Labour leader David Shearer today visited one of the Crafar farms near Taupo to highlight his party's opposition to a bid by the Chinese company Shanghai Pengxin to buy the 16 farms.
The bid is at a critical stage - the Overseas Investment Office has been considering the $200 million bid and Government ministers are expected to decide upon it soon.
Mr Shearer is in Taupo for Labour's caucus retreat at the Wairakei Bay resort, but left the retreat to visit the farm.
Mr Shearer was taken to the farm in eastern Taupo by Nigel Baker of the Pahautea Lands Trust. The Trust is one of the organisations in a consortium which is legally challenging Shanghai Pengxin's bid.
While at the farm, Mr Shearer stuck a New Zealand flag into one of the fence posts to show his belief it should remain New Zealand owned.
"We think New Zealand land should be sold to New Zealanders. If there is going to be foreign ownership then we have to make sure New Zealanders have a real interest in it and get real value from it. If not, then it's land being sold off-shore."
He said the Government should immediately release documents related to the bid and others, such as the Pahautea Lands Trust, should be given a chance to buy the land."
Mr Baker said the trust wanted to buy the farm, which bordered its own farmland. He said there were several wahi tapu on the farm - including two pa sites which the iwi had not been able to access since the 1880s.
"We are not asking for anything - we just want to buy the land. So we're not asking the Crown for anything other than the opportunity to do so."
He warned that the Government could expect "trouble" from the iwi if the Government allowed the bid to go through.
"I think it would be very ignorant and arrogant breach of relationships. We are the Treaty partner. I thought we would have at least been consulted. The customary and cultural interests in the land are very high. We had occupation here for many many years."