'Just another flip-flop': Green MP Eugenie Sage under fire over foreign land sales

Green MP Eugenie Sage has come under fire over approvals she's given to foreign buyers of New Zealand land.

National's Land Information spokesperson David Bennett says he "welcomes signs" that Ms Sage is "backing away from her Green Party's anti-foreign rhetoric".

He said in a statement on Tuesday that Ms Sage, Minister for Land Information, has approved around 99 percent of foreign investment applications to purchase land in New Zealand.

Foreign investors applied to purchase almost 60,000 hectares of New Zealand land between November 1 last year and July 26 this year, he says, and Ms Sage approved all but 30 hectares.

While Mr Bennett says he welcomes Ms Sage's approval of the land sales for "economic" reasons, he noted the hypocrisy over the Green Party's traditional stance against overseas companies consuming New Zealand's resources. 

"This is just another flip-flop for a Minister who has struggled to represent the Greens' position while holding down her portfolios," he said.

But Ms Sage told TVNZ most of the land she approved related to the sale of Mount White Station, a sheep and beef farm in Canterbury. She said the Czech buyer already had New Zealand residency and his children were Kiwis.

Mr Bennett pointed to hypocrisy over uproar earlier this year when the Government granted Chinese-owned Creswell NZ Ltd permission to buy rural land near Whakatane to expand the Otakiri Springs bottling plant.

"This is not a decision that aligns with Green Party kaupapa and policy," said Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson at the time, but Ms Sage said she "was constrained by the law".

The Greens then faced additional backlash when the party called for a review into water extraction rights of overseas land buyers, which National questioned because the Government had already authorised the sale of the land to Creswell NZ.

Ms Sage said the Greens were "now aware that the changes must be made through the Overseas Investment Act so that we don't have to make these decisions further down the track," and changes to the Act are expected by 2020.

Former Green MP Sue Bradford likened Ms Sage's approvals of land purchases to "rubber-stamping". She told RNZ the Green Party and Ms Sage's roles are "meaningless".

"You'd think that either [the Greens would] move their person out of the role or they'd negotiate a damn sight harder with their coalition partners about changing policy on it," said Ms Bradford.

Mr Bennett says international investment plays a key role in New Zealand's economy and is "crucial to creating jobs for Kiwis across the country".

He called on the Government to recognise "the importance of foreign investment and the value of the wider benefits it brings to our economy."

The Bill to put in place the Government's policy of banning overseas buyers from purchasing existing homes passed its third and final reading in August - a move National opposed.