Those who opposed the Crafar farm sale should apologise

Remember all those politicians in Labour, Greens and NZ First who spent over a year demonising the sale of the farms, because it was to those nasty foreigners.

Well read this story at Stuff:

Pengxin has bankrolled the Collins Rd farm resurrection for $1.72 million and counting.

Colebourn and his five staff have supplied the brains and brawn to turn what was by all accounts a train wreck into an operation which this season will produce 365,000kg milksolids and is  turning a profit for its owner.

So now profitable.

The Crafar farms sale to a Chinese company was controversial with public campaigns and court challenges to try to keep the properties in New Zealand hands. But Pengxin took on challenges many Kiwis may have quailed at, even if their pockets could have withstood the punishment.

Take Collins Rd for example. The 393 hectare (354ha effective) farm is 5.4km long and 1.2km wide.  The dairy shed is at one end, which means cows can walk up to 10km a day. Colebourn estimates each cow sheds 1.5kg to 2kg dry matter daily. (A second dairy is on the cards).

Most of the property is peat.  The property was once part of the former Lands and Survey’s huge Rukuhia Swamp.  Extensive drainage work in the district in the past 20 years means farms now dry out in summer.  Peat depth ranges from two feet deep to 80 feet in places.

Many paddocks needed urgent attention. Olsen fertility levels had sunk to 6 and 7 in some sample areas. The soil was very acid with the ph level down to 4.95 in places.

Pengxin has had all paddocks soil tested and the fertiliser programme has seen up to 15 tonne of lime applied to some paddocks.  Soil has now been cultivated on 65 per cent of the farm to a depth of 350mm.

Grasses are base tetraploid and “prospect”, a perennial ryegrass brand.
“Rock star grasses don’t last on peat,” he says. Total grass production has climbed from 9000kg dry matter/ha to 12,000kg dry matter/ha.

One of the company’s first jobs was to put in a $270,000 new effluent pond.  

Pengxin has taken on all animal health costs, Colebourn says. 

The property’s history was “a mass of gorse and nodding thistles with a huge number of carcasses”, he says.

Out of 184 paddocks, only seven had power.  The water system was a nightmare, he says.

“A herd at the back of the property didn’t get water until late in the day. The water was disgusting – bright orange and it tasted metallic, the high manganese content. The cows couldn’t drink it.”

Three bores have been reduced to one, 182 new water troughs have been installed, and a new filtration system treats the iron and manganese in the water. New pumps have been installed.


The farms used to be an environmental disaster with huge amounts of animal suffering. They’re now modern decent places, because the new owners were allowed to invest in them – an investment the opposition parties spent months demanding be blocked.

By the end of the year 6000 native plants have been introduced at Collins Rd, along with a smart office building and another 32km of fencing. 

Pengxin has signed an agreement with Waikato Regional Council to plant out and re-fence 900m of the Mangakotukutuku Stream, a waterway on the farm. Pengxin will contribute $25,850 to the project and the council $11,500.

Colebourn says the Collins Rd operation first showed a profit last season, with earnings before interest and tax this financial year of $542,500. Return on assets was 3.9 per cent. The goal is for a return of more than 5 per cent next year

So the waterways are better, native trees being planted, the farm is profitable, the environment is improved.

The lesson here is that decisions on land purchases should be made on the merits of each case (as was done here), rather than have a total ban which Labour, Greens and NZ First say should be the case,

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