NEW ZEALAND— The sale of four sheep and beef farms to overseas investors, who will turn about 7100 hectares into rotational forests, has been approved.

Plantation pines in Tararua districtPine plantation on a hillside (file photo) Photo: RNZ / Kate Newton

The Overseas Investment Office (OIO) has issued its latest decisions made under the special forest test.

Introduced in 2018, the test was designed to support the government’s forestry priorities, including more tree planting. Farming groups have raised concerns too much productive farmland is being lost to trees.

Furniture store IKEA’s parent company Ingka Investments is continuing to buy land to plant trees with its latest purchase, the Huiarua and Matanui Stations in the Gisborne region with a combined area of just over 6000 hectares.

Nearly 5000 hectares of the sheep and beef breeding operations will be converted into radiata pine forests.

Swiss company Corisol New Zealand Limited bought a 420ha sheep and beef farm in the Clutha District, a farm in Masteron has been purchased by Austrian company Johannes Trauttmansdorff-Weinsberg, and Italian firm Greendom Limited purchased a sheep and beef operation in Hastings for $5.2 million.

All will be turned into forestry operations.

New rules changing the assessment criteria for overseas investments that result in the conversion of farmland to production forestry came into force last month, the OIO said.

Consent applications for farm-to-forestry conversions are now considered under the general benefit to New Zealand test, rather than the more permissive special forestry test.

The new rules do not apply to transactions or applications entered into before 16 August.