Overseas Investment Office receives resources boost following controversial sale of Taranaki farm
The Government office which decides whether or not to allow foreigners to buy sensitive New Zealand land will receive a 25 per cent boost in staff and new enforcement powers.
The move comes as the Overseas Investment Office (OIO) faces strong criticism for allowing the sale of a Taranaki farm in 2014 to two Argentine brothers with environmental convictions after polluting a river.
The office is now under investigation.
"We are talking about a process here that is meant to be protecting new Zealanders," Labour's spokesperson for finance Grant Robertson said.
However, Prime Minister John Key announced today the Government will allow a substantial fee increase for the office, allowing an increase in staff by 25 per cent.
The extra staff will allow the office to complete more stringent checks on foreign buyers.
"The office needs to have a better way in our view, of making sure that those make undertaking to put in a walkway or whatever it might be actually fulfill those commitments," Mr Key said.
While the OIO assesses the merits of a sale, including potential buyers' character, the final approval is left with ministers.
Opposition parties believe confidence in the OIO has now disappeared.
"It's a disgrace. This is 2016. We've had a rubber stamp operation going back two and a half decades," NZ First leader Winston Peters said.
If a review shows the Argentine brothers misrepresented their application they may be forced to sell the $6 million purchase.