25 June 2019
The Overseas Investment Office (OIO) has put on hold an application by Plaman Resources Limited and Plaman Global Corporation to buy 432 hectares of land near Middlemarch after becoming aware that Plaman Resources Limited is in receivership and liquidation.
A Plaman Resources subsidiary, Plaman Services, has also gone into receivership and liquidation.
The OIO received Plaman’s application on 2 February 2018 and has taken longer than average to assess the application because of its complexities. The OIO consulted several organisations and individuals about the scientific, heritage, ecological, and investment implications of the application. On several occasions the OIO sought additional information from Plaman to help with the OIO’s assessment of the application.
The financial position of Plaman is relevant to the OIO’s assessment of the application, including the likelihood of benefits occurring and whether the investor test is met.
The OIO was already closely examining Plaman’s financial viability before Plaman Resources Limited was placed in receivership and liquidation.
In April 2019, the OIO sought further information from Plaman, including on the financial viability of the application. This was provided to the OIO before Plaman Resources Limited was placed in receivership and liquidation.
On 17 June 2019, the OIO sent a letter to Plaman seeking further information about the application to expand its Foulden Maar diatomite mine after receiving significant new information. The new information included the high value New Zealanders place on Foulden Maar, noting its unique features and scientific value. The new information raised concerns that, when considering the factors collectively, Plaman’s proposed benefits may not be substantial and identifiable in the context of this investment and the unique values of the land. Under the Overseas Investment Act, Plaman’s application to acquire the land must meet the substantial and identifiable benefits test because the land is more than five hectares of non-urban land.
The new information also led the OIO to ask Plaman to consider whether the Protected Objects Act 1975 may prevent the export of material from Foulden Maar given the concentration of fossils at the site.
The OIO also noted that correspondence from Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull, along with submissions on the scientific value of the land, placed doubt on the ability for Plaman to obtain the resource consents it needs to mine on a large scale. The OIO will wait for further information from the receivers and liquidators and, in the meantime, will continue to accept third party submissions, which may form part of the assessment.
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