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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 38, Number 25. 2nd October 1975

Koiro Farms Ltd

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Koiro Farms Ltd

On August 16th 1972 the Auckland Herald printed an article that revealed the sale of yet another large tract of valuable New Zealand farm land to U.S. interests. It was believed, although it has never been revealed, that the 5666 acres of land called Koiro Farms. Ltd. near Aukopae, Taumaranui, on the Wanganui River, sold to an American stud dealer for half a million dollars. Dave and Joan Canning the purchasers of the co. Koiro Farms Ltd. have some of the largest Aberdeen Angus cattle studs in the U.S. as well as having properties in Canada and Indonesia.

First reports about Koiro revealed that the Cannings were considering the possibility of using the property to attract U.S. tourists to New Zealand and were planning to establish a high grade airfield for quick and easy access onto and off the property. Recently however the Cannings prefer to stress that they are using the Koiro land to breed Brangus cattle (using imported Brahman semen and crossing it with Angus heifers), an activity that is more in line with New Zealand land use laws, than the using of valuable farmland for leisure purposes.

The part of Koiro which is now known as Cameron's Bluff was once the kainga of 500 Maoris (Wainui-a-Rua tribe) until shortly after the turn of the century. In 1912 Koiro was purchased from the Maori by Mr Hope Gibbons, a Wellington businessman, financier and entrepreneur. The then scrub covered land was turned to a highly productive sheep and cattle unit. Koiro was later managed by Gibbon's son, a Mr. F.N. Gibbons who is managing director of Selwyn Motors in Palmerston North. It was sold to U.S. interests in the form of a company on July 1st 1972.

Legally the sale of Koiro land to overseas interests should never have been permitted. The Land Settlement Promotion and Land Acquisition Act 1952 (Section 35 B) does not permit the sale of any tract of New Zealand land larger than 5 acres to any overseas corporation. (The District Land Registrar or the Registry of Deeds shall not register any dealing......to give affect to any contract.....for the sale or transfer of any freehold estate in any case where.......the purchaser of lessee is an overseas corporation.' An overseas corporation is defined in section 35 (a) as a company in which more than 25% of the shares are held by persons who are not New Zealand citizens. The Cannings are not N.Z. citizens nor do they reside continually in N.Z. In effect Dave Canning could be described as an absentee millionaire landlord of property that according to the spirit of the Land Settlement Promotion and Land Acquisition Act he should never have been permitted to acquire. In fact the sale of Koiro proceeded after special permission had been given by the New Zealand Government, in particular the then Minister of Lands, Mr Duncan McIntyre and Minister of Finance, Rob Muldoon. According to the Land Settlement Promotion and Land Acquisition Act tracts of New Zealand land are permitted to be sold to overseas corporations under a loophole clause that says 'provided this sale would be of benefit to N.Z. agriculture in general'. However, permission is still needed by government before the sale can proceed. Duncan Mclntyre answering queries in Parliament as to why the government had permitted the sale of this land to overseas interests stated that the "purchasers were planning to breed a brand of cattle that was not bred in N.Z. but for which there were already overseas markets". However, Duncan Mclntyre's 'reasons' for permitting the sale had not been founded on fact. The Cannings were planning to breed 'Brangus' cattle but it was later revealed by the M.P. for Marlborough that Brahman semen had been easily available on deep freeze to New Zealand cattle breeders for two or three years already. Earlier, Mclntyre had falsely stated that Brahman semen for the breeding of Brangus was not available in N.Z. Brangus cattle at the time of the Koiro sale had certainly not been bred in New Zealand, solely because it had not been possible. Evidence shows that Duncan Mclntyre could not have seriously believed the sale of this land to be 'beneficial to N.Z.ers in general'. In fact like the Takaro Lodge and El Rancho Poronui deals, Koiro is yet another example of Duncan Mclntyre's little publicised preferential treatment of American millionaires.

