The Government yesterday unveiled a new foreign investment attraction programme which will put much greater emphasis on the regions.

Nevertheless, Economic Development Minister, Steven Joyce, says the programme is not a response to the Northland by-election.

NZ First won the by-election with a big emphasis in their campaign on the need for more economic development in the region.

However its leader, Winston Peters, was unimpressed with the new proposals and Mr Peters dismissed them as the Government setting itself up as a “real estate agent for the provinces to sell land to foreign investors.”

But the Government’s proposals do call for some substantial changes.

First will be the speeding up of the processing of applications from foreigners to invest here at the Overseas Investment office.

“We’re looking at ways in which we might be able to speed up the process but we have no plans to change it overall because actually it works pretty well overall,” he said.

“It’s just the slowness of it.”

In a paper he presented to Cabinet, Mr Joyce said that if New Zealand wanted to achieve its goal of 40% of gdp then the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment estimated we needed between $160 and $200 billion of investment.

And so MBIE, New Zealand Trade and Enterprise (NZTE), Callaghan Innovation, the

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Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT), the Ministry for Primary Industries and the

Treasury have prepared a draft New Zealand Investment Attraction Strategy.

And to achieve this they are proposing to co-ordinate their efforts and to target specific investors and to offer them opportunities in New Zealand. 

That would move beyond the current business migration programme and Mr Joyce said it was intended to lead to more active investment than investment in bonds and in banks.

“The biggest issue is lack of information,” he said.

The programme is setting itself some specific goals such as:

  • Attracting investment with a potential direct economic impact of $5 billion over the next three years.
  • Having 10 new international companies come to undertake research and development activity in New Zealand over the next five years.

“It is taking an NZinc approach to investment,” he said.

And perhaps[s surprisingly the Minister expects most of the investment to come from Pacific rim countries. That ties in with his export strategy which aims to target markets that lie within 12 hours flying time of New Zealand.

“Whether we like it or not that is the most likely place that we will be able to attract investment from.”