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What next?: Saudi sheep abattoir construction complete

Benedict Collins, Political Reporter

New Zealand Trade and Enterprise (NZTE) is waiting for approval from the Saudi government before it ships an abattoir to a wealthy Saudi businessman.

Photo: RNZ Cosmo Kentish-Barnes

The abattoir is part of a plan by the former National government to secure a free trade deal with the Gulf States.

Dubbed the Saudi sheep scandal, the former government built Sheik Hmood Al-Khalaf an agrihub in the Saudi desert and gave him $4 million in cash.

It also flew 900 heavily pregnant sheep to his farm in the desert where many of the lambs immediately died.

In 2015, it also began building Mr Al-Khalaf a $2.5m abattoir, hoping the gifts would stop him blocking the trade deal.

NZTE spokesperson Andy Cameron said the abattoir was now complete and officials were waiting for installation permits to be issued by Saudi authorities.

Mr Al-Khalaf was annoyed after the previous Labour government banned live sheep exports after thousands of Australian sheep died aboard one of his ships.

This week, another of Mr Al-Khalaf's ships was prevented from leaving Australia after thousands of sheep died aboard the vessel on a voyage last year.

New Zealand has not signed a free trade agreement with the Gulf States.

When the former National government announced the Saudi agrihub, it claimed it would showcase New Zealand's agricultural expertise.

But it appears New Zealand now has little to do with the agrihub.

NZTE said the most recent visit by embassy officials was in December 2017.

Before that, NZTE said an official also visited Saudi Arabia in late 2016 and "and received positive indications from the local authorities about construction of the abattoir".

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