Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Another conflict of interest

Andrew Petersen is a lawyer with Bell Gully, with expertise in overseas investment law. Because of this he has been appointed to the government's Technical Reference Group for the Review of the Overseas Investment Act 2005.

Andrew Petersen also apparently represents overseas clients trying to buy New Zealand assets, including Hong Kong based Natural Dairy NZ Holdings, which is trying to buy Crafar Farms. He does both of these things at the same time.

This is a clear conflict of interest, and the government recognises it. According to information the Greens have uncovered under the OIA, Treasury has advised that the TRG not produce a report because it will be completely tainted by these conflicts. So instead, they're advising the Minister of Finance orally, without leaving any sort of paper trail.

This is extremely dubious, to say the least. Foreign representatives are getting to rewrite our laws to suit themselves. And the government seems committed to ensuring they can do so in secrecy. So much for open, accountable democracy.

Update: Added link to Treasury advice.