Foreign investment decisions could be fast-tracked

Finance Minister Bill English (Simon Wong/ 3 News)
Finance Minister Bill English (Simon Wong/ 3 News)

The Government is considering speeding up foreign investment decisions, but Finance Minister Bill English is giving a cast-iron guarantee the rules won't be watered down.

The Overseas Investment Office (OIO) considers whether to approve high-value and sensitive land investments from overseas buyers. It then makes a recommendation to the Government, which ultimately decides whether the sale can proceed.

The most high-profile sale currently before the OIO is the 14,000ha Lochinver Station, which China's Shanghai Pengxin wants to buy. The application has been held up for more than a year, but the Government is finally close to deciding whether it will go ahead.

"We get feedback from people who use [the OIO] that it takes a bit long, that the hurdles are pretty high," Mr English says. 

"We're not going to reduce those hurdles, but there are some issues about whether the processes take too long."

Mr English also added: "We can guarantee that the legislation won't be watered down." 

But Labour leader Andrew Little doesn't accept Mr English's assurance.

"There's always a risk with this Government when it comes to these sorts of things that they will water down the types of controls, checks and balances that New Zealanders expect us to have to preserve and protect our strategic assets and industries." 

Mr English also ruled out beefing up the OIO, saying he didn't think there was any reason to make it "more strict than it already is".

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