The OIO: Putting agri-investment regulation in its place
The Overseas Investment Office, housed at Radio New Zealand Building in Wellington. Source: http://tiny.cc/b9vpuz (accessed: 22 March 2022).
Despite all the rhetoric about the withdrawal of the state in neoliberal capitalism, state actors and modes of regulation continue to play a major role in the expansion of global investment chains. Institutional landscapes emerge from the capital-state nexus. The state and its associated institutions still act as the major clearing house for capital. The state should hereby not be imagined as a homogeneous enabler for foreign capital, but rather as a contested terrain of a multiscalar land rush regime. Investors and public pressure alike play a role in this terrain. Additionally, it is a political choice whether or not to make these flows of money public and visible. Many states around the world have decided not to allow the public to make foreign investment flows into strategic sectors of the economy visible. Interestingly, Aotearoa New Zealand, “a country built on foreign capital” (as many of my interviewees would say), has been a major exception.
(Ouma 2020: 90f.)
A central role in the regulation in Aotearoa New Zealand is taken by the Overseas Investment Office (OIO). Established via the Overseas Investment Act of 2005, it approves or declines all foreign investors in the country. As you can explore here, it provides data about those decisions that we can use as an empirical entry point for capturing the state’s role in the forming of institutional landscapes.
The OIO does not cover every land purchase but scrutinizes especially the purchase of so-called sensitive New Zealand assets, which means sensitive land, significant business assets valued at more than NZD$100 million as well as a fishing quota.
(Ouma 2020: 73)