Exclusive: Saudi sheep farm cost taxpayers millions more than first thought

The total amount of taxpayer dollars spent to equip a Saudi Arabian farm is $4million more than previously thought, ONE News can reveal.

The cost to taxpayers is likely to be around $12 million, double the figure initially given to ONE News. Source: 1 NEWS

Initially it was thought $7.5million had been spent on sheep and farming equipment for Saudi businessman Al Ali Al Khalaf who was upset with New Zealand's live sheep export ban.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Murray McCully revised that number when he told ONE News he "thinks the total budget is about $11.5million over three years".

The figures show $4million was spent for a Saudi businessman and his expertise and for the "settlement of the long running dispute" over the export ban.

The farm gear, the 900 sheep airfreighted to the farm, a vet and three others flown to tend to sheep, cost $7.5million.

Travel costs and admin for trade and enterprise staff cost $270,000, while 300 of the sheep bought for Mr Al Khalaf were bought from his own Hawke's Bay farm and cost $45,000.

Labour Party Export Growth and Trade Spokesperson David Parker said: "It's a huge amount of money and you probably won't run this but you know pigs can't fly but sheep can? We're flying sheep around the world."

When asked if the purchases were a good deal for taxpayers, Mr McCully said: "I'd want to check the information you've got before I gave you a considered answer."

Mr Al Khalaf, who lost millions when New Zealand banned live sheep exports, also hired prominent lawyer Mai Chen to prepare a possible lawsuit against the New Zealand Government, and according to a cabinet paper he had legal advice suggesting he "pursue a claim for between $20million and $30million".

Mr McCully said he was aware that of the potential lawsuit and that the New Zealand government could "have some issues to deal" with if it didn't find a way of working with Mr Al Khalaf to create "this business opportunity".

"You might use exotic terms like sweeteners what I'd say is that we had a lose, lose scenario," he added.