Read the original article here in the Otago Daily Times.
A company cultivated on a transtasman friendship continues to grow since buying an organic market garden in North Otago despite the Government slapping it with a $20,000 fine.
Organic Solutions bought 23ha organic farm Brydone Growers, at Totara, south of Oamaru, for $1.7million in 2019.
After the sale the farm name was changed to Oamaru Organics.
On the farm, the biggest organic market garden in the South Island, nearly 30 crops grow, mostly brassicas, lettuces, cabbages, potatoes and yams.
Organic Solutions director and co-founder James Porteous, of Cromwell , said he was unaware the deal had breached the Overseas Investment Act.
The Act was breached because Australian company Lanson International Holdings owned more than 46% of Organic Solutions. The majority shareholder of the Aussie company is his mate Marc Lanson, who lives in Sydney.
The rules state Australians could not have any more than a 25% share of any purchase of New Zealand land bigger than 5ha without gaining a consent first.
‘‘I didn’t know that rule and neither did my lawyer.’’
For the breach, Organic Solutions was fined $20,000.
Mr Porteous owns more than 48% of Organic Solutions.
A retrospective consent was granted stating ‘‘the breach was inadvertent, voluntarily self-reported and resulted from substandard legal advice’’.
He estimated the ‘‘oversight’’ cost Organic Solutions and its lawyer an extra $50,000 on what it would have cost if they had got a consent before the purchase.
The retrospective consent also took a long time to get across the line, including the mates travelling to Wellington to apologise to Land Information New Zealand staff.
In hindsight, he would have bought the farm in a way which did not require a consent, such as Mr Lanson owning a quarter share and New Zealanders owning the rest.
The friendship of Mr Porteous and Mr Lanson began about 30 years ago, after meeting as teenagers when studying in Japan.
‘‘Marc held my yard glass at my 21st.’’
The pair stayed in Japan to work — Mr Porteous in Tokyo for more than 20 years as an IT consultant — and both men married Japanese women.
Mr Porteous and his wife, Atsuko, returned to New Zealand in 2014 because they wanted their children — Anne (5) and Jim (3) — to experience growing up in New Zealand.
On returning, he bought a failing Thai restaurant as a going concern in the Queenstown suburb Frankton.
His mate across the Ditch lent him some working capital to run his Thai eatery.