Green Minister accused of ‘rubber stamping’ land sales (implementing the law)

Minister of Land Information Eugenie Sage has been accused of allowing land to be sold to ‘foreigners’, but Sage says she is implementing the law as her job requires.

Critics seem to expect that Sage should change the way things are done ‘because the Greens are in Government’, but the Green Party doesn’t have to power to change how laws are implemented, nor to change laws to suit green activists.

RNZ: Green MP Eugenie Sage accused of ‘rubber-stamping’ land sales to foreigners

Eugenie Sage is being accused of continuing National’s practice of “rubber-stamping” the sale of sensitive land to foreigners.

New figures reveal the land information minister and Green MP has approved nearly every application to cross her desk over nine months, rejecting just 30 hectares out of almost 60,000 hectares.

Former Green MP Sue Bradford is warning the news will stir up more disquiet among the party’s supporters after an earlier backlash over Ms Sage’s decision to allow a Chinese water bottling giant to expand.

“Her role is meaningless. The party’s role is meaningless,” Ms Bradford told RNZ.

She was shocked Ms Sage approved the sale of so much land to overseas people.

Bradford doesn’t seem to understand how multi party MMP governments work. Ministers don’t get to do whatever a few activists from their party demand.

“You’d think that either [the Greens would] move their person out of the role or they’d negotiate a damn sight harder with their coalition partners about changing policy on it.”

If Green ministers couldn’t do whatever party activists wanted they should resign? That would give them even less say over how things are done.

Campaign Against Foreign Control of Aotearoa spokesperson Murray Horton said the approval rate made a “mockery” of the government’s promises to curb foreign investment.

“The Greens need to be a bit bolder, frankly. They’re in government for the first time ever.

“They have a mandate from their members and the people who vote for them to actually establish a point of difference.”

But they don’t have a mandate from the country, they only 6.27% of the vote. That is nowhere near a democratic mandate.

Between 1 November and 26 July, Ms Sage approved 21 applications covering about 55,957 hectares. She turned down two requests relating to 30 hectares.

But Ms Sage said most of approved land – roughly 40,000 hectares – related to the sale of Mount White Station, a sheep and beef farm in Canterbury.

In that case, the Czech buyer already had permanent residency and his wife and children were New Zealand citizens.

“There was very limited opportunity for discretion because … it had only been triggered as an application under the Overseas Investment Act because he was out of the country for a period.

“I’m bound by the law, and as a minister, I implement the law.”

Many of the other applications related to forestry which was a government priority area, she said.

“We need more investment in forestry to meet the billion trees’ commitment to ensure that we are sequestering enough carbon to meet our climate change objectives.”

Ms Sage rejected claims she was acting in the same way as her predecessors, pointing out that she had turned down two applications in nine months.

“Under National, I think you had one application – Lochinver – turned down during their period in government.”

Not a big difference in numbers.

The government extended the Overseas Investment Office’s oversight in November and banned house sales to most foreigners in August.

Ministers also directed officials to review the Overseas Investment Act with changes expected by 2020.

So some changes have been made and more could change this year. These things take time in Government.

Sue Bradford has proven in the past she can act on her principles, but idealists outside parties and outside Parliament can’t do anything but criticise what happens within the democratic process.

Dissatisfaction of Government by green activists risks dividing the Green Party and reducing the power they do have. It wouldn’t take much for them to drop out of Parliament altogether, and then they would have much less ability to change anything.