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Streamlining applications for overseas ownership in forests

Streamlining applications for overseas ownership in New Zealand forests clarifies investment signals

The Forest Owners Association says streamlining the application process for overseas investment in New Zealand forests is a major step forward and will make clear to potential investors that New Zealand has a positive forest future.

The Associate Minister of Finance David Parker has announced that cutting rights will be brought under the scope of the Overseas Investment Office, but the application process will be streamlined and cutting rights for forest land under 1,000 hectares, or for less than three years, will not need to go through the OIO.

Forest Owners Association President Peter Clark says he is reassured that the government intends to make the whole OIO process more straightforward, for both forest land ownership, and cutting rights.

“We have always acknowledged that overseas investment in New Zealand forests is a privilege and not a right. But our members have increasingly found that to make a successful application takes a huge amount of time and expense and then they would then have to seek new approvals for each individual transaction.”

“David Parker says these unnecessary impediments are to be removed, including the counterfactual test. Today’s statement may not be ideal from our point of view, but it is certainly an improvement on the current regime and clarifies the signal that the government is serious about achieving a planting target of a billion trees over ten years,” Peter Clark says.

David Parker says the government decision to include cutting rights in the scope of the OIO was necessary before the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans Pacific Partnership came into force.

Peter Clark accepts this has caused a rush to develop policy, but he says the forest industry will be making full use of the brief period of public consultation and reference to a Select Committee.

“The forest industry in this country is massive. It represents a huge ongoing investment both by New Zealanders and from overseas. We have to make sure that legislation and other rules which are approved are realistic and practicable. That process can’t be rushed.”

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