International buyers continue to snap up New Zealand land for forestry.
Over the past year, the Overseas Investment Office has signed off 27 special forestry consents - all under the streamlined consent pathway for investment in New Zealand forests introduced last October.
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The consents reflected total consented area of 73,200 hectares, of which one deal - the sale of 17 properties under Hikurangi Forest Farms to New Forests - accounted for 41,300ha.
A total of 58,900ha was existing forestry land, with around 14,300ha involving farm-to-forestry investment, the OIO said.
There were nine forestry-related consents in September, including the acquisition of a combined 1663ha at Hillfort Forest in Wyndham and Wether Hills Forest in Lumsden.
The applicant - Matariki Forests - is majority owned by US and British interests.
The most expensive deal was from China Forestry Group NZ, which is thought to have paid $27.8million for an interest in 926ha at Highfield, Kai Iwi and Kirikopuni Forests in the North Island.
Minister of Land Information Eugenie Sage and the Associate Minister of Finance also approved the first pre-approval under a special forestry test last month - granted to Japanese-controlled Pan Pac Forest Products.
The "standing consent" effectively gives Pan Pac - which owns lumber processing yards at Whirinaki in Hawke's Bay and Milburn in Otago - the option to make 25 transactions representing up to 20,000ha of sensitive land over the next three years, without reapplying.
Commenting on the approval, Ms Sage said Pan Pac had been in New Zealand since the 1970s, was a large exporter of quality timber and "needed to secure" its wood supply.
"We want to add value to our forestry exports, not just have log exports," she said.
However, the deal has been slated by lobby group 50 Shades of Green, which is "deeply concerned" about pine forests taking over productive farmland.
The lobby group's chairman, Andy Scott, said that even at 20% of overall purchases, it was still 2800ha in just one month and it seemed to be on a growth curve.
"You can't really blame offshore investors, who are keen to capitalise on the ETS structure and make an easy profit. However, [the] Government needs to revisit their plan as we continue to lose viable agri-production.
"Approvals are also a three-month process, so it's difficult to get a trend line because of the processing times.
"What we do know is that the blanket planting of good farmland has reached crisis level. Add to that the water proposals, land use changes and the ongoing anti-farming campaigns, and it's no wonder the ag sector considers itself under siege."
He said the irony was that farmers had millions of trees on their properties, which were not counted for sequestration.
"So while forestry gets all the favours, the most efficient producer of animal protein in the world is being hung out to dry."
The 50 Shades of Green group was organising a march on Parliament on November 14.
"Politicians aren't listening, so hopefully the general voters will," Mr Scott said.