A Korean spiritual leader who has bought multi-million dollar Northland properties is vowing to continue to establish his business here, despite ministerial rulings he must sell his places.
Seung Heun Lee has just reacted to two Government Ministers banning him from buying properties for a retreat, after he sought retrospective consent for the deals already completed.
"I remain absolutely committed to developing tourism and creating jobs in the Far North and to contributing to the local community. This is despite ministers declining my Overseas Investment Office applications for retrospective approval for the purchase of the properties," Lee said today.
On April 30, the Herald reported how Eugenie Sage, Minister for Land Information, and David Clark, Associate Minister of Finance rejected retrospective application by Seung Heun Lee, Double Pine Investments and Meditation Tour.
• Korean spiritual leader's New Zealand dream slowly taking shape in the Bay of Islands bush near Kerikeri
• Ministers ban Korean spiritual leader from buying Northland properties
• Korean spiritual leader Ilchi Lee's plans for Northland global hub dashed
• Dahn Yoga founder Ilchi Lee's NZ residency under investigation
The Overseas Investment Office's March decisions had an explanation of the rejections.
Lee and two companies he owns bought several parcels of land near Kerikeri and Paihia between 2014 and 2016 and sought retrospective OIO consent for those deals, the office said.
Lee today reiterated his commitment to fight on and he and his legal team are understood to have now engaged with the Overseas Investment Office about the next possible steps.
"Of course I am disappointed by the decision," Lee said of the ministers' actions.
"There were inadvertent mistakes made when I purchased the properties. I relied on advisers who were not aware of the OIO rules," Lee told the Herald.
"I really believe in the Far North and New Zealand. I am now an ordinary resident and I will continue to live and invest in the Far North and help bring jobs and visitors to this region," he said.
"I have invested millions of dollars in the properties to build the Meditation Tour business that attracts thousands of overseas visitors to the Far North. The development on these properties has given local contractors much-needed work and the businesses themselves employ around 40 locals during peak season," said Lee, the founder and proponent of Brain Education, formerly known as Dahn Hak Yoga.
"I love this area and am committed to being a part of it for many years to come. Obviously the Covid-19 pandemic will impact the overseas visitor numbers we can attract. But we will all recover from this and I remain committed to the region and New Zealand and intend to continue to invest into the business for the long term," Lee told the Herald via a spokesperson.
He and two companies bought several parcels of land near Kerikeri and Paihia between 2014 and 2016 and sought retrospective OIO consent for those deals, the office said.
That cited land at 0.5ha 88 Reinga Rd in Kerikeri, 24ha at Whangaroa Rd, Totara North near Kaeo, 0.6ha 8-10 Riverstone Lane in Kerikeri, 4.7ha at 85 Access Rd in Kerikeri, 6.6ha at 34 Macadamia Lane in Kerikeri, 156ha at 1112 Pungaere Rd in Kerikeri and 1.7ha at Old Wharf Rd, Paihia.
For consent to be granted, the ministers needed to be satisfied that Lee met both the investor test and the benefit test that requires the investment to result in substantial and identifiable benefit to New Zealand.