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Fears farms possibly sold to foreign interests for carbon farming

‘Sucking the lifeblood out of everything this country was built on’.

The agents involved in the sale of the Huiarua and Matanui stations on the East Coast have confirmed both properties are under contract but will comment no further at this stage.

The two properties inland from Tolaga and Tokomaru bays offer a combined area of more than 6000 hectares spread across a range of country, including a significant area of rolling farm land.

The potential sales featured on a Newshub item earlier this week where it was claimed the farms may have been sold to foreign interests for carbon farming.

That has not been confirmed.

Bayleys Gisborne rural salesman Simon Bousfield said yesterday the properties were both under contract.

“That's all we're able to comment on at this stage.”

Newshub said it understood the sale was all but final, pending approval from the Overseas Investment Office.

The Herald contacted the Overseas Investment Office to see if approval had been sought.

“Our overseas investment consent team has confirmed that we have not received any applications for approval to purchase these two properties,” was the reply yesterday.

Concerned East Coast residents feel the possible sale of the iconic Huiarua and Matanui stations for carbon forestry would be a waste of good farming land.

Both farms currently produce sheep and beef.

“We are all terribly concerned and upset about this sale,” said one coast farmer.

“If good land like this goes to pines then it can happen on any farm property.”

Another local farmer Dan Griffin, said in the Newshub item “Buying good land and planting it in trees, with the idea of just shutting the gate, is ridiculous.”

Long-time coast farmer Graeme Williams said the sale of properties the calibre of Huiarua for carbon farming was “sucking the lifeblood out of everything this country was built on”.

“It is commercial and social suicide.

“Eight families will be direct casualties and the only school within 30 or so kilometres and an hour's drive will also go west — not to mention the other casualties,” Mr Williams said.

Mata School is on land at Huiarua Station.

“I have lived all of my life on the coast,” Mr Williams said.

“Commercial forestry in the 80s knocked us for six but was survivable as it took the worst land and did create jobs and export dollars. Carbon forestry is now taking the jewels in the crown, the remaining best land, decimating communities, eradicating jobs and creating nothing but potential headaches down the track with untended and unharvested forests — and we haven't even considered fire risk yet.”

Mr Williams said he did not blame the vendors or the real estate agents.

“I would have sold my farm to carbon if they had been the top bidders, as business is business. The issue falls 100 percent at the feet of Government policy, policy that is destroying the very things the Government is supposedly promoting.” Forestry Minister Stuart Nash appeared in the Newhub item, saying taking out a 5000-hectare station like Huiarua for carbon forestry was not a good use of land.

“If it's true, I'd be very disappointed,” he said.

The Government promised to give councils more power to stop fertile land from being converted to forestry.

“Doing that is not as simple as I initially imagined, and I'm the first to concede that,” Mr Nash said.

“We're doing a lot of work in this space to get this right.”

Mr Williams said it was a “most astounding confession” for Stuart Nash to say he was unaware of what was going on.

“As Minister of Economic and Regional Development and Forestry, not only should he be aware of it, he should be terminating it.

“Politics aside I hope for everyone's sake that he and Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor step in and do the right thing, to amend the policies that are destroying rural New Zealand.”

Under the Emissions Trading Scheme trees earn credits for the carbon dioxide they soak up and those credits can be sold to a company needing to offset its emissions.

Huiarua ran 9000 ewes and 8300 two-tooths and hoggets this season, along with 1200 cows and heifers.

This season the property produced 20,545 lambs and 1064 calves.

Matanui runs 1700 head of cattle, 2600 ewes, with a five year average of 12,230 stock units.

CARBON FARM FEARS: The sale process for the iconic Huiarua Station and its neighbouring property Matanui Station is well advanced with both properties now under contract. There has been concern expressed about the prospect of the farms going into trees for carbon farming. File picture

  1. Neil Henderson says:

    The solution is simple. Ban the use of forestry for carbon offsetting. It is an unsustainable option as it is not possible to plant trees forever. All that is happening is that any global warming problem is being pushed on to the next generation – the very ones we repeatedly hear it being said of that we need to act now for their future. If people believe global warming is real, they need to stop using fossil fuel and stop using products that require fossil fuel when they are manufactured. Planting pines is just a band-aid on a melanoma.

  2. Clive Bibby says:

    Excellent coverage Murray. Unfortunately, it may be too little, too late. The Editor has known about the rural community concerns regarding this trend for months yet has chosen to help the Government try to explain away the contradictions and misrepresentations of their “climate emergency” policies.
    The hypocrisy is palpable apart from the protests of innocence from Minister Nash.
    I may be wrong but it looks as if the highest bidder for Huiarua and Matanui has found a way to circumnavigate the OIO that will allow this sale to proceed when it is clearly not in the nation’s long term interests or indeed could have been avoided.
    If The Herald thinks that the government is right to pursue its greenhouse gas reduction targets as a paramount objective, we would be better served if it would advocate for measures that would allow them to do that without resorting to the destruction of our livestock industry in the process. Returning to a local authority by-law banning the planting of exotic forests on all but “Class 7” land would be a simple solution.
    It worked well when operating throughout the country before, and has the added benefit of concentrating the planting in the most erosion-prone areas. There is more than enough of this type of unused land available to enable the Government to achieve its emissions reduction targets – why has it chosen to not adopt this option?
    Again, the editor has known about those alternative policies for ages but has steadfastly refused to endorse them when to do so, might have exposed his and the Government’s obsession with current policy as a fraud.
    It’s time for this newspaper to start promoting the programmes and policies that will ensure this region achieves its own targets for growth towards economic sustainability.
    Listening to the people who live here would be a good start.

  3. Ken clews says:

    It’s an absolute disgrace that polluters can come into our country and buy up large scale land so they can continue polluting the atmosphere at our expense and destroy our rural communities. This is shame on our Government, and we as a nation and community must rise up and stop it.