Nong Fu gets green light for bottling plant


CHINESE investors who want to expand Otakiri Springs water bottling plant have been given the green light by the Overseas Investment Office and ministerial sign off.

Land information minister Eugenie Sage and associate finance Minister David Clark have granted the application under the Overseas Investment Act for Cresswell NZ to purchase land to expand the existing Otakiri Springs water bottling plant near Whakatane.

Cresswell is the New Zealand company that was set up to facilitate investment from Chinese company, Nong Fu, for the bottling plant expansion.

The decision is conditional on the company providing an additional 60 fulltime jobs and getting the resource consents it needs under the Resource Management Act (RMA).

Ms Sage said they had gone beyond the standard template to ensure the promised jobs eventuated by setting conditions around ongoing monitoring to keep the consent valid.

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“We have granted consent for Creswell NZ based on the recommendations of the Overseas Investment Office and the decision-making criteria in sections 16 and 17 of the Act.”

The decision allows Creswell NZ Ltd to purchase a freehold and leasehold interest in more than six hectares of “sensitive land” at Otakiri, near Whakatane. The land is classed as sensitive under the Overseas Investment Act because it is more than 5ha of non-urban land and adjoins land held for conservation purposes.

Ms Sage said the overseas investment consent was also conditional on the company getting water permits and other resource consents it needed under the Resource Management Act from the Bay of Plenty Regional Council and Whakatane District Council.

“If the company’s resource consent applications are not granted, including the consent to take additional groundwater, it will not be able to acquire the land.

“This Government is improving how New Zealand land is treated under the law. The Overseas Investment Amendment Bill currently before Parliament is intended to improve housing supply by banning foreign sales. The Overseas Investment Act will also be more widely reviewed this term.”

Mr Clark said the Overseas Investment Office recommended the approval because Creswell NZ met the test to provide substantial and identifiable benefits to New Zealand.

“Specifically, more jobs, exports, greater productivity and additional capital investment for the country.”

The company proposes to expand the existing water bottling plant and invest more than $42.5 million over four years to upgrade the plant and establish two new bottling lines.

The expansion is expected to provide 32 jobs within two years and 60 full-time jobs once the new plant is fully operational within four years.

Mr Clark said the plant now employed eight people, so the expansion would provide employment opportunities for the Whakatane community and Bay of Plenty Region.

“If Creswell NZ Ltd does not create these jobs, the Overseas Investment Office can take enforcement action. This includes the possibility of requiring the company to sell the land.

“Budget 2018 provided an extra $7 million in new funding for the Overseas Investment Office to undertake compliance and enforcement work,” Ms Sage said.