19 Mar 2017

Foreign ownership has 'tangible benefits' - Minister

8:09 pm on 19 March 2017

The Land Information minister has defended approving sale of a large Otago farm to an American TV personality, saying it will improve access for walks.

Mark Mitchell and Alfred Ngaro

Land Information Minister Mark Mitchell Photo: RNZ / Mei Heron

The Overseas Investment Office (OIO) has approved the sale of Hunter Valley Station near Lake Hawea to Matt Lauer, who presents NBC's breakfast programme, Today in the United States.

Locals expressed concern about public access to walking tracks in the area.

Land Information Minister Mark Mitchell told TVNZ's Q+A he believed the deal would improve public access.

"They're not going to miss out on going for a walk, in fact, the public access increased as part of that OIO process.

"[The] primary focus is making sure that there [are] tangible benefits."

OIO figures show 39,000 hectares of New Zealand land was sold to companies that had foreign owners last year, up from nearly 33,000 hectares in 2015. The number of sale approvals increase from 118 to 124.

Mr Mitchell said there was no big increase in overseas investors buying land. Some of the new owners were joint ventures, which included New Zealanders, he said.

He said the level of overseas investment was consistent over the past decade.

* An earlier version of this story incorrectly said the amount of New Zealand land that was sold last year to companies including foreign owners increased five-fold on 2015.

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