Government signs off on Chinese water bottling expansion in Whakatane

The government has granted a Chinese-owned company permission to expand a water bottling plant in Whakatane. Photo: Getty Images

The government has granted a Chinese-owned company permission to expand a water bottling plant in Whakatane.

Creswell NZ, which is wholly owned by Chinese bottled water supplier Nongfu Spring Co, applied to buy freehold and leasehold interest in 6.2 hectares of land at Otakiri, near Whakatane. The land is classed as sensitive under the Overseas Investment Act because it is more than 5 hectares of non-urban land and borders conservation land.

Land Information Minister Eugenie Sage and Associate Finance Minister David Clark have granted the application, conditional on the company providing an additional 60 fulltime jobs within four years and getting the resource consents it needs under the Resource Management Act, they said in a joint statement today. The company still needs water permits and other resource consents from the Bay of Plenty Regional Council and Whakatane District Council before it can buy the land.

"The Overseas Investment Office recommended approval as Creswell NZ Ltd met the test to provide substantial and identifiable benefits to New Zealand,” Clark said. "Specifically more jobs, exports, greater productivity and additional capital investment for the country."

Creswell has said it will spend $42.5 million to upgrade the existing plant and establish two new bottling lines, creating 32 jobs in the first two years and 60 once the plant is fully operational. The OIO can force Creswell NZ to sell the land if it does not create the jobs, Sage said.

The government's bill to prevent foreigners from buying existing houses in New Zealand, the Overseas Investment Amendment Bill, is currently being considered by a select committee, which is due to report by June 21 before it has its second reading. Sage said that the Overseas Investment Act "will also be more widely reviewed this term.”