Adam Bennett

Adam is a political reporter for the New Zealand Herald.

Maori mount legal challenge to Crafar decision

The Maori trusts are part of the Sir Michael Fay-led consortium whose bid for the New Zealand dairy farms lost out to a high-paying Chinese offer. Photo / Christine Cornege
The Maori trusts are part of the Sir Michael Fay-led consortium whose bid for the New Zealand dairy farms lost out to a high-paying Chinese offer. Photo / Christine Cornege

Central North Island Maori are seeking to challenge Shanghai Pengxin's purchase of the Crafar farms using the same Treaty of Waitangi clause in legislation the Maori Party has fought to retain for partially privatised state-owned assets.

The Tiroa E and Te Hape trusts representing Tuwharetoa and Ngati Rereahu yesterday said they were launching legal action against Landcorp and Land Information NZ (Linz) for their role in Chinese company Shanghai Pengxin's bid.

Shanghai Pengxin's offer relies on Landcorp leasing the farms and running them in order to satisfy Overseas Investment Act requirements for purchasers of sensitive land to have suitable experience and acumen.

Both Landcorp and Linz - of which the Overseas Investment Office is part - are subject to the State Owned Enterprises Act. That act includes section nine, which was intended to protect Maori interests.

Tiroa E and Te Hape trusts chairman Hardi Peni said they had engaged Waitangi claim specialist James Johnston to investigate the trusts' claims under section nine.

"In our view, the Crown must take into account Maori interests in its decisions and we believe both Landcorp and Linz have failed in their obligations to Maori while facilitating the acquisition of sensitive land by an overseas buyer."

Ngati Rereahu members are protesting against Shanghai Pengxin's acquisition of two farms at Benneydale south of Te Kuiti, an area including a pa site they say is of cultural significance to them.

The two trusts are part of the Sir Michael Fay-led consortium that has made a rival bid for the farms which the receivers have refused to consider because it is about $30 million less than the about $200 million Shanghai Pengxin has offered for the 16 farms.

The latest legal challenge comes just days after the Fay group sought a Court of Appeal hearing on Justice Forrest Miller's High Court ruling that the OIO and ministers must reconsider the economic benefits Shanghai Pengxin's offer brings to New Zealand. While the Fay group welcomed his ruling they are challenging his ruling that with support from Landcorp, Shanghai Pengxin had the necessary expertise and acumen to operate the farms.

Prime Minister John Key yesterday said the Government may take the Fay group's legal challenge as an opportunity for legal action itself to clarify the way law around OIO decisions should be interpreted.

FRESH ACTION

* Central North Island Maori are seeking to challenge Shanghai Pengxin's purchase of the Crafar farms.
* The two trusts representing Tuwharetoa and Ngati Rereahu said they were launching legal action against Landcorp and Linz for their role in Shanghai Pengxin's bid.
* The Chinese offer relies on Landcorp leasing the farms and running them in order to satisfy Overseas Investment Act requirements.
* The trusts are part of the Sir Michael Fay-led consortium that has made a rival bid for the farms.
* Receivers have refused to consider their bid because it is about $30 million less than the approximately $200 million Shanghai Pengxin has offered.

- NZ Herald

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf05 at 26 Dec 2014 18:00:49 Processing Time: 218ms