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Review of foreign buyer character test

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 12/05/2016

A Wellington barrister will conduct a review looking into whether the way foreign buyers of sensitive land are screened is up to the job.

Terence Stapleton QC will review the Overseas Investment Office's good character assessment after it emerged two Argentinian brothers who bought a Taranaki farm had been convicted of polluting a river in their homeland.

Rafael and Federico Grozovsky bought the 1320ha Onetai Station in Taranaki for $6 million in 2014 but had been convicted in 2012 after their Argentinian tannery leaked chemicals into a river.

It prompted a demand from opposition parties for a review of every approval it had granted to check if people of poor character had been allowed to buy land.

OIO chief executive Peter Mersi said some information in the case relating to the good character test and held by the office was not made available to the relevant ministers.

"It has become apparent that some information relevant to the good character test and held by the OIO was not made available to the relevant ministers," he said in a statement.

"In order to test whether the process in place for assessing good character is sufficiently robust, I have asked for an independent review of it."

The inquiry comes after last week's Budget decision allowing the OIO to raise its fees by up to 166 per cent for some types of application to fund a 25 per cent increase in staff to help process applications more swiftly following complaints from would-be foreign investors about the length of time taken for the OIO to process applications.

Mr Stapleton will report back by June 15.

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