Ministerial discretion only when there is doubt

Opponents to the sale of the Crafar Farms asked why the Minister didn’t use his discretionary powers to stop it.

Land Information Minister Maurice Williamson used the address in replay debate to explain:

At 1:10  he said:

Ministers have some discretion when there are issues of doubt but it’s very clear from the Act and it was very clear from the advice given to ministers from Crown Law that no discretion exists if the applicant meets every one of the criteria that is in the current Overseas Investment Act of 2005, passed by the labour Government, and the corresponding regulations that go with it.

Ministers just can’t say well I don’t care what the law says, I’m just going to exercise a discretion nd say no. because I have to tell members of this House there’s such a thing as a judicial review and you would lose it. You would simply lose the case. If the Minister was taken to judicial review . . . he or she would lose the case if they weren’t able to say . . . “I declined this because”.

 At 02:55 he said:

 . . . in the case of Shanghai Pengxin looking to buy these farms, Sir, they met every one of the criteria that is laid down in the Act passed by the Labour government and they met every one of the criteria laid out in the regulations. And remember National even added two more to try and strengthen the Act and the regs so that we did have a little bit more say and all of those were met as well.

When David Shearer and David Parker from the Labour Party said, “we would have said no  my very first question to them is: “On what grounds would you have said no?” Because remember you don’t just have the final say in this there are courts and governments have been found to have acted  inappropriately by the courts on a number of things and they’ve overturned ministers’ decisions.

One of those was Chris Carter on the Whangamata marina proposal who lost the court case because he didn’t follow the proper procedures.

That was a very expensive reminder that the government isn’t above the law.

At 5:57 he explains the difference between gross and net figures on land sales.

He gave examples of land sold to people from other countries who bought large tracts of land which were approved and supported by Labour and not criticised.

At 9:14 he demonstrated the difference in size between the 66,000  660,000 hectares sold under Labour compared with the 7,000 hectares of the Crafar farms.

He pointed out that Labour didn’t campaign on changing the law to prevent the sale of land to foreigners and concluded by saying  we should welcome the investment that comes from foreign investors and the growth that comes to our economy so long as they are quality investors of high character who are going to benefit this country.

Hat tip: Keeping Stock

3 Responses to Ministerial discretion only when there is doubt

  1. I hate to be a pedant Ele, but the quantity of land sold to foreign owners under Labour was 660,000 hectares, not 66,000. And that is net sales; i.e. sales where the ownership transferred from a New Zealand entity to a foreign one.

    Maurice Williamson is one of Parliament’s better speakers. This was an outstanding speech, even by his standards.

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  2. homepaddock says:

    Pedantry is welcomed – a zero makes a big difference.

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  3. Gravedodger says:

    Great to see the Government using the Address in Reply debate to actually land a bit of ordinance on the rabble across the floor. Well done that man.
    Watched Q Time Ms Bennett made Jacinta look decidedly ordinary (didn’t seem to understand the slight difference between ask and state), The newly employed dwarf sounded slurry and Kennedy Graham appears to have learnt precious little in the past three years.
    First innings points to National after winning the toss and batting.
    The Opposition benches appear to need a coach to get their gameplan sorted, even Trev the Muss showed a lack of ‘match fitness’.

    ps Mr Harvay Cunliffe is just too quiet, must be working on his stilletto eh.

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