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English adds two new benefit tests to OIA

Monday 27th September 2010

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Finance Minister Bill English has added two new benefit tests to the Overseas Investment Act to let ministers take a broader view when deciding whether to let foreign interests buy New Zealand assets.

English said ministers will be able to consider whether the nation's wider economic interests are adequately safeguarded, and introduced a "mitigating" factor which will let ministers consider whether an investment opens opportunities for New Zealand involvement. The government will keep the strategic asset test.

The measures "increase ministerial flexibility to consider a wide range of issues when assessing overseas investment in sensitive land, while at the same time they provide extra clarity and certainty for potential investors and the Overseas Investment Office," English said in a statement.

"It's important that we welcome beneficial foreign investment and recognise the positive contribution it makes to New Zealand through increased jobs, capital and access to export markets," he said.

The government has come under increasing pressure as Hong Kong-based investment company Natural Dairy (NZ) Holdings looks to buy the Crafar family farms, sparking calls for different rules around the sale of farmland to foreign investors.

The changes will come into effect in December, and won't be enacted retrospectively, so the Natural Dairy bid will be exempt.

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