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Overseas Investment Minister Williamson lauds Shanghai Pengxin's business success and criticises both Allan Crafar and the High Court in final debate in Crafar Farms saga

Overseas Investment Minister Williamson lauds Shanghai Pengxin's business success and criticises both Allan Crafar and the High Court in final debate in Crafar Farms saga

By Alex Tarrant

Following the final act in the sale of the Crafar Farms to a Chinese company last week, our politicians were given the chance to debate the saga one last time in Parliament on Tuesday.

And the owner of the farms before they were put into receivership in 2009 owning NZ$216 million mainly to Westpac and Rabobank (and about NZ$9 million to PGG Wrightson Finance), Allan Crafar, was not exempt from criticism dished out by one of the Ministers responsible for approving the sale.

Defending the business experience of Shanghai Pengxin, who had been criticised for not having a dairy farming background, Land Information Minister Maurice Williamson said cow milking expertise was no guarantee of business success.

"He (Crafar) knew how to milk a cow, and was it a successful operation? I'm not so sure," Williamson said.

The High Court judge who threw out the government's first approval of the sale to Pengxin was also not immune from criticism by Williamson.

An urgent debate requested by the Labour Party on the Court of Appeal's decision last week to dismiss a final bid to stop the sale, was granted by Speaker Lockwood Smith as being an issue of recent occurrence involving Ministerial responsibility.

That responsibility belonged to Williamson and Associate Finance Minister Jonathan Coleman, who defended their actions under the Overseas Investment Act to grant the sale of the 16 farms not once, but twice to Shanghai Pengxin.


Williamson and Coleman's original approval in January 2012 for the sale to go ahead was thrown out by High Court Judge Forrest Miller in February. Justice Miller ruled the Overseas Investment Office (OIO) had made the wrong considerations when determining 'economic benefit' factors set out in the Overseas Investment Act, and ordered the OIO to reconsider its decision.

Rather than applying a 'before and after' test to foreign investment, the OIO was told to apply a 'with and without' test, meaning it had to consider what it thought a hypothetical New Zealand buyer would invest if allowed to buy the farms.

The economic benefits promised by the foreign investor would then have to be identifiably and substantially higher than those potentially offered by the hypothetical local investor.

In April, the OIO again recommended Ministers approve the sale under the more stringent criteria. Following that, a final appeal in the Court of Appeal by a rival bidder, a New Zealand consortium led by merchant banker Michael Fay, sought to argue Pengxin did not have the necessary business acumen to run the dairy farms.

That appeal was dismissed last week. And while the two Iwi involved in the consortium said they were still interested in buying some of the farms off Pengxin, they, and Fay, have ruled out taking their case to the Supreme Court.

Que urgent debate

...Which meant the politicians responsible for the Overseas Investment Office, Williamson and Coleman, had one final chance to defend their actions on Tuesday in the face of attacks from the Opposition Labour, Green and NZ First Parties.

Following criticism from Labour's Parker over the sale (watch Parker in the video below), Williamson (video above) defended the decision to approve the sale.

He noted how the government turned down an initial Chinese bid for the farms by Natural Dairy in 2010 on good character grounds.

"But when my officials brought to me the advice about the Shanghai Pengxin bid, it's just impossible to go down the list of the criteria and not be impressed," Williamson said.

"First of all, what an incredibly successful company and companies Shanghai Pengxin is, and has run. What a number of various industries, including retail, and including construction, and agribusiness that company has run," he said.

"When I hear people like [NZ First leader] Winston Peters saying, 'oh well Shanghai Pengxin doesn't have any experience of dairy farming,' well let's have a look at it: Allan Crafar did, and how did he go running the place?

"He knew how to milk a cow, and was it a successful operation? I'm not so sure," Williamson said.

"Now, I agree that the principal owner of Shanghai Pengxin may not have...washed down the udders and put on the cups. I agree with that. But he has proven that he has a very successful track record in agribusiness, along with a number of others," he said.

"Then there was the good character test. Now in many cases it's quite easy. You've got someone who's got a bit of a dodgy background, or got convictions or whatever. This was a clean slate."

Williamson then turned his attention to the High Court ruling that the OIO reassess Pengxin's bid under stricter economic benefit criteria.

