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Labour still harassing govt over Thiel

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 1/02/2017 Sean Martin
© SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

Labour is continuing to harass the government over its reasons for granting citizenship to German-born US billionaire Peter Thiel, despite the release of 150 pages of official documents covering the application.

The party's immigration spokesman, Iain Lees-Galloway, says it's still not clear what the benefits are to New Zealand.

Mr Thiel was a permanent resident when he became a citizen in 2011 at a private ceremony at the New Zealand Consulate in Santa Monica.

Citizenship was granted by the then minister of internal affairs, Nathan Guy, although Mr Thiel wasn't living in New Zealand and didn't intend to.

He is now a member of US President Donald Trump's transition team.

The documents show Mr Guy granted citizenship on the advice of officials under a "special circumstances" category for applicants who don't meet the usual criteria.

It was decided he had entrepreneurial skills and was a philanthropist - he had significant investments in several New Zealand companies and donated $1 million to the Christchurch Earthquake Appeal Fund.

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

Mr Lees-Galloway thinks the documents were deliberately dumped on the day the election date was announced in the hope the media wouldn't pay much attention to them.

"It's not clear what value New Zealand is getting from granting Mr Thiel citizenship over residency," he said.

"It's clear what the benefits to Mr Thiel are - he can buy sensitive land without Overseas Investment Office approval, which he has done.

"Labour will continue to pursue the government over this issue."

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