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Greater protection for sensitive & heritage sites

Greater protection for sensitive and heritage sites

“Sensitive and heritage sites will have greater protection under the Overseas Investment Bill passed by Parliament last night,” says Finance Minister Michael Cullen.

“Overseas people wanting to buy properties with special cultural or environmental value will be subjected to a tougher screening and monitoring regime while issues of public access to land adjoining the coast and internal waterways will be dealt with on a case by case basis through the consents process.”

Dr Cullen said the legislation also recognised that foreign investment could make a positive contribution to the New Zealand economy by moving to reduce compliance costs on potential investors, particularly in the corporate sector.

Specific changes are: Overseas applicants wishing to purchase land assets will have to provide management plans detailing how they will manage any historic, heritage, conservation or public access factors relevant to the property as well as any economic development planned.

These plans will be made conditions of consent. To keep costs to the taxpayer down, the onus of compliance will be on the overseas investor. Investors will be required to report regularly [most likely every one or two years] on how they are complying with the terms of their consent and outline any reasons for non-compliance.

Monitoring will continue until all obligations have been met. The Crown will have a new right of first refusal over any foreshore, seabed, riverbed or lakebed [for large rivers and lakes] where this would otherwise be sold into foreign ownership.

The threshold for screening non-land business assets where the proposed acquisition entails a 25 per cent or more shareholding will be raised from $50 million to $100 million. It was last adjusted in 1999 when it was increased from $10 million to $50 million.

[The last time a business application not involving land was turned down was by Sir Robert Muldoon in 1984.]

Purchases involving land with an unimproved value of more than $10 million will no longer require consent where the land is not screened for other reasons.

[As the $10 million applies to land value alone and as any rural land sales over 5 hectares will continue to require consent, this provision is expected to affect only purchases within the main centre CBDs.]

Land adjoining some non-sensitive reserves, for example drainage and hospital reserves, will be removed from the purview of the Overseas Investment Act.

Special properties for the purposes of the legislation include the foreshore and seabed and all sites over 0.4 hectares which are subject to a heritage order; registered or proposed for registration under the Historic Places Act or; classified as an historic, scenic, scientific or nature reserve and administered by the Department of Conservation under the Reserves Act.

Investments in fishing quota by overseas persons are also covered. The Overseas Investment Commission will be disestablished and its regulatory functions performed by a dedicated unit within Land Information New Zealand. All OIC personnel will be offered the opportunity to transfer to the new unit.

The changeover will occur later in the year when the new rules take effect.

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