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Review sought of every sensitive land deal

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 4/05/2016 Peter Wilson, Political Writer
Grant Robertson © RNZ / Diego Opatowski Grant Robertson

Labour wants the Overseas Investment Office to review every approval it's granted that might have allowed dodgy foreigners to buy land in New Zealand.

Grant Robertson says the office's Onetai Station blunder shows its good character test was inadequate, and there could be more suspect cases.

"They've been relying on the word of the applicants, and they've barely investigated some of them," he said.

"I want reviews to go back as far as we need to make sure sensitive land hasn't been sold to people of poor character."

Green Party co-leader James Shaw is backing the call.

"There may be things hidden under the carpet that we don't know about," he said.

Prime Minister John Key announced on Wednesday the office was going to get more staff, paid for by a big increase in the fees it charges foreigners when they apply to buy sensitive land.

The office is in the dogbox because it approved the sale of the 1320ha Onetai Station in Taranaki to two brothers who had criminal convictions in Argentina.

It has admitted the mistake and apologised to the government.

Despite that, Mr Key told reporters 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 government wants the office to process applications faster and be able to follow up on the approvals it grants.

Labour's David Cunliffe last week revealed the identities of the brothers who were allowed to buy the station.

They were Rafael and Federico Grozovsky, and they bought the station for $6 million in 2014.

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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