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Liquidators seek buyer for Taratahi training centre farms

Taratahi Training Centre. PHOTO/FILE

Board affairs looked into

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Liquidators of Taratahi Agriculture Training Centre, Wairarapa are looking for a buyer for the farms and buildings with the aim of paying creditors, of which more than $15 million is owed to unsecured creditors.

The liquidator’s bill also needs paying.

The cost for Grant Thornton’s services was $295,057 from February 6 to August 5 this year.

The fourth report published in September also showed as at August 5, the liquidators were owed an additional $421,934.

At the time of the report, the liquidator had received 254 unsecured creditor’s claims totalling $15,247,828. The sale of some excess property plant and equipment brought in $32,817.

Grant Thornton’s proposal for completing the liquidation to make a distribution to secured and unsecured creditors and preferential claims is to, “realise the value of the Wairarapa campus and home dairy farm”.

“We continue to negotiate with education providers and navigate legal implications of any land sale under the Taratahi Act.”

The Taratahi Act requires any sale of land to be to an education provider.

The land was gifted to the government about 100 years ago to help returning World War I soldiers gain farming skills. The Agriculture Minister must sign off on any sale.

“There will be no approval of sale given for any purposes other than education,” Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor said.

Until a buyer is found, the three farms are continuing to run for the 2020/21 season.

The training centre went into liquidation on December 19, 2018.

The private training company ran eight farms around New Zealand, had 250 staff, and more than 2000 students. But it gathered debt and student roles had been dropping at the time of liquidation.

Liquidator David Ruscoe said he was continuing to investigate the affairs of the board and its officers in the period before its appointment.

It is also investigating “any further avenues of recovery available to the trust board”.

On July 20, after it being closed for two years, O’Connor announced the reopening of the training centre and a cash injection.

The government committed to spending $1.2 million on a new agricultural training programme at Taratahi to train 1000 people, including providing ‘wrap-around’ job placement support.

“A lot of hours have been put in by a lot of people to get us to where we are today, I’m absolutely thrilled,” O’Connor said.

“Taratahi’s liquidation left a large gap in agricultural education in this country.”

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