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`I was right to grant citizenship': Guy

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 29/06/2017

Cabinet minister Nathan Guy says he did the right thing when he granted Peter Thiel citizenship despite the US billionaire having spent just 12 days in the country over five years.

"This is an individual who is incredibly well connected in Silicon Valley, he's a great ambassador and sales person for New Zealand," Mr Guy told reporters.

"I completely agreed with officials at the time that he should be granted citizenship, I backed the decision in 2011 and I back the decision now."

Mr Guy was minister of internal affairs when he granted Mr Thiel citizenship, after the businessman had made significant investments in several New Zealand companies and donated $1 million to the Christchurch Earthquake Appeal Fund.

"Think back to that," Mr Guy said.

"We were coming through the global financial crisis, we were just starting to rebuild Christchurch, and this individual stepped up and said he wanted to be part of it."

The length of time Mr Thiel spent in New Zealand before being granted citizenship was revealed in official documents that have just be released.

The Department of Internal Affairs has previously redacted Mr Thiel's time spent in the country in information released under the Official Information Act, but the ombudsman this week ordered the department to reveal it.

On Thursday, the amended documents showed the 50-year-old spent 12 days in New Zealand over five years before he was granted citizenship - far short of the 1350 days normally required.

Mr Thiel was granted citizenship although he wasn't living in New Zealand and had no intention of doing so.

He also got permission for the citizenship ceremony being held at a private ceremony at the New Zealand Consulate in Santa Monica.

Since becoming a citizen Mr Thiel has bought a $13.5m lifestyle block near Wanaka, which was exempt from Overseas Investment Office scrutiny because of his status.

German-born Mr Thiel was a member of US President Donald Trump's transition team.

When Mr Thiel's citizenship circumstances were revealed earlier this year, Labour leader Andrew Little said it was "truly weird" citizenship would be given to someone with no plans to live in New Zealand.

"For a guy who promised to promote New Zealand having got citizenship, the questions is what since 2011 has he done to fulfil that promise?"

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