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Foreign bids for BIL's Sealords stake declined

Finance Minister Michael Cullen has announced that he and Fisheries Minister Pete Hodgson have declined all overseas applications to purchase Brierleys Investments Ltd 50 per cent stake in Sealords.

"In arriving at this decision, we carefully considered the criteria laid down in the relevant legislation.

"We recognise that it has been an explicit or implicit policy of successive governments to support the New Zealandisation of the fishing industry.

"While we accept that there is no necessary linkage between foreign shareholding in New Zealand fish quota and the New Zealandisation of either fishing or fish processing, it is clear to us that past and present government policy nonetheless implies that the relevant property rights should ordinarily be held by New Zealand interests.

"We were not satisfied that any of the overseas applications satisfactorily met the required national interest tests to outweigh that consideration.

"We note that the previous National Government's delegation to the Overseas Investment Commission to make such decisions contained a presumption in favour of approving applications.

"This presumption was in the general context of all applications under the Overseas Investment Act. Our revocation of that delegation in the case of Sealords applicants also, as a consequence, revoked for those applications the policy statement containing this presumption.

"In any case, we have been advised that in that respect, the delegation made by the previous government may well be ultra vires the legislation and that we should approach the applications with no such or any other presumption," Dr Cullen said.

Dr Cullen and Mr Hodgson will make no further comment on this issue.


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