The government could be receptive to lowering investment screening thresholds for foreigners looking to buy assets here, Treasury secretary John Whitehead said yesterday.
Speaking on TV One's Q&A programme yesterday, Mr Whitehead touched on policies the Treasury considered would benefit the New Zealand economy. Some, such as extending the boundaries for capital gains taxes, had been historically dismissed but others, including adjusting screening processes for overseas investors, were being considered.
Mr Whitehead said there was plenty to be gained from "open flows of people, open flows of ideas, open flows of investment."
"That can actually help our economy, it can help the living standards of New Zealanders. We do need protections but, fundamentally, overseas investment is beneficial for New Zealand."
The Overseas Investment Office is considering an overseas offer for 16 dairy farms which were owned by the Crafar family before being placed in receivership recently. The potential sale has concerned some groups who don't want to see large tracts of land in overseas hands.
Mr Whitehead said the department's views on easier access for overseas buyers applied to all but the "most sensitive" items.
The Overseas Investment Act was being reviewed and Mr Whitehead expected the government would eventually come out with a policy which was unlikely to make changes to the degree the Treasury would like to see, but would take into account some of the potential benefits of overseas investment. "I think it's still early days. The government hasn't made up its mind on all of those things yet."
He was more cautious on privatisation, or partial privatisation, of state-owned assets, saying there were advantages and disadvantages involved with partial privatisation.
The Treasury wanted to get a better understanding of what people feared from privatisation, he said.
Mr Whitehead, who has spent over eight years as Treasury secretary, indicated he would step aside from that role when his contract expired next year.