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Forestry farms median price on rise

PAM GRAHAM
pam.graham@age.co.nz

An Austrian aristocrat has bought the Hadleigh farm near Masterton and the trees she will plant there will be known as Bernadette Forest.

As that emerged from an Overseas Investment Office decision, details also firmed up about a farewell function at Tui HQ in Mangatainoka on Saturday night for six, possibly seven families leaving the Tiraumea district because of farm sales, including for forest conversion.

“It was a wonderful night that went back to the way we used to be,” a person at that function said before adding that some of those leaving were fourth-generation farmers.

The people there felt forestry surrounding them.

“You see the metal trucks going past and now you see the tree planters in the shearers’ quarters.”

Another farmer who didn’t want to be named said people were “just about ready to turn the light out, out here”.

Countess Veronika Leeb-Goess-Saurau purchased the 1727ha Hadleigh-Mt Clyde farms at 1940 to 1941 Te Ore Ore Bideford Rd and 73 Stoddards Rd from Lone Star Farms, owned by Nelson-based American businessman Tom Sturgess.

She is selling Riverbend Homestead, Hadleigh Homestead, Hadleigh Cottage and the flat land on the farm, from which the Mt Clyde homestead will be moved within three years.

The Hadleigh homestead and cottage are already on the market but speculation the homestead has sold is not correct, according to the agent.

Planting of trees on the 1280ha left will start this year, with harvesting due in 2045 to 2047.

The countess will be able to claim up to $600,000 in taxpayer subsidies, according to Fairfax, and she already owns a property in northern Hawke’s Bay where trees have been planted, known as Carlsberg Forest.

Her family own forests and castles in Austria, and the is world’s largest producer of cardboard cartons made from recycled material, Mayr-Melnhof Karton AG.

The sale of Hadleigh, thought originally to be to forest investment facilitator Roger Dickie NZ, has prompted a public campaign by a lobby group 50 Shades of Green to call for research into a land conversion phenomenon that could kill rural communities in Wairarapa and elsewhere.

About 150 people attended a meeting in Masterton last week, which heard 15 families were leaving the Tiraumea area because their farms had been sold.

Real Estate Institute of New Zealand data this week confirmed something is going on.

The median price of forestry farms across the country increased by 45 per cent during the past year from $6487 per hectare to $9394 per hectare, REINZ says.

“The North Island has seen a greater impact on forestry prices than the South Island, with prices rising by 95 per cent in the North Island yet actually falling in the South Island by four per cent year-on-year,” chief executive Bindi Norwell said.

There is not enough data for a separate figure on Wairarapa or Tararua. The 50 Shades of Green group says the REINZ numbers are proof of the pudding of its claims. It wants the government to stop the blanket planting of good farmland in trees immediately, and a full and independent assessment of the long-term effect of the current government policy.

One farmer who did not want to be named said some of those opposed to forests are old-school sheep and beef farmers who just don’t like trees.

He says there is a distortion because foreign investors are not able to buy a farm but are able to buy a farmland which is going into forest.

But he argues markets are markets and if carbon markets favour forests so be it. Sheep and beef farmers just need a better market for their goods to be able to compete.