New Zealand blocks farm purchase by Chinese firm

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Cows on New Zealand farmImage source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Chinese firm Shanghai Pengxin bought 16 dairy farms in New Zealand in 2011

New Zealand's government has blocked the $56m (£36m) purchase of a local farm by Chinese firm Shanghai Pengxin.

The government said it was not satisfied that the sale of the Lochinver farm would be of substantial benefit to the country, which is a key requirement for a big land purchase.

The surprise move comes after the body that oversees bids for sensitive assets in New Zealand had approved the sale.

There have been growing concerns about foreign land ownership in New Zealand.

Those fears were stoked after Shanghai Pengxin New Zealand, which is a unit of the Chinese parent firm Shanghai Pengxin, bought 16 dairy farms in the country in 2011.

China is New Zealand's biggest market for many dairy and meat products. Dairy products are also New Zealand's biggest export.

'Disappointed' parties

The Chinese firm said in a statement that it was "surprised and extremely disappointed with the decision and will be considering our options".

The 13,800-hectare Lochinver farm is located in North Island and is used to breed sheep, as well as cattle for beef and dairy products.

The Chinese government has encouraged its companies to look to overseas markets to meet the demands of its growing consumer class.

Stevenson Group, the company selling the farm, said it was also disappointed by the outcome after a 14-month process.

"We are unclear as to why this property is different to the many others that have been approved through the Overseas Investment Office process, given the obvious benefits both to the farm and to Stevenson Group," it said in a statement.