I see our Government has announced an ‘‘independent review’’ of the Overseas Investment Office following its 2014 approval for the sale of Onetai Station to buyers who figure in the Panama Papers. Once again the people in question were deemed to be of ‘‘good character’’ by the OIO, despite evidence to the contrary
There have been many complaints from the public over the years regarding the OIO approving sales [based on] ‘‘good character’’. And the common denominator to all the ‘‘good character’’ complaints is? The OIO has never upheld any single one of them
The reason is simple – the OIO sees its function as being a doorman (doormat would be more accurate), a facilitator for transnational corporations and other foreign applicants. Definitely not an overseer, regulator or investigator.
This role has been delegated to the OIO by successive governments headed by both major parties throughout the 40-plus years of its existence (first as the Overseas Investment Commission). It has fulfilled the role with exemplary enthusiasm. Of the few applications where Ministers have exercised their rights to make the final decision, the OIO has always argued for approval, even when the arguments for refusal are overwhelming. The most recent example of this was the 2015 refusal to allow a Chinese buyer to purchase Lochinver Station.
I say New Zealand should have a bouncer, not a doorman. But the OIO is only part of the problem of NZ’s laissez-faire foreign ‘‘investment’’ policy (which translates as ‘‘come on in and help yourselves’’). The whole regime, not just the rubber stampers, needs an overhaul and replaced by one which puts the interests of the New Zealand people first and foremost
When the Crafar Farms sale to Chinese buyers first became a major political issue, John Key said he didn’t want to see New Zealanders ‘‘become tenants in our own country’’. I rarely agree with anything Key says but I’m happy to quote him on that one. In the owner-tenant relationship, there is no doubt about who holds the upper hand. Ownership means political power. Foreign control means recolonisation, but by company this time, not country
Dion Martin Palmerston North
Onetai Station in Taranaki includes some spectacular coastal scenery.