(Updates with minister comment)
By Charlotte Greenfield
WELLINGTON, Oct 1 (Reuters) - New Zealand’s overseas investment regulator on Monday turned down an application by Tegel Group Holdings Ltd to buy land on which it planned to build a huge chicken farm in the country’s north.
Tegel, in the process of being acquired by the local unit of Philippines poultry supplier Bounty Fresh Food Inc, wants to construct a farm capable of raising 9 million chickens a year for meat in the town of Dargaville.
That would make it one of the largest chicken farms in the country, but the plans have encountered stiff opposition from the local community, worried about potential noise and pollution as well as the impact on a nearby indigenous Māori meeting and burial ground.
A Tegel spokesman told Reuters by phone that the country’s Overseas Investment Office (OIO) had told the company on Monday morning that it would turn down its request to buy the land.
Land Information Minister Eugenie Sage, who oversees the OIO and has the final say on decisions before it, said in a statement that opposition from the community meant that there was “considerable uncertainty” about whether the necessary consents to build the farm would have been granted by the regional councils.
Bounty made a NZ$437.8 million ($300 million) cash offer to acquire Tegel in April, which the New Zealand firm’s directors in June unanimously recommended shareholders to accept.
New Zealand’s economy is widely recognised for its agricultural prowess, with a clean image that makes its dairy and other produce sought after in Asian economies. (Reporting by Charlotte Greenfield Editing by Joseph Radford and Richard Pullin)