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OIO to get more staff

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 3/05/2016 By Peter Wilson, Political Writer

The Overseas Investment Office is going to get more staff, paid for by a big increase in the fees it charges foreigners when they apply to buy land.

The office is in the dogbox over the blunder it made when it approved the sale of a Taranaki station to two brothers who had previous criminal convictions in Argentina.

It has admitted the mistake and apologised to the government.

Despite that, Prime Minister John Key told reporters on Wednesday he still had confidence in the office.

"But I think changes are needed, and one of the things the government is going to allow is a substantial fee increase," he said.

Mr Key says the office will increase staffing by about 25 per cent and the government wants it to process applications faster and be able to follow up on the approvals it grants.

Details of the fee increase will be announced in a few days.

"The office needs to have a better way of making sure that those who make undertakings ... actually fulfil those commitments."

NZ First leader Winston Peters, a persistent critic of the OIO, says the government has known for years that it's dysfunctional, under-resourced and doesn't monitor foreign buyers after they've bought land.

"They have no intention of doing the job properly," he said.

"It's one mess after another but the fact is the problem lies in the Beehive, they've encouraged it."

Land Information Minister Louise Upston, who is responsible for the office, says the Onetai Station mistake was a one-off.

"One case, where one individual dropped the ball," she said.

Labour MP David Cunliffe last week revealed the identities of the brothers who were allowed to but the 1320ha Onetai Station.

They were Rafael and Federico Grozovsky, and they bought the station for $6 million in 2014, and Mr Cunliffe also revealed that in 2012 they were convicted because their Argentinian tannery leaked chemicals into a river.

Mr Cunliffe says there are other cases where he believes approvals were wrongly granted.

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