved last month, bringing the total for the year to 71, up on 42 approvals by this time last year.

The largest net investment made this year is Canadian Helicopters' purchase of Helicopters (NZ) from South Canterbury Finance, a $160 million deal approved last month.

Consent involving foreigners has been granted for 87,137ha of land to change hands this year, up on 82,503ha at this time last year.

Soho Property
* Owned by Robert J "Mutt" Lange.
* Assets: $65.4m (before Coronet Peak Station purchase).
* Company domiciled in NZ, incorporated in Gibraltar.
* Business is sheep farming, bloodstock and accommodation.
* Has big high country South Island holdings.

Source: Soho Property annual report

- NZ Herald

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