The Chinese company given the go-ahead to buy the Crafar family dairy farms is now putting together a deal to sell two of them back to local Maori.
Shanghai Pengxin has got the Government's approval to buy the 16 dairy farms.
Minister of Maori Affairs, Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples told TVNZ's Marae Investigates he believes Shanghai Pengxin will sell or give back two of the farms to Maori and respect the wahi tapu in the others.
Hardie Peni, chairman of Tiroa and Tehape Trusts in the North Island, has been battling to have Maori interests in some of the Crafar Farm land recognised and was part of the Sir Michael Fay led consortium bidding to buy the farms.
Peni confirmed to Marae Investigates that documents are being drawn up between Maori Trusts and Shanghai Pengxin but said details of the deal are still under wraps.
"We are currently in discussions with Pengxin regarding Crafar farmland containing our wahi tapu," Peni said.
The trusts, which represent Tuwharetoa and Ngati Rereahu interests, have for some years been trying to buy two farms on opposite sides of State Highway 30 at Benneydale in the King Country which they claim were illegally obtained in the 1800s.
A Shanghai Pengxin representative in New Zealand, Terry Lee, confirmed to Marae Investigates that a deal is on the table but would not comment further, citing commercial confidentiality.
However, Shanghai Pengxin does say New Zealanders have nothing to fear.
"Our goal is the same. We are all going to use the land more efficiently to supply quality food to the consumers," said Ge Yu 'Fred', of Shanghai Pengxin.
Fay's consortium of investors who made a rival bid for the farms have got two legal challenges before the courts.
When ONE News contacted a spokesperson for Fay and the consortium investors they said they did not want to comment on the negotiations ahead of their hearing in the Court of Appeal in early July.
Sales a 'travesty'
While the Labour Party is welcoming the news that two farms will be returned to Kiwi ownership, it is calling the other 14 sales a "travesty".
"If farms are able to go back into New Zealand hands and this time it's in the hands of Maori, that's fantastic," said David Shearer, Labour leader.
"But what about the 14 other farms that are still not in New Zealand hands, but could well be?"
Shearer said the issue is about the Government allowing the sale to go ahead in the first place "and all of this land going to a foreign corporate interest".
Sharples' apparent change if heart
Sharples seems to have had a change of heart on the issue and is now in favour of business dealings with the Chinese.
Earlier this year Sharples was "outraged" by the Government's decision to let Shanghai Pengxin buy the farms, but he now says, "I think we've really got to change our attitude a bit to China".
Sharples said tonight he is pleased to hear that the Chinese buyers of the farms, and representatives of Maori trusts with ancestral links to two of the farms, have confirmed they are in negotiations.
"I had heard informally that discussions were taking place, and I understand that has now been confirmed," Sharples said in a statement.
"Any agreement is a matter between the parties, and the Government is not involved in negotiations. It is up to the parties to decide when and how they might release details of their agreement, and I will not be making any further comment."
Sharples has led a delegation of Maori businessmen in China where they got to see first hand a farm run by Shanghai Pengxin.
"Having just come back from China, I can say that there is mutual interest in business dealings between Maori and China," he said.
"Both sides see opportunities arising out of relationships of respect and understanding based on the shared cultural values of Maori and Chinese people.
"These enhanced relationships are something that will benefit
not just Maori, but all New Zealanders, as well as Chinese
interests wanting to do business in New Zealand," Sharples