LINZ boss Mersi tapped for MOT, Andrew Crisp to run LINZ in interim

Peter Mersi replaces Martin Matthews.

Land Information New Zealand chief Peter Mersi has been appointed chief executive of the Ministry of Transport after almost three years running the government department that includes the Overseas Investment Office.

Mersi replaces Martin Matthews, who is leaving after eight years as secretary of Transport and 18 years at CEO level in the public sector, State Services Commissioner Iain Rennie said in a statement.

Mersi will be replaced on an interim basis at LINZ by Andrew Crisp, who is currently deputy CEO Building, Resources and Markets at the Ministry of Business until a permanent appointment is made. Mr Mersi's career in the public sector has included leadership roles in Inland Revenue and the Treasury and six months as acting secretary for Internal Affairs.

This month the government approved fee hikes by the OIO to allow it to hire up to 10 extra staff, boosting its resources to scrutinise potential foreign buyers of sensitive land. Its approval processes were criticised by the Labour Party after it signed off on Argentinian brothers and tannery owners Rafael and Federico Grozovsky buying Onetai Station farm in Taranaki. The brothers had been held "criminally responsible" for pollution in an Argentinian river, Labour land information spokesman David Cunliffe said.

Mr Mersi later said the OIO failed to carry out a robust process in what he called a "regrettable lapse." An independent inquiry is now reviewing the OIO's process for assessing good character, one of the hurdles any foreign investor must clear before being able to buy 'sensitive' New Zealand land, usually farmland.