A high ranking European official has bought a multi-million dollar Hawke's Bay sheep and beef farm to turn into forestry, leaving some locals furious.
Austrian count Johannes Trauttmansdorff-Weinsberg now owns four farms around NZ after recently purchasing up one sheep and beef farm in Wairoa and another in Gisborne.
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He paid $7.2m for just over 1000ha in Wairoa and intends to plant about 706ha as a commercial forest on Mangaaruhe Station and leave the rest as bush and shrubbery.
The commercial forest is due to be harvested around the year 2046 and replanted following harvest.
Many of the overseas sales have been approved under a new special forestry test, brought in a year ago, to smooth the way for increased forestry investment.
But the count's move into Wairoa has some upset that the continuation of farm land being sold to forestry seems to be going ahead without delay.
Wairoa mayor Craig Little told RNZ the latest sales showed the special forestry test had got "totally out of control" and the government was not taking community concerns seriously.
"We were given promises and if it carries on it's going to be too late [to reverse]."
The OIO said it had approved 27 consents under the special forestry test in the year since it was introduced.
Of that "less than 20 per cent" of the 73,200ha sold was farmland slated for conversion.
The OIO said it was "monitoring trends in forestry investments" and would carry out a mandatory review of the changes by October next year.
But Little says that will be too late: "Do it now."
A joint venture was also part of the OIO announcement where Hawke's Bay trust Maungaharuru-Tangitū has purchased, with other overseas investors mainly from the US, almost 300ha of Esk Valley in Hawke's Bay.
The joint venture, known as the Kaiwaka Joint Venture, arrangement is such that the hapū will maintain ownership and control over Esk Forest.
September's OIO decisions also included the first "standing consent", granted to Japanese-owned forestry company Pan Pac.
The consent allows Pan Pac to make 25 transactions involving 20,000ha of land without seeking prior OIO approval and is valid until 2022.
Associate Finance Minister David Clark and Land Information Minister Eugenie Sage signed off the consent.