"In the past...Ministers, since the Act was put in place, have always used the before and after test," Williamson said.

"That is, what would be the value of this asset before the investment was made, and what will be the value of this investment after. That's the test that David Parker used over and over again [when he was Minister of Land Information under the Clark government]," he said.

"But somehow, a High Court judge told us we were wrong. Justice Forrie Miller said, 'no, Ministers have misdirected themselves, should not use a before-and-after. They should use a with-and-without test.' That is, what is the value of the asset with this investment, and what would be the value of this asset without the investment being made?

"Now it's quite difficult to do because the 'without' is billions of combinatorics. Who knows what would happen to the asset without the investment?" Williamson said.

"It could be the best dairy farmer the world's ever seen buy it, and it might be the most flourishing set of farms ever. Or, it might be another Allan Crafar that buys it, or anything in between," he said.

Ministers and the OIO took the advice of the High Court, applied the with-and-without test, and came up with the same result.

"And after being challenged again, in the Court of Appeal, I'm delighted to say the Court of Appeal found in favour that Ministers had acted properly, and had approved the sale under the Act," Williamson said.

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38 Comments could have just as easily done a piece on the lack of teeth the Labor benches have.
 With respect to Parker, as I don't see him as a stupid man  but the word benign spings to mind in the first thirty seconds of delivery.
 The arms are repeatedly folded in a defensive posture, when he's not reaching for an itch , that is now becoming a multitask exercise along with the speech at hand.  
Honestly, if this is the future leadership of the Labor Party, even a tree hugger's going to kick thier goolies and laugh as the lay shrieking.
 Williamson is probably one of the easiest targets to debate in the house, you just need to bait him , his foot goes on auto-pilot straight into his mouth.........the Williamson's of this world never learn because the truth of anything is inconsequential, when the desired outcome remains the "truth" as he sees it.
I said it the other day , I'll say it again him or loathe him Cunliffe (don't call me Cunny) was the best chance they had to put the dog among the pigs, the Nat's must have cracked the champers when Shearer (the sharer) won the job, if in fact they were not instrumental in that particular appointment.
 This far out ...I'd have to say Three more years boys......three more years.
In the meantime , for Crisssakes shearer make sure your team are tooled up in debating skills , as that was embarrassing, I wasn';t in the house and I had to force myself to listen.....and I think I've strained something in the process....
A reverse coup would have to occur about now , or your pretty much  a goner come Nov 2014.

Hi Christov,
Good points. Williamson's the one in charge of the OIO though...
Feel free to debate the merits or lackings of Labour in the comment space :)

Yes indeed Alex ,it's always about the man with the microphone, and that is precisely why an attention diverter is required when gaining any ground is the objective......If Shearer , Parker and co want to fight the "good clean" fight, then they better learn how to kick, scratch, bite, and goolie gouge a bloody big hurry. 

But if we are objective,  Wiiliamson is right.   The Crafars couldn't run a bath......$216 million owing....amazing.
Now that the xenophobes have been knocked off their racist perch  Pengxin can get on with  creating an efficient business out of this bankrupt mess.
No me thinks the Greens are more  organised!! 

realist......"..Now that the xenophobes have been knocked off their racist perch "
That comment is anything but lacks research and qualification. 

xenophobia? couldn't be further from the truth. I was born in AKL, grew up in AKL, went to school with many of different nationalities. Consider myself non-racist. My son is married to an Italian. My partner is Italian. However, in spite of that, (as I have posted here once before) there are two mediteranean people that I will not do business with, under any circumstances, at any time, unless it is cash in advance, because I can't trust them as far as I can kick them. Will do business with chinese but dont expect to come out on top. There is a difference between who you can "sup" with and those who you can safely get into bed with.

