Minister fires back at conflict of interest claims

Land information minister Eugenie Sage has hit back at claims she has a conflict of interest over an application to purchase sensitive land.

Last year she overturned an Overseas Investment Office recommendation that land containing a mothballed coal mine on the West Coast be sold to Bathurst Resources.

The minister is vocally anti-mining and has led the charge on the government’s policy of no new mining on conservation land.

Opposition energy and resources spokesman Jonathan Young has questioned her objectivity over the decision.

Eugenie Sage told Morning Report the decision was made under the Overseas Investment Act and Mr Young “has got completely confused here”.

The purpose of the Overseas Investment Act was to make sure sensitive assets were not sold offshore without delivering substantial benefits to New Zealanders, she said.

“In this case, with the mine closed since the 1990s, Bathurst having no plans to reopen it, the uncertainty around the coal price, what benefit was that going to deliver?

“Why should an overseas company that’s 57 percent owned by Singaporeans, 22 percent by Australians, have the ability to buy sensitive land adjacent to conservation land on the coal plateau, rural land, when there is no certainty that will provide any economic benefit to New Zealand.”