Sage stands by decision to approve bottling plant

A government minister is standing by her decision to approve the expansion of a water bottling plant, despite her vocal opposition to such initiatives before she was in government.

Green MP and land information minister Eugenie Sage has approved the expansion of the Otakiri Springs water bottling plant near Whakatāne.

On Twitter, former Green MP Sue Bradford called the decision a “betrayal” and a “sad day for Green voters”. Other people took to Ms Sage’s Facebook page to vent their frustration.

Ms Sage defended her decision on RNZ’s Morning Report and said her previous opposition had been superseded when she became a minister.

“Those were comments I made as an MP,” she said.

“When you’re a minister you actually have to take into account you’re making a statutory decision under the law, the criteria in the law.”

She was bound by the Overseas Investment Act, she said.

“The advice form the overseas investment office was that the provision of 60 jobs in Whakatāne, investment of $42.5 million by the company, with two new high speed bottling lines and a bottle blowing plant was a major investment and it would be significant.”

Ms Sage had previously recused herself from making a decision on a hydroelectric scheme in the South Island, citing a conflict of interest due to having campaigned against it while in opposition.

“That’s because I had put on my Facebook page a submission on that particular application.”

There was no reason to have recused herself from the decision regarding the water bottling plant, she said.

“You can’t just duck hard decisions.

“I didn’t see there was any conflict of interest so there was no reason to recuse myself.”

The government was working to tighten up provisions in the Overseas Investment Act, such as “significantly” changing ministerial directive of the OIA to include all farms being sold to overseas owners over 5 hectares where it was previously just “large farms”.

“There’s a commitment across all three parties to take action on putting a levy on water bottling.”