Photo of men wearing cowboy hats

Buyers and 'ranch' hands at a recent Koiro saleday.

The N.Z. Deerstalkers Association has been highly critical of this loophole clause in The Land Settlement Promotion and Land Acquisition Act. In submissions to the Lands and Agriculture Select Committee J.B. Henderson said on the subject of the sale of Koiro: 'Once again none of the criteria of the Act were satisfied by this transaction except the said Section 35c (d) which is the special dispensation (loophole) clause whereby the Ministers of Lands and Finance arbitrarily deny a particular case (e.g. Koiro) a hearing in Court but decide to approve it themselves against which decision there is no right of appeal'. The submissions urged that all cases (whereby N.Z. land is to be sold to overseas interests) go to court, and that if the Ministers of Lands and Finance wish to make out a special case they be represented at the hearing.

As at July 1975 the Cannings were operating a 250 cow pedigree breeding herd that they were 'hoping to build into one of the world finest.' During July 1975 a two day stock sale was held at Koiro and attended by international buyers. The first day of the two day sale consisted of an 'at home' and afterwards a buffet dinner and cocktails at the Taumaranui Hotel for more than 250 people. The Taranaki Daily News probably in a quandry as to whether or not to put their article in the social pages or under farming news, estimated that the dinner would have cost the Cannings several thousand dollars. The article, entitled 'A Cocktail Party Before the Bids Begin to Elow' was concluded 'There is little doubt that Dave Cannings' American salesmanship paid off. Who could resist reaching for their cheque book after being wined and dined so lavishly?' It is doubtful whether many N.Z.ers reached for their cheque books. The top prices at the sale were paid by Australians ($3200 and $2000 for the progeny of Koiro's pedigree Angus sire 'Massive'). Two year old bulls averaged $2600 a head, yearling heifers $1591 a head and 60 head of cattle sold at an average $880 a head. The Cannings' 'at home' paid off by $53000.

Canning is unabashed by his activities in New Zealand. He said 'I am not as young as I was and I aim to get much more fun out of my stud dealings in future years. But make no mistake about it. I am in the business to make money.' When asked why he had decided to come to N.Z. Canning's reply had little if anything to do with the 'benefit to N.Z. agriculture in general' aspect that Mclntyre had used to justify his actions in allowing the sale of Koiro land to overseas interests. Canning said The King Country has terrific pasture growth, and a bountiful supply of grass... Why man, the quality of pasture available here tends to fatten cattle almost as fast as feedlots do back home'. Other attractions for the Cannings were, he said, 'N.Z.'s slow tempo of life and the fact that pollution was not a menace here.'

Koiro is managed by American Bob Bohlen, during the frequent periods that the Cannings are out of New Zealand. Bohlen is the Senior Vice President of the Premier Beef Corporation of America which has a pedigree Angus herd of 3000 and a substantial Brangus breeding programme. Bohlen is on record as saying he would like to see New Zealand export live beef to Japan.

Just how much benefit Koiro Farms Ltd. is to New Zealand agriculture remains the key question. There can be no doubt as to the negligible financial benefit. Money made by the Cannings from the pockets of New Zealand stock breeders will go into U.S. coffers, probably only a drop in Canning's multimillionaire bucket anyway. Brangus cattle are not popular in New Zealand. The Brahman is a breed more suited to tropical conditions and many farmers are of the impression that the Brahman Angus (Brangus) cross that Canning is breeding on Koiro is not applicable to New Zealand conditions. It is more likely that Canning is breeding Brangus at Koiro to sell to Indonesia, where he has extensive interests. Further, there is some doubt as to whether Canning is principally breeding Brangus at Koiro at all. The Brangus breeding could have been an invention to get round the legislation that disallows N.Z. land to be sold to overseas corporations. Either way Canning's ownership of Koiro is illegal in that he does not reside permanently in New Zealand, and in that there has been no conclusive evidence to show that his farming activities here are in any way beneficial to New Zealand agriculture.