Shearer blunders in private members bill

By Derek Cheng

Labour leader David Shearer. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Labour leader David Shearer. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Labour leader David Shearer has admitted to embarrassing mistakes in his private member's bill to restrict foreign ownership of farms, including giving the bill two names and unintentionally removing safeguards for native flora and fauna.

The bill was the first major policy release from Mr Shearer since taking over as party leader.

Under the bill, foreign bids would have to bring substantial increases in jobs or exports through new technology or products, and these must be additional to what would happen if a New Zealander bought the land.

The present law lists a number of factors ministers can consider in determining whether the bid would bring "substantial and identifiable" benefit to New Zealand. Among the factors are protection for native flora and fauna, heritage and cultural sites, and wildlife and walking access.

But Mr Shearer's bill would wipe these factors completely, effectively meaning an application that ticked the box for more exports but destroyed the environment could get the green light.

He said yesterday there was never any intention to remove environmental protections. "And there may in fact be other issues raised at select committee that we would end up including in the bill too.

"We welcome any ideas and feedback from other political parties on this issue," he said.

Yesterday Prime Minister John Key poked fun at the error when asked about Mr Shearer's first major policy speech on Thursday.

"Hopefully he'll do better than his private member's bill. Maybe he'll read the next page and he won't forget important things like our natural flora and fauna," Mr Key said.

In another mistake, the bill is called the Overseas Investment (Owning our Own Rural Land) Amendment Bill, but the title clause shows the name as the Overseas Investment (Owning our own Infrastructure) Amendment Act 2010.

Mr Shearer said the first name was correct; the second name was a "typo".

- NZ Herald

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