The Government has asked the Overseas Investment Office to review a 2014 decision to grant approval for a land purchase by someone linked to the Panama law firm Mossack Fonseca.

The law firm is at the centre of international controversy around the use of foreign trusts to hide money.

A spokesman for Land Information Minister Louise Upston said she had asked the OIO to go back and review the consent to ensure it was properly assessed and any concerns were investigated properly. "Minister Upston just wants to make sure everything was above board."

He said it related to a consent granted in 2014 to a person to buy some land. The OIO was assessing whether it could release any further information.


"Obviously there are privacy and commercial concerns."

He said the OIO was also looking back through its records to determine whether any other applications had links to Mossack Fonseca.

"The minister has made it clear that if any are found she expects the OIO will take appropriate action."

He said that action would depend on whether any issues were found with those applications and they would be dealt with under the Overseas Investment Act.

It follows questioning in Parliament by Labour MPs David Cunliffe and Grant Robertson about whether the OIO was considering an application from someone linked to the firm.

Earlier in Parliament, the Government said it would not intervene in the OIO's processes.

Ministers last week confirmed that the Overseas Investment Office (OIO), which screens large or sensitive investments by foreigners, was considering an application related to the law firm at the heart of the Panama Papers scandal.

Labour's shadow finance minister Grant Robertson said today that approving the application could damage New Zealand's reputation.

In response, Finance Minister Bill English said that the Prime Minister was aware of the application but did not know which country it came from.

"The Government's not in a position where it can direct the OIO in its investigations," he said.

"If it forms a view that there's questions of good character involved, then I would expect that they would investigate them."

More than 11 million documents leaked from the Panama-based company Mossack Fonseca have raised concerns about the massive offshore industry and its links to illegal activity.

Mr Robertson also highlighted the relatively large amount of foreign investment in New Zealand from the Cayman Islands and British Islands, which are known for tax haven activity.

Investors from the two island nations had poured $4 billion in this country, he said - more than China or any of New Zealand's other major trading partners.

In response, Mr English said he was "not particularly concerned" about the figure because all investments had to pass strict criteria.

"Wherever the investment came from, it still has to pass our tests," he said.

Last week, Labour MP David Cunliffe pointed out that the OIO had approved 99.85 per cent of applications in the last five years, and was struggling to process applications because of understaffing.

Land Information Minister Louise Upston said many applications were rejected before they reached the processing phase.