Three council representatives are heading to China to discuss investment opportunities in the Far North with Chinese business leaders.

Far North Deputy Mayor Tania McInnes and corporate committee chairman John Vujcich will fly to Beijing on November 13 for talks with Tus-Holdings, the business arm of Tsinghua University.

The visit comes after the council signed a Memorandum of Intent with Tus-Holdings in March, when university leaders accompanied Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on a three-day state visit to New Zealand.

Tania McInnes
Tania McInnes

Tus-Holdings representatives said they wanted to invest up to 5 billion yuan ($1 billion) in Far North projects such as cultural tourism, developing Ngawha's geothermal power resources, research, and a venture capital fund encouraging innovation in tourism, technology, film and the environment.

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The memorandum, however, made no concrete commitments beyond an agreement to work together.

It sparked some controversy at the time because it was signed by Mayor John Carter and then chief executive Colin Dale before it could be debated by councillors. A council report said an "expedited process" was followed to avoid losing a possible major investment.

Councillors also wanted to know what the company expected in return for its investment.

Ms McInnes and Mr Vujcich will be joined in China by Andy Nock, chief executive of council-owned company Far North Holdings.

Mr Nock will already be in Beijing as part of a delegation led by Auckland Council's regional growth agency Auckland Tourism Events and Economic Development (Ateed). He is taking part in the Ateed trip to learn about Chinese businesses looking to invest in Northland and to showcase partnership opportunities with Far North Holdings.

Mr Carter said the trip would build on discussions the council had already held with the Chinese government through Tus-Holdings.

It was a chance to set out the council's expectations and vision for the Far North, while identifying "win-win" opportunities likely to create jobs and boost the district's income.

Due process would be followed and any important investment decisions would be clearly communicated with Maori and the wider public.

Under the agreement with Tus-Holdings the council would at least have some say over how money was invested in the Far North.

"For some time now there have been significant sales of land and businesses to Chinese and other overseas investors without us being aware. There is often no community involvement or input into these transactions," Mr Carter said.

"It's important that we continue the good relationship we've built with China over many years and also ensure that community well-being is always considered as these developments progress."

Tsinghua University is one of the top academic institutions in Asia. Tus-Holdings was set up in 2000 with assets that include the world's biggest university science park, TusPark (Beijing).