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Quiet regime change as McClure leaves OIO

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 1/03/2017 Pattrick Smellie

The long-serving manager of the Overseas Investment Office, Annelies McClure, has quietly departed the office and been formally replaced by an acting deputy chief executive, Lesley Haines.

McClure headed the office for 11 years, during which time the office grew from a staff of six to "nearly 30", according to a low-key farewell announcement in a monthly newsletter from the OIO, which has the statutory duty to examine all applications from foreign investors to buy land deemed to be 'sensitive', significant business assets, and fishing quota.

The OIO had become something of a target both for politicians opposed to foreign direct investment and for applicants and their New Zealand-based advisers, who had grown increasingly critical of the length of time taken to make recommendations, although the delays were sometimes the fault of the ministers charged with signing off final decisions.

Ms McClure was often caught in the crossfire, with critics of the overseas investment regime focusing as much on the office's meagre resources as its management.

Once housed in the Reserve Bank of New Zealand, the OIO has since 2005 been a part of Land Information New Zealand, the government agency charged with mapping New Zealand and ensuring land titles to secure property rights.

The office suffered serious embarrassment last April after it was revealed it had passed two Argentinian investors, Rafael and Federico Grozovsky, through its 'good character' test without realising they were the subject of criminal convictions in their home country for polluting a river with discharges of toxic chemicals.

A spokesperson for LINZ said there would be no comment on Ms McClure's departure beyond the newsletter's noting that "during her time at LINZ, she has guided the OIO through some very challenging times" and wishing her well for the future.

Contacted for comment, Ms McClure said the decision to leave was her own but offered no further comment.

"I really don't want to discuss it," she said.

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