Westland Milk sale given go-ahead by farmer shareholders

Westland Milk farmer shareholders have voted in favour of a deal to sell the dairy co-operative to  Chinese company Yili.

The Westland Milk board signed a conditional deal to sell to Yili Industrial Group in March.

It's offered $588 million to purchase the co-op, and the 429 farmer shareholders met in Greymouth today to vote on the deal.

Westland Milk chairman Pete Morrison told Newshub earlier that sale of the 82-year-old co-operative was the best thing for farmer shareholders and the region.

"It is sad that we haven't been able to have a competitive payout, also acknowledging that we need that on the East Coast and Canterbury, that's what our farmers want and this is a good way forward," he said.

He said the co-op's financial situation was a concern.

"Our debt is huge; we haven't got a competitive milk payout - we haven't had for a number of years, and we are not going to again this year.

However, the Agriculture Minister and West Coast MP Damien O'Connor was unhappy that  farmers could lose control under the deal, but said options were limited.

"Farmers have only been given one option. I know companies that have wanted to get more information from the company to progress a proposal, and haven't been able to," he said.

"So from a number of perspectives, it's not been ideal."

The deal will now need to be approved by the High Court and Overseas Investment Office.