For every loose borrower there is a loose lender.
The American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th edition ("DSM-IV") includes in its description of a phobia an "intense anxiety" which follows exposure to the "object of the phobia, either in real life or via imagination or video..." For xenophobia there are two main objects of the phobia. The first is a population group present within a society, which is not considered part of that society. Often they are recent immigrants, but xenophobia may be directed against a group which has been present for centuries. This form of xenophobia can elicit or facilitate hostile and violent reactions, such as mass expulsion of immigrants, or in the worst case, genocide.
The second form of xenophobia is primarily cultural, and the object of the phobia is cultural elements which are considered alien. All cultures are subject to external influences, but cultural xenophobia is often narrowly directed, for instance at foreign loan words in a national language. It rarely leads to aggression against persons, but can result in political campaigns for cultural or linguistic purification. Isolationism, a general aversion of foreign affairs, is not accurately described as xenophobia.
 I'm not sure opposition to the crafar farm sale is xenophobia as it is a rational matter with objection to neoliberal policies of the sort that makes the likes of the Property Council  membership richer while elevating property prices for the rest of the country. One of the advantages of being a member of a country with lots of land and a small population was that only the members of that population had the right to buy that land. Helen Clarke changed that and National (International) followed boots and all.

Well let's just have a recap then courtesy of Frankly Speaking.....
.Once upon a time, at the bottom of the world, there was a small country that prided itself on being a fair, open, and uncorrupted society.
I’m no longer sure about the last bit.
Last year, Transparency International ranked New Zealand as the #1 least corrupt nation on Earth. We ranked above Denmark (#2), Finland (#3), Sweden  (#4), Singapore (#5),  and  Norway (#6). Singapore ha ha ha!
I’m no longer certain we deserve that top ranking, either.
The further that the Sky City/Convention Centre and Crafar farm deals are  scrutinised – the stronger the odour of something unpleasant fills our nostrils.
To recap, let’s start with the Crafar farms deal with Shanghai Pengxin.
Tahi: Crafar Farms/Shanghai Pengxin/National Government
The timetime of the Crafar deal runs something like this,
5 October 2009: Crafar Farms placed into receivership, owing $216 million to creditors.
22 December 2010: Government  blocks  bid by Natural Dairy to buy the 16 Crafar farms on ‘good character’ grounds.
27 January 2011: KordaMentha accepts offer from Shanghai Pengxin International Group Ltd to buy Crafar Farms.
13 April 2011: Shanghai Pengxin lodges application with the Overseas Investment Office (OIO) to buy the Crafar farms.
26 September 2011: Crafar farms receiver KordaMentha  rejects a conditional NZ$171.5 million offer for 16 central North Island dairy farms from a group led by controversial former merchant banker Michael Fay.
27 January 2012: Government ministers approve Shanghai Pengxin’s application to purchase 16 Crafar farms.
15 February 2012:  High Court delays sale of Crafar farms to Shanghai Pengxin.
20 April 2012:  Government ministers , Land Information Minister Maurice Williamson and Associate Finance Minister Jonathan Coleman  approve the Overseas’ Investment Office’s (OIO) new recommendation to allow the sale of the 16 Crafar farms to Shanghai Pengxin.
At least, that is the version for public consumption.
Recent revelations indicate that much more was taking place behind the scenes. If we take that timeline and add the revelations that have come out in the last few months, the picture takes on a murkiness and a hint on something decidedly shady,
5 October 2009: Crafar Farms placed into receivership, owing $216 million to creditors.
2 December 2009: KIWI DAIRY CORPORATION LIMITED registered. (Then changes to ORAVIE LIMITED, 20 December 2010. Then changes to ORAVIDA LTD, 20 January 2011. Then changes to ORAVIDA NZ LIMITED, 13 May 2011. ) Shareholders: Jing Huang, Julia Jiyan Xu, and Deyi Shi.  (Source)
11 June 2010:  National Party receives $50,000.00 donation from Susan Chou. (Source)
30 July 2010:  National Party receives $150,000 donation from Susan Chou. (Source)
18 November 2010: MILK NEW ZEALAND CORPORATION LIMITED* registered. Directors: Terry Lee and Jiang Zhaobai. (Source)
22 December 2010: Government  blocks  bid by Natural Dairy to buy the 16 Crafar farms on ‘good character’ grounds.
27 January 2011: KordaMentha accepts offer from Shanghai Pengxin International Group Ltd  to buy Crafar Farms.
31 May 2011: National Party receives $100,000 donation from Susan Chou.(Source)
22 July 2011:  ORAVIDA LTD registered. Shareholders: Jing Huang, Julia Jiyan Xu, and Deyi Shi(Source)
27 July 2011:  ORAVIDA PROPERTY LTD changes name to  KIWI DAIRY INDUSTRY LTD.  Shareholder: Deyi Shi (Source)
13 April 2011: Shanghai Pengxin lodges application with the Overseas Investment Office (OIO) to buy the Crafar farms.
26 September 2011: Crafar farms receiver KordaMentha  rejects a conditional NZ$171.5 million offer for 16 central North Island dairy farms from a group led by controversial former merchant banker Michael Fay.
22 November 2011: National Party receives $50,0000 donation from Citi Financial Group. Shareholders: Yan Yang and Qiang Wei. (Source) (Source)
22 November 2011: National Party receives $1,600 from Oravida NZ.(Source) (Source)
26 November 2011:  NZ General Election
30 November 2011: National Party receives further $55,000 donation  from Oravida NZ. (Source) (Source)
27 January 2012: Government ministers approve Shanghai Pengxin’s application to purchase 16 Crafar farms.
15 February 2012:  High Court delays sale of Crafar farms to Shanghai Pengxin.
20 April 2012:  Government ministers , Land Information Minister Maurice Williamson and Associate Finance Minister Jonathan Coleman  approve the Overseas’ Investment Office’s (OIO) new recommendation to allow the sale of the 16 Crafar farms to Shanghai Pengxin.
*   “Milk New Zealand Holding Limited”  is the official applicant and purchaser of the 16 Crafar farms. It is supposedly a subsidiary of Shanghai Pengxin,

