When there’s not enough “real Iwi brown” in one’s wine pitcher at a Russian feast, what must you do, to get the blessing?–
Waiwera Organic Winery has been given approval by Auckland Council to be built slightly North of Auckland. Russian billionaire, Mikhail Khimich originally was given approval by New Zealand’s Overseas Investment Office to purchase the land off a Mr John St Clair Brown in 2010, although the law clearly stated the land was classed as “sensitive land” (meaning, it has Maori interests attached to it).
Furthermore, Mikhail got approval from O.I.O on the grounds that he planned to bottle water and export it from Waiwera. Mr Khimich has now changed his mind, and is still exporting water with other properties now attached to it. However, the O.I.O will not let New Zealand citizens see any background information about Mikhail, even though under The Official Information Act, it is quite within New Zealanders rights to request this information.
The office, (who is perhaps the most ‘guilty’ in the past five years of keeping New Zealand people in the dark as to who it selects to sell land to – often acting like an alien satellite ship divorced from all New Zealand citizens, including and especially Iwi) says that Mikhail and other Russian executives are of good character. This comes at a time, where most New Zealanders have very little faith in the O.I.O given shock land sales announcements, even over the last two years.
Khimich made his billions through oil and gas interests after the former USSR collapsed. My understanding of this era, was that “people bought lucrative earning state-owned assets for just a bob,” and the majority of Russian people missed out. Khimich was positioned at the right time to capitalize on this opportunity. Can New Zealand despise him for that? If you spoke to most Russian people (180 million) they would perhaps say that the way this wealth was made, was not just, moral or fair.
The O.I.O believe that Mikhail is “very generous” choosing to invest in New Zealand rather than elsewhere. Mikhail has two further applications pending with the O.I.O to increase his investments in New Zealand companies.
What are my thoughts a reader asked today?