Real estate agents want law changes after revelations a man facing serious child sex offences was able to work as an agent while awaiting trial.
And a consumer watchdog says the man's case highlights weaknesses in the nation's licensing system which should be set up to keep members of the public safe.
Jason O'Reilly was jailed for 12 years in December 2017 after being convicted of 18 charges relating to two young girls, including sexual violation and indecent assault.
Though licensing authorities were aware he faced criminal charges, O'Reilly was able to renew his license , list properties and run open homes until eventually being put behind bars for repeatedly molesting one of his victims.
The man's former employer and a relative of one of the girls have both criticised authorities for allowing an accused child sex offender to continue operating and not warning his firm or unsuspecting clients.
Associate Justice Minister Aupito William Sio told the Herald he was extremely concerned if any consumers were put at risk.
"The licensing system is designed to balance consumer protection and public interest in a way that is consistent with the principles of natural justice."
The minister, who is responsible for the Real Estate Authority (REA), said he had called for advice on options to ensure the licensing system was working as intended.
He would not answer specific questions, such as whether licensing officials were aware of the actual charges O'Reilly faced or if consumers had a right to expect their agent had been properly vetted, saying these were "operational matters".
He added that O'Reilly had already obtained a licence before charges had been laid.
Child sex offender worked as realtor while awaiting trial
However, Consumer New Zealand chief Sue Chetwin said O'Reilly's case appeared to highlight weaknesses in the licensing system, which should be focused on keeping consumers safe.
"I would have thought the REA or [Real Estate Agents Disciplinary] Tribunal had the ability to suspend his license pending the outcome of the criminal trial, and I would have thought the potential concerns would have trumped his right to the presumption of innocence until proven guilty."
She was surprised licensing officials had not imposed strict conditions on O'Reilly requiring him to be closely monitored to ensure he did not have unaccompanied access to members of the public, including children.
Real Estate Institute of New Zealand (REINZ) chief executive Bindi Norwell said the case raised a red flag and her organisation believed law changes were needed.
"Under the current Real Estate Agents Act 2008 there are only a limited number of reasons a licence application or renewal can be declined. We believe this needs to change. The situation with Mr O'Reilly is a case in point."
REINZ was also concerned about the definition of what constituted a "fit and proper" person under the act, saying there was limited guidance as to how that applied to real estate agents.
"We believe much more clarity is required around what constitutes fit and proper in a real estate licensing context which is why we've been having conversations with the governing body who is responsible for licensing – the REA – to make our views known."
REA chief Kevin Lampen-Smith defended his agency's handling of the case.
The REA cancelled O'Reilly's licence in 2016 for failing to disclose he was under police investigation and facing pending charges.
But his licence was reinstated by the tribunal after it ruled O'Reilly had not misled the REA and due to the presumption of innocence.
He was then employed by Harvey's Real Estate in Papakura. But the firm says it would never have hired O'Reilly had it been alerted to his alleged crimes.
Asked if the case highlighted weaknesses in the licensing system, Lampen-Smith said: "This case upholds the legal principle that any person is assumed innocent until convicted.
"Once the conviction was determined, then REA applied the fit and proper test and Mr O'Reilly was no longer able to operate as a licensed real estate person.
"If the Police or the Courts believed that Mr O'Reilly posed a risk to the general public, they have far greater powers to act than REA."
Lampen-Smith previously told the Herald that after learning O'Reilly faced criminal charges, it sought further information from the courts, but was declined on privacy grounds.
The Herald asked whether, given the REA's role in protecting consumers, better information sharing protocols were needed between the REA and government agencies.
Lampen-Smith said: "We were refused on privacy grounds and don't have a view on this as this is a much wider issue than just for REA."
The judge who jailed O'Reilly described him as a high risk, untreated sex offender.
O'Reilly had name suppression until late last month when the Crown successfully appealed the suppression order because his victims wanted him to be named.
After learning O'Reilly's license had been reinstated and he was back selling homes in early 2017, the relative of one of the victims wrote to the REA.
In a letter titled, "High Importance - Re: Jason O'Reilly Sexual Assault Case", she raised concerns about him continuing to carry out real estate work, saying she had witnessed the devastating impact of his crimes.
"I would hate to think that Jason could facilitate the sale of a property which is entrusted to him by vendors who may have children."
O'Reilly will be eligible for parole in 2023.
• February 22, 2016: O'Reilly completes REA online licence renewal application which includes a police vetting authority form.
• June 3, 2016: The police advise REA of an outstanding indecent act charge.
• August 3, 2016: Police advise REA of 12 additional charges.
• August, 4, 2016: REA advises O'Reilly of its intention to cancel his licence.
• September 6, 2016: REA advises O'Reilly his licence is cancelled for failing to disclose he'd been under police investigation with pending charges.
• September 8, 2016: REA requests more information from district court but is declined on privacy grounds.
• November 2, 2016: O'Reilly appeals licence cancellation to the Real Estate Agents Disciplinary Tribunal.
• December 2016: Tribunal upholds O'Reilly's appeal and overturns licence cancellation.
• Early 2017: O'Reilly employed at Auckland indoor sports centre and Harvey's Real Estate in Papakura.
• November 6, 2017: O'Reilly convicted on 18 child sex charges and remanded in custody.
• November 9, 2017: REA declines O'Reilly's licence renewal, ruling he is not a fit and proper person.
• December 6, 2017: O'Reilly jailed for 12 years.