“ Applicant
3. The Applicant is Milk New Zealand Holding Limited (“the Applicant”), a Hong Kong incorporated company which is an overseas person under the Act.
4. The Applicant will register as an overseas company under the New Zealand Companies Act 1993 prior to acquiring the Investment. The Applicant does not have any current interests in New Zealand as at the date of this Application.1
1 The 99% ultimate owner of the Applicant, Zhaobai Jiang, has a [redacted]% interest in a company ([redacted*])that has applied for consent to acquire development land at [redacted] . No decision has yet been made on this application.” – Source

(*Note: Despite OIO redacting the second company, this blogger has  found that it is actually “NATURE PURE LIMITED“.  Terry Lee and Zhaobai Jiang are both listed as Directors.)
Despite numerous company name changes; newly registered companies; and a lengthy trail of shareholders, the one link that does stand out between Shanghai Pengxin and financial donations to the National Party is Terry Lee.
Mr Lee, along with Deyi Shi and  Xing Hong, registered KIWI DAIRY CORPORATION LIMITED on 2 December 2009, which, after several name changes, ended up as ORAVIDA NZ LIMITED  on 13 May 2011. Xing Hong was also a one time Director of ORAVIDA NZ LIMITED and ORAVIDA PROPERTY LIMITED.
Deyi Shi is still a current Director of both  ORAVIDA NZ LIMITED and ORAVIDA PROPERTY LIMITED.
On 22 and 30 November, 2011, the National Government received donations totalling $56,600 from Oravida NZ Ltd.
A further $300,000 was donated to National by Auckland businesswoman, Susan Chou, who, through her husband Zhaowu Shen, had a connection with Jack Chen and NZ Natural Dairy Ltd – the first unsuccessful attempt by Chinese investors to gain control of the Crafar farms.
Two months later, on 27 January 2012, National approved the sale of 16 Crafar farms to Shanghai Pengxin subsidiary, Milk New Zealand Holding Limited.
Readers are invited to draw their own conclusions from the facts presented.

Sources & References
OIO:  Decision required under the Overseas Investment Act 2005: Milk New Zealand
Holding Limited
CAFCA:  December 2010 decisions
NZ Companies Office
Elections NZ: Returns of party donations exceeding $30,000
Elections NZ: Returns of party donations exceeding $20,000
Adam Bennett, NZ Herald: Chinese cash flows to Nats
Adam Bennett, NZ Herald: China link to Nats’ $200,000
 Thanks Frankly Speaking.....My overview...?
There is no doubt money talks in the interests of money....I have my doubts N.Z. inc will benifit from those interests in the longer game...
The connections Jiang Zhaobai has within the Chinese politic appear to be the main driver to find favour......a bit of reverse teat sucking by some eager infants.

