Adam Bennett

Adam is a political reporter for the New Zealand Herald.

Iwi fights on but Sir Michael throws in towel

Sir Michael Fay. Photo / Adrian Malloch
Sir Michael Fay. Photo / Adrian Malloch

An iwi group that was part of the Sir Michael Fay-led legal challenge to Chinese company Shanghai Pengxin's purchase of the 16 Crafar dairy farms may take its case to the Supreme Court, spokesman Hardie Peni says.

But Sir Michael himself has thrown in the towel, saying he feels "disenfranchised" by the Court of Appeal decision yesterday that dismissed his group's challenge.

Sir Michael's group had argued that when Land Information Minister Maurice Williamson and Associate Finance Minister Jonathan Coleman approved Shanghai Pengxin's application to buy the farms, they erred by finding the Chinese company had the relevant business acumen and experience to run the farms.

But the court found that Mr Williamson and Dr Coleman "were entitled to conclude that the controlling individuals had business experience relevant to the proposed investment".

The Tiroa E and Te Hape B trusts representing King Country iwi Ngati Rereahu were part of Sir Michael's consortium, and interim chairman Mr Peni yesterday said while he was not surprised by it, the court's decision was not the end of the matter.

He said the iwi would not rule out taking a case to the Supreme Court.

"That's always a consideration but we need to evaluate things once we've gone through all the findings carefully."

The trusts are seeking to buy two of the Crafar farms at Benneydale, south of Te Kuiti, which they say are of historical and cultural importance to them.

Mr Peni said the trusts would also seek to restart stalled negotiations with Shanghai Pengxin to buy the farms. But a spokesman for Sir Michael said the investment banker and other members of his group accepted the court's decision. "From our point of view the decision is pretty emphatic."

In a statement, Sir Michael said he felt "disenfranchised" as well as disappointed by the decision.

"We are all disappointed - especially our two iwi members - to see this significant parcel of highly productive dairy land pass out of New Zealand ownership."

Labour leader David Shearer yesterday repeated his party's call for tougher standards for foreign investors to buy productive land.

He said Mr Williamson's and Dr Coleman's decision to approve Shanghai Pengxin's application was "just another example of National kowtowing to foreign investors and neglecting the needs of our rural heartland".

- NZ Herald

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