Labour denies change on Lochinver sale

MICHAEL FOX
Last updated 16:22 29/08/2014
Stuff.co.nz

Labour Leader David Cunliffe has discussed the party's position on the Lochinver land sale.

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Labour appears to be warning it may not be able to block the sale of Lochinver station to Chinese investors.

The sale of the station, which is almost 14,000 hectares, became an election issue when Conservative leader Colin Craig revealed that Shanghai Pengxin had applied to the Overseas Investment Office for permission to acquire it for $70 million.

The Chinese company also spent $200m buying the farms acquired from the Crafar family.

Earlier this month Labour leader David Cunliffe said a Labour Government would use the ministerial discretion under the Overseas Investment Act to block the sale, because it would not add value for New Zealand and was not backed by the public.

Now his stance appears to have softened.

"We oppose the sale, we'll change the law as soon as we can. I understand an application has already been lodged, the law says ministers must treat that on the basis of the law as it stood on lodgement. Ministers have wide discretion and they will have to use it as best they see fit," Cunliffe told reporters.

"If we can lawfully prevent it we will."

He denied they had changed their position on the sale.

"What I've said consistently is if we can prevent the sale we will and that remains our position. I've also consistently said ministers must act within the law and I'm continuing to say that."

He said the application had been lodged and the sale must be judged on the law as it stood when the application was made and ministers had to exercise their discretion within the law.

"We oppose the sale, we will change the law."

The bar needed to be raised to ensure sales only went ahead when there were "major advantages" over a local sale.

"We will reverse the presumption so that the sale will not proceed unless there is prior proof that that will be a major value creator to New Zealand."

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