Duly noted. Excellent work.

Not my work iconoclast....all there on Frankly's website, so no cred to me on that , but the overview is mine. 

Thanks anyway .. I would never have noticed it otherwise .. how about doing a socratic comparison of that with a teapot. If I remember correctly, when wind of the crafar farm aninal cruelty saga first arose, your favourite scribe got out from behind his keyboard, jumped in his motorcar and moseyed on down for a lookee see and did a full rant on it. 

Yes  indeed iconclast he did, and let poor old Brian Spondre take the about stealing the limelight eh...?

Last time this was reported there was a sideline mentioned of the link between this sale and its relation to the value of other farms in New Zealand. This of course being a matter the court had to consider. If I was as diligent as you Count, I would find the ruling and review the detail :-P
This whole thing could be viewed as being engineered so the banks don't take a hit through the devaluation of farms they have an interest in. 

Could be scarfie, but I suspect trade with our new best friends was going to take a hit to the mid-section if  no favour was found for Pengxin. The main Man is the Key in all this, he can open doors and close em at bullied...? no...aprehensive and wanting to please ....Yes. 

Cheers Ostrich.....The piece was a cut n paste....I felt it was the best timeline encapsulation I had  read....and so put it up here.
 I'll go have a lookie see at the Zendai Property , should be interesting to say the least. 

Dont stop there. Who is Susan Chou? (Suzhen Zhao)? .. what does she do? .. that's a lot of loot to throw around .. two names ... two passports? .. Buckland Beach must be the Majorca of NZ.

Here you go iconoclast from 2010 a short historical on Susan Chou.......plenty there for you to follow up if you wish .......My connections with the Chinese community go back to the Old Vangard of Tom Ahchee and the Yee boys....whole new ball game in town on the Chinese business community interests and influence.

Small world .. I went right through school with Mervyn AhChee .. but where is the historical?

Well ya have to follow up on that iconoclast, there's is enough there between her n hubby to make a good eyballs are to bursting point from running down everything I could read on  Zhaobai Jiang , and still I might let you chase that alley way.

Christov: there is a direct connection between May Wang .. Jack Chen .. Zhaowu Shen .. and Susan Chou

Well bugger me eh....?

Let's get it in the public arena - this is starting to make Winston look like a Saint.

The internet is a real bugger isn't it. Here you go.
Tried to get some background on Zhaowu Shen and his wife Susan Chou. Not much background material available as to who they are, when and where they arose from. Zhaowu Shen is quite a moneyed philanthropist with connections to real estate in Remuera.
Most of the search results on Zhaowu Shen produce articles about Pansy Wong persuading Jack Chen and the Chinese Business Round Table to hook up with Zhaowu Shen. And Jack Chen is tied up with May Wang and NZ Dairy Holdings etc etc.
The question is - Who's money is it - is it clean? Are Shen and Chou simply conduits?
Try anglicising Zhaowu Shen and what do you get?
First cut comes up with Jake Chen. Brothers? Relatives?

Here's a little bit of updated outlook info on the Main player in Pengxin......
If I read it right , Fay and co might get a buy back at a better price if they can hang in there so to speak.....Huh..! Fay...dear me it's come to this, shake hands with the Devil and beg for your soul back.....I dunno , you know.

Good work for posting this info Christov - I had done some research previously and had joined many of the dots.  The trouble is there seems little that anyone can do about it.

I could criticise Saddam Hussein, but would that justify Hitler?

Chris-M may want to have another go at the's not a winner..!
Saddam used to be everybody's best freind , till he became an inconvenient interruption to proceedings and supply.....did they ever find those neuc's or was it eunuch's they were looking for...?

I just wonder how Williamson could ever have opposed the Penqxin bid knowing the recent demographics of his Pakuranga electorate.

Put Alan Crafar in charge of the National Roads Board.  He ran a successful business, just had to do a little borrowing to make it work, and.......................

ha Ha...nice one there's a pot kettle thingy.

