10 Nov 2010

English wanted more liberal foreign investment - papers

5:45 pm on 10 November 2010

Finance Minister Bill English initially went along with Treasury advice to gut rules protecting sensitive land from foreign ownership, papers show.

The papers detail advice from officials to the Government leading up to its decision to toughen foreign ownership rules.

In July last year, Mr English submitted a paper to Cabinet colleagues, proposing changes to foreign investment rules, largely reflecting advice from Treasury.

They included removing the requirement that foreign buyers of land show substantial and identifiable benefit to the New Zealand economy.

Mr English later submitted Cabinet papers recommending greater protections for sensitive land.

The Treasury said the extra protections, which allow ministers to consider if the large-scale sale of farmland is in New Zealand's economic interests, have not increased certainty for foreign investors and could be open to legal challenge.