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Minister admits he can't stop the land grab

Minister admits he can't stop the land grab

The Finance Minister has confirmed that he is powerless to ban the buy-up of our coastal land by foreign business interests, Green Co-leader Rod Donald said today.

In reply to a question in the House from Mr Donald, Michael Cullen confirmed that Forest and Bird's plea to ban the sale of coastal land to foreigners would fall foul of New Zealand's existing GATS commitments, provided there was a commercial services aspect to the sale.

"The Minister of Conservation is on the record as saying that foreign competition was out-bidding DOC's attempts to buy-up significant coastal land for conservation purposes," said Rod Donald. "And now the Finance Minister confirms that we can doing nothing to ban it, provided that the purchase is for 'service' - or commercial - use.

"In 1994 the then National government signed New Zealand up to those GATS rules, and even though National now only represents less than one quarter of parliament, these commitments still bind the current government.

"It is ironic that the haste and secrecy which bedevilled GATS negotiations in 1994 are being repeated today, as the Labour government tries to keep the lid on the latest requests from other countries for their slice of New Zealand.

"The Overseas Investment Commission can still regulate the sale of land to foreign buyers for non-commercial use, but the OIC's demise is itself one of the GATS requests currently being considered by this government."

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