AUCKLAND: American singer Shania Twain's reported interest in buying high
country property in New Zealand has upset outdoor groups who fear the sale could
jeopardise access to climbers, hikers, cyclists and campers.
Twain (pictured right), who lives in Switzerland
with her producer husband and their baby, is reported to have offered 16 million
NZ dollars (nine million US) for the 17,000 hectare (42,000-acre) Motatapu
Station near Lake Wanaka, the New Zealand Herald said Saturday.
If confirmed, the price would be four times the
government valuation for the land which is mostly pastoral lease.
Groups advocating greater public access to
South Island high country lease lands are worried that if Twain - who sold 34
million copies of her album Come On Over - pays such a high price for the
property, it will affect government negotiations for similar reserves and access
The government's Overseas Investment Commission
must approve a sale if the property is more than five hectares and worth more
than 10 million NZ dollars.
Commission chief executive Stephen Dawe said a
buyer would have to show the investment was a "substantial and identifiable
benefit" to New Zealand.
"It can't just be used as a place to come and
stay," he said.
Wanaka real estate firm
Harcourts' agent Geoff Kerr said there was a
conditional agreement on the property but would not say whether Twain was the
Harcourts refused to confirm whether the singer
had made the offer when asked by AFP.
The station is regarded as an unspoiled spot
for the sparsely populated central Otago region in the far south of the South
Island, of interest to climbers, campers, mountain bikers and hikers.
Mike Floate, of the Federation of Mountain
Clubs, said he would be concerned about public access if the sale went ahead.
"Sometimes overseas owners do not understand
the Kiwi tradition of allowing public access to beautiful places on their land,"
he said. - AFP