Right on KH - Minister Williamson and all Politicians can't run the country without debt. In this instance Williamson has been highly critical of something he obviously has no knowledge about. If he thinks dairy farmers expertise is in cupping and uncuppling cows from the milking machines then he is thicker than I could ever have imagined. 
If Williamson thinks Crafar lacked expertise because of his financial situation then holy-cow the whole of the Beehive must surely suffer the same problem.  It's definately the pot calling the kettle black.

I sometimes wonder whether politicians spend their lives pulling the wool over our eyes, or they spend their lives having the wool pulled over their eyes.

Latter.....I think they have to be so thick skinned to stand the abuse that in turn they cant take in anything that might challenge their ideals.

There is a plethora of information that has not come out in regards to the Crafar farms.
Firstly my understanding is that the Crafars owned 22 dairy farms at the start of this fiasco. As the Chinese deal is for 16 Farms - What has happened to the other 6 farms, have they been sold?
Debt levels that are bandied around always mention the same amount of debt yet if 6 farms have been sold the total debt level would have been reduced by the sale of the 6 farms. 
I have not read one article in the mainstream media on the value of the land, value of the stock, value of the shares, value of the plant, milking capacity achieved, etc.  Did the Crafar farms value compare with Local, Regional and National values for similar sized milking platforms?
Was the sale agreement of the Crafar farms to the Chinese exactly the same as the NZ led consortium?  Is the sale for land only, or is it land, stock, plant, shares (Fonterra etc)?
I have always wondered why the Crafar farms were not put on the NZ market as individual farms and was surprised to read an article that stated the farms were advertised for sale  internationally as one holding or could be purchased individually. In other words foreigners had the opportunity to buy a farm seperately but a kiwi buyer oculd not.  It appears the latter breaches legislative requirements.
Everyone deserves to get the best price for anything they sell and the receivers have a right to do this as well but my concern here is that apples are not being compared with apples.

What are the chances that the other 6 farms (if a fact) would have been sold off and the remaining 16 take the losses from sale so that it was completely untenable to recover the balance owing plus interest accrued by the delay.
There was also some indication earlier that the 16 farms were offered as individual separate units on the international market (was that Singapore?) but no similar offer was available in NZ. I think that was revealed on this forum as I recall.  If this was true then the possibility to sell to any other investor was rather cramped if  not illegal in some way. Does anyone know if the above is true?

Notaneconomist some of the farms would have had a value well below the average for the district. The Crafars were well known for their dairy conversions being extremely below par. They cut many corners. The chinese have bought some rather rubbish farms. Most are in summer dry areas. One of the problems they faced was rapidly expanding by buying up farms here there and everywhere, at the same time have several very dry seasons, and a significant drop in payout.
They also bought whats termed budget cows. Budget cows do budget production.
As for the missing farms, May Wang bought 4,  I think Crafars sold them before the recievership, not sure on that, she now has to  resell them.   Also there were another 2, that maybe were owned by Crafars son. They were a forced sale I think.
 I will give you an example of how they cut corners. They didnt have gates. Yep. The workers had to pin down the hot wires, and the cows had to walk over them. Lol, if there was good power going through, the girls wouldnt like that. But because it is such a stupid idea, ie noone can be bothered lifting them up again, you end up with no power anywhere....then you have cows everywhere. CRAZY

Belle - thanks for your reply.  Found the below info in stuff news today.
So at least I know where 4 of the farms have gone, not sure who would have got the money though as I understand it wasn't the Crafars. I assume the other 2 farms were sheep and beef and or dry stock as they haven't been mentioned in the dairy mix. 
Something seems to be very wrong in the valuations/debt/production figures if using regional or national figures.

Anyone smell a rat? Govt place caveats on Crafar farms
"The Goverment has moved to protect the sale of the Crafar farms in the central North Island to a Chinese buyer by placing caveats on the properties.
In an unusual move, the Registrar-General of Land has placed caveats on the Crafar farms' land titles "for the prevention of fraud or improper dealing".
That would prevent any transfer of the titles or registration of any interests such as a mortgage, lease or other encumbrance on them, without the permission of the registrar-general or an order of the High Court.
The farms' receiver Brendon Gibson of KordaMentha said he had requested the caveats be put in place to prevent any interference in the sales process"