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Philip Morris CEO Calantzopoulos buys Northland farm

Philip Morris CEO Calantzopoulos buys Northland sheep and beef farm

By Pattrick Smellie

June 30 (BusinessDesk) - The chief executive of global cigarette company Philip Morris, Andreas Calantzopoulos, has been granted Overseas Investment Office permission to buy a 316-hectare beef and cattle farm in Waipapa, Northland.

The property is on Pungaere Road, which runs between Kerikeri and the Puketi Forest, placing it well within the electorate of the local MP and New Zealand First leader, Winston Peters, both an ardent critic of land sales to foreign buyers and for many years an ardent tobacco consumer.

The OIO decision, which requires both a good character judgement and proof of plans to add value beyond what a New Zealand owner might add, says the Lausanne, Switzerland-based Calantzapolous and his wife Malgoratza plan to "farm the land in accordance with permaculture principles for breeding beef cattle and sheep".

They would protect "two significant areas of indigenous forest" under covenant with the Queen Elizabeth II Trust, fence other areas of indigenous vegetation, and undertake native plantings and pest control on the property, through which the Kerikeri River flows. A predator-free corridor will be established from the property to the Puketi Forest, which includes stands of mature kauri.

These plans were in accordance with the government's Predator-Free Policy and Kiwi Recovery Plan. Walking access across the property and by the river will also be established.

The value of the sale by a trust associated with the New Zealand owners, the Bonham family, which is listed in corporate directories as having farming interests in both Northland and the South Island, is not disclosed.

Calantzopoulos is at the forefront of the cigarette giant's efforts to introduce alternatives to cigarettes.

“I believe there will come a moment in time where I would say we have sufficient adoption of these alternative products…to start envisaging, together with governments, a phase-out period for cigarettes,” he said in an interview with the BBC in December. “I hope this time will come soon.”

While the World Health Organisation estimates that tobacco accounts for around six million deaths each year around the world, Philip Morris believes its electronic alternatives are less harmful to health than both conventional cigarettes and vaporisers. Its IQOS heats tobacco into a vapour, whereas most e-cigarettes are loaded with a liquid.

While legal in more than a dozen countries, the IQOS system has yet to be licenced for use in New Zealand. A preliminary launch of the product here saw the Ministry of Health lay charges against Philip Morris. The case was postponed to early September in a District Court decision earlier this month.

The company's name has also been caught up in controversy by virtue of disgraced National Party MP Todd Barclay's having worked as a lobbyist for Philip Morris prior to his election as the current Parliament's youngest MP in 2014. Barclay last week announced his retirement from Parliament at the Sept. 23 election over disclosures that he had secretly taped an electorate office employee with whom his working relationship was deteriorating.

The affair dragged in the former Clutha-Southland MP, now Prime Minister, Bill English. The National Party today announced the reopening of the Clutha-Southland electorate nomination process. Chris Bishop, also a National Party MP, is also a former Philip Morris lobbyist.


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