A report released today on the Overseas Investment Office’s (OIO) good character test is a whitewash that does nothing to improve New Zealand’s overseas investment regime, says Labour’s Land Information spokesperson David Cunliffe.
“The review of the good character test only came about after Labour did a Google search on the OIO-approved purchasers of Onetai Station, which found they had been prosecuted for criminal pollution in Argentina.
“Instead of the robust investigation that was promised, this report looks like a watered down version designed to prop up the struggling OIO. It took less than a month and only looked into a handful of other cases.
“The biggest recommendation is to provide Google searches to the Minister to help assess cases. That is basic stuff and doesn’t shore up the good character test. The changes must be much more comprehensive than that.
“The use of bearer shares, as happened in the Onetai Station case, makes it ‘very difficult’ to establish ownership, yet the OIO will still allow applicants to use them under certain conditions. That’s puzzling logic, given this review was supposed to tighten up our overseas investment regime.
“Minister Upston must fess up about how many previous approvals involved the use of bearer shares and how the OIO was able to check the good character of the applicants if ownership couldn’t be verified.
“The report says that Ministers must take into account ‘offences or contraventions of the law’. It remains to be seen whether this has occurred in all recent cases.
“The good character test must be tightened up. This review doesn’t achieve that,” says David Cunliffe.