The Government has approved an application for mining company OceanaGold to buy land in Waihi - a purchase that had been effectively vetoed by Land Information Minister Eugenie Sage.

OceanaGold made a new application to the Overseas Investment Office (OIO) to buy the same land, and different ministers - Grant Robertson and David Parker - announced today that the application had been approved.

National Party leader Simon Bridges said their decision was effectively a no-confidence vote in Sage and her ability to gauge the benefits of foreign investment in New Zealand, and she should be stripped of the Land Information portfolio.

Sage said in a statement that she stands by her original decision.


The initial OceanaGold application that Sage shot down in May was to buy 180ha of farmland to enable the construction of a tailings storage facility that would extend the life of the mine for a further nine years.

Without the new tailings facility, the company's Project Martha could continue until 2028. With it, the new Project Quattro would run from 2028 to 2036.

Waihi's Martha Pit. Photo / File
Waihi's Martha Pit. Photo / File

It needed sign-off from Sage and Associate Finance Minister David Clark, who gave the project his approval.

In a document outlining her decision, Sage said that the nine years until 2028 was plenty of time to create new jobs, and that the mine had been in operation for some time but the median personal income in the Hauraki District was still only $23,000.

She also had concerns that it would enable more mining, and therefore more emissions.

OceanaGold applied for a judicial review, and in August made a new application to buy the same land to the OIO.

The ministerial decision-making roles were transferred to Robertson and Parker.

"The ministers carefully considered the applications and were satisfied the investment would result in substantial and identifiable benefit to New Zealand," Robertson and Parker said in a statement.


"The ministers noted that they are required to assess only the benefits described in the Overseas Investment Act when making their decision."

Ministers making OIO decisions exercise their own judgment about the benefits to New Zealand, including what weight to place on each benefit factor.

Robertson and Parker identified the retention of about 340 fulltime jobs over nine years and exports valued at $2 billion over nine years as the main benefits in the application.

Sage said in a statement that she stood by her original decision.

"They assessed a different application and made an independent decision on the information in that application.

"I stand by my original decision which I formed on the application I carefully assessed. I have no further comment. "

Bridges applauded the new decision.

"It's good to see sense finally prevail, but the Prime Minister should consider taking the portfolio off Eugenie Sage because she has proved herself incapable of making decisions in the best interests of New Zealand."

Bridges said the latest decision showed the Government's "incoherence" with respect to economic development.

"They give on one hand and take with the other. You'd have to be a prophet to work out when they'll do which. It's not a recipe for business confidence."

Sage's decision in May shocked the miners' union, the Labour-affiliated E Tū union, the Employers and Manufacturers' Association, and Sage's colleagues in Government.

In May, E Tū's senior national industrial officer Paul Tolich slammed Sage's decision.

"The union is very disappointed in the minister's decision because it puts at risk the continuation, the long-term viability of the mine which has been there for decades, has very well-paying jobs in a provincial area, does not involve matters relating to amelioration because of the effects of climate change.

"They are some of the best-paid jobs in the town of Waihī and the surrounding areas," said Tolich, who also serves on the Labour Party's ruling New Zealand Council.

OceanaGold needs resource consent from the Hauraki District Council before it can begin operations on the land.

The approval to purchase the land does not imply that the Crown either supports or opposes this RMA application.