EE-EYE-OH-EYE-OH

The Tribune (NZ) - - OPINION | CONVERSATIONS -

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.

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