Ex-forests earmarked for farms

By Laura Mills

Ngai Tahu Holdings intends investing $110 million over the next three years developing rural land in the South Island, possibly including turning unproductive forestry blocks in South Westland into farmland.
The plan was revealed today with the release of the Te Runanga o Ngai Tahu Group annual result.
Ngai Tahu Holdings chairman Trevor Burt said most of the land it wanted to develop was old forestry blocks in Canterbury and North Canterbury.
“We are doing some investigation work around the West Coast. We do own land there, but it’s early stages.”
On the West Coast, Ngai Tahu owns the majority of the former Timberlands West Coast forest blocks as far south as Hari Hari.
It was too early to say if dairy farms were the most likely scenario, but Mr Burt noted how well dairying was going with Ngai Tahu-owned farm trials on the east coast.
Any development would have to meet the value set of the iwi, and it wanted to balance environmental and commercial aspects “especially on the West Coast”.
Te Runanga o Ngai Tahu kaiwhakahaere (chairman) Mark Solomon said it had been another excellent performance by the holdings corporation, the investment arm of the iwi, allowing for increased dividends to invest in its people.
It reported a group net operating surplus of $51m, total profit of $226m, and an increase in shareholder equity of $219m to $877m after a distribution of $28.25m.
Mr Burt noted the “rise and rise” of Ryman Healthcare, the significant progress being made on residential developments and Ngai Tahu Seafood delivering its fourth consecutive record result.
“It was a tough year, however, for Ngai Tahu Tourism who found themselves battling the elements with Franz Josef Glacier retreating and weather conditions in Queenstown causing disruptions at Shotover on two busiest weeks of the year.
“The great news is that the forecast for tourism is looking much improved for the foreseeable future and we remain firmly committed to the industry.”