10 Apr 2024

Govt opening door for more foreigner buyers to buy farm land - Labour

7:07 am on 10 April 2024
Labour MP Damien O'connor

Labour Party spokeperson for land information Damien O'Connor is concerned by the change. Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

The Labour Party says the government is opening the door to more foreigners buying land here - with changes made to the way applications are handled.

Normally the ministers for land information and finance give the final tick of approval for any land sales through The Overseas Investment Office - including the sale of farmland for conversion to forestry.

But the government is delegating those powers to Land Information New Zealand (LINZ).

Minister for Land Information Chris Penk said the move will speed up the application process and reduce uncertainty for investors.

"These changes will help encourage overseas investment which is an important part of the government's plan to rebuild the economy so we can provide the public services that Kiwis deserve.

"LINZ already make most decisions on applications, there have been no changes to the investment criteria and ministers will still have visibility of applications as they come through.

Penk said ministers will still make decisions related to national security assessments and retain the ability to decide applications of particular public importance.

But Labour Party spokesperson for land information Damien O'Connor said the change was concerning and unnecessary.

"I believe that government's paving the way to open the doors for probably farm sales to foreigners, they seem to be prepared to do anything to balance the books and to pay for tax cuts.

"It's a major concern, we're a sovereign country, we need to ensure that we control our future and a lot of that control does depend upon ownership, ultimately."

Having been the minister, O'Connor, said the workload of reviewing land sales to overseas investors was not that high, but the work was important.

"They're often complex cases, they're not straightforward and a line call has to be made, they'll now be made by LINZ staff and sometimes that doesn't necessarily align with the best interest of the government of the day or the long term interest of New Zealand."

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