Declined Lochinver offer no concern for Joyce

  • 20/09/2015
Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce (File)
Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce (File)

The Government doesn't think the thumbs down for the sale of a big farm to a Chinese company will damage relations with China but it's trying to speed up decisions on overseas investments in sensitive land.

Last week Land Information Minister Louise Upston and Associate Finance Minister Paula Bennett declined Shanghai Pengxin's application to buy the 14,000 hectare Lochinver Station near Taupo.

They were not satisfied there would be a substantial benefit to New Zealand. The decision took 14 months.

Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce told TVNZ's Q&A programme that the government is looking at speeding up the process but the Lochinver application was complex and there were several requests for extra information.

He was speaking before leaving on his second visit to China this year.

"Actually we have a pretty good relationship and all sorts of issues have popped up over the years. This isn't a big one, this is just a transaction that won't be going through".

Mr Joyce said the government was working on "speeding up" the process, including putting in more resources.

"I just want the deals to be assessed against the rules and that it's a straight-forward process that people understand."

He said a lot of deals do get through but "if you're going to have an investment test around sensitive land then you aren't going to get them all through".

NZME editorial director for business Fran O'Sullivan said other sales of properties will go through and one currently in the pipeline is the trophy Canterbury property, the Big Ben sheep station.

Pure 100 Farm Ltd, a subsidiary of Shanghai Pengxin, lodged its application to buy Lochinver for $88 million with the Overseas Investment Office last year.

The OIO gave it the green light, but acknowledged the matter was "finely balanced" and the sale had to get ministerial approval to get across the line.

Pure 100 said it was surprised and extremely disappointed with the decision. Stevenson Group, which owns Lochinver Station, is also disappointed by the process and the outcome.