A review of the Overseas Investment Act will look at whether water extraction should be considered by the Overseas Investment Act when overseas buyers apply to buy rural land, the Green Party has announced.
“The Greens have secured a commitment that the review will consider whether water extraction should be a factor considered when weighing up whether a sale should be approved or not.
“We need to ensure that we are not giving away this resource to international corporations to reap profits from at the expense of New Zealand‘s best interests,” Greens co-leader Marama Davidson said today.
Davidson made the announcement today at the party‘s annual general meeting in Palmerston North.
“Water should not be for sale to the highest bidder. Changing the law is a key step towards protecting it for the generations ahead,” she said.
Parliament passed the Overseas Investment Amendment Bill this week which will stop overseas speculators from buying houses. A second round of amendments has just begun and the Coalition Government had agreed to include consideration of water extraction as a factor in applications.
“The ‘benefits to New Zealand‘ criteria that can be used to approve or decline sales does not include water extraction. They should,” said Davidson, the party‘s water spokeswoman.
Some sales of New Zealand property to overseas owners are classed as sensitive under the Overseas Investment Act and require ministerial approval.
“Ministers are constrained by the current inadequate law. We‘ve been able to tighten the rules to ensure housing isn‘t sold to offshore landlords, now we need to look at whether purchases that allow people to extract water need to meet a higher bar,” Davidson said.
Earlier this year, Land Information Minister Eugenie Sage and Associate Finance Minister David Clark approved a sale of land to Cresswell NZ Ltd, which is owned by Chinese bottler Nongfu Spring Co Ltd.
The decision led to a backlash against the Greens and in particular Sage, despite the ministers only being able to consider benefits such as jobs and exports, not environmental issues such as water extraction.
“We will review the benefits test in section 17 of the Act and ensure consideration of water extraction issues is front and centre,” Davidson said.
The Crown had a responsibility to work alongside tangata whenua for the protection and restoration of water.
“On this, the Greens are holding true to our longstanding position. Protecting the environment and recognising Māori rights go hand-in-hand. You cannot achieve one without the other.
“Outright ownership of water is anathema to both Māori and Green values.
“As co-leader and water spokesperson I will continue to stand alongside those communities in pushing for what‘s needed to restore the right of all children in Aotearoa to be able to swim in their local river.”