2.45pm - UPDATE
Government ministers have approved the sale of pastoral leases on two South Island high country stations to Canadian singer Shania Twain.
Twain and her husband Robert "Mutt" Lange have been awaiting Overseas Investment Commission approval to buy the pastoral leases for Motatapu Station and Mt Soho Station at Wanaka.
Finance Minister Michael Cullen and Minister for Land Information John Tamihere today jointly announced they had approved the sale "subject to some strong conditions around public access and conservation values".
The Green Party voiced anger at the move, saying it showed New Zealand was up for sale to the world's wealthy.
Under the Overseas Investment Act, ministers are required to consider applications on the basis of national interest.
Dr Cullen said in a statement that the application by Eileen Lange, also known as Shania Twain, and Mr Lange satisfied all legal requirements.
He said the conditions attached to the approval would enhance both conservation and public access in a beautiful part of the country.
"Under the conditions imposed on the sale of the leasehold, all land above 1100 metres will be retired from farming and subject to a covenant with the Department of Conservation."
The area under covenant was just over half the combined area of the two high country stations involved.
The buyers had agreed to create a tramping track that was expected to form part of a nationwide hiking trail network known as Te Araroa, plus providing huts and facilities.
About 4000 hectares of the property adjacent to the track in the area under covenant would be open to public access.
The couple proposed to complete farm development over three years, totalling $1.6 million.
Dr Cullen said the land ultimately remained in Crown ownership.
Mr Tamihere said in the joint statement that this was a "win, win decision".
"The purchasers of the lease acquire a property while the interests of all New Zealanders are protected."
Green Party Co-leader Rod Donald said the sale would send a message to the world's wealthy that New Zealand is up for sale.
"I applaud the Government for placing public access and conservation caveats on the sale," said Mr Donald. "But I deplore the sale of another slice heaven to absentee owners with no links or loyalty to this country.
"If people from overseas think New Zealand is worth the investment, then they should be making our country their home and actively contributing to our society."
He added: "The Kiwi dream of owning a bach at the beach or beside a lake is now just that: a dream which will never come true for most of us.
"Meanwhile, young farmers' hopes of owning their own land are becoming increasingly remote as land prices now bear no relation to their earning potential as farms."
- NZPA, HERALD STAFF
2.45pm - UPDATE