OIO increases fees to hire more staff

OIO increases fees to hire more staff

Hikes in Overseas Investment Office fees will go to helping hire more staff and making the process faster, Land Information Minister Louise Upston says.

From Monday, there will be between an 8.7 percent and 166 percent increase depending on the application fee types in a new restructure.

Ms Upston says the higher fees will mean the OIO, which approves applications from foreigners to buy sensitive land, can hire up to 30 percent more staff which will help cut down delays.

"The fees structure is changing to simplify the application types, and better match fees for different application classes with their screening and monitoring costs," Ms Upston says.

"The overall effect of these changes will be to ensure that New Zealand's economic interests are adequately safeguarded while the compliance costs associated with overseas investment applications are reduced."

Another range of changes looking at targeted exemptions to the investment screening regime will come in from December.

Meanwhile, the Auditor-General is to examine how the OIO collects and manages information following a request from parliament's finance and expenditure committee.

In her notes accompanying the plan, Controller and Auditor-General Lyn Provost says the study would take precedence over work on monitoring tertiary education organisations, which has been deferred for a year.

It will examine how well the OIO conducts the approvals process, including the principles it applies to assessing applications and the advice it gives about those assessments.

It will also look at the consistency and quality of its decisions, and the monitoring once consent has been granted.

The office has come under heavy fire in recent months over the length of time it takes to make decisions and the quality of the information it provides.

In April it emerged that the Argentinian owners of a 1317-hectare farm in Taranaki had passed the good character test when the sale was approved in 2014, despite having a conviction for polluting a river.

Ministers said they had not received that information when they signed off the deal.

An independent review by Wellington QC Peter McKenzie into the good character test found there were no major flaws in the system, which Labour Party described as a "whitewash".

Newshub. / NZN