Character test had been passed

The American television journalist fired by the NBC network  for inappropriate sexual behaviour had not long passed New Zealand’s good-character test.

Matt Lauer was dumped as a result of allegations by female colleagues but  they appear to have come too late to affect his purchase of the lease of Hunter Valley Station on the shores of Lake Hawea.

Matt Lauer. Photo Reuters
Matt Lauer. Photo: Reuters

For a foreign investor to buy a piece of New Zealand real estate  such as  Hunter Valley Station, they must be able to convince the  government  they are of good character.

Mr Lauer appears to have passed the test - his purchase of the lease of the station was completed in February this year.

Now his character is under question,  and he is accused of inappropriate sexual behaviour towards various females, including colleagues, and fired by NBC  yesterday  as a consequence.

How that might affect his ownership of the Hunter Valley lease is unclear.

Overseas Investment Office communication account manager Joanna Carr told The South Today the office was aware of the allegations against Mr Lauer.

"We are discussing this with his representative and are seeking further information."

A visit to Hunter Valley Station yesterday showed money being spent there in accordance with other conditions of the purchase.

Two farm  buildings are under construction and new notices about pest control are in place.

Land Information Minister Eugenie Sage told Fairfax unless Mr Lauer had breached the conditions of his Overseas Investment Act consent over his recently bought high country pastoral lease, it might be impossible to revisit access through the property.

Federated Mountain Clubs of New Zealand yesterday said Mr Lauer could  show his "good character" by putting an easement for public access across  the  high country station.

Now was a good time for Mr Lauer "to do the right thing by the New Zealand public and put the easement on his Hawea property to enable access for anglers, hunters, and trampers and anyone else wanting to get to the Hawea conservation park", FMC president Peter Wilson said.

At the time of the purchase the access was "an agreed position between all the organisations and it was also what the Walking Access Commission stated, but the Overseas Investment Office ignored it, presumably on the advice of his lawyer".

When it made its decision earlier this year, the OIO said the station was a working farm so public access was difficult to provide.

Mr Wilson said the organisation had since tried repeatedly to contact Mr Lauer at  NBC and directly, but he had never responded. Everything had been routed through his Queenstown-based New Zealand lawyer, Graeme Todd, he said.

Mr Lauer bought the lease of  the Government-owned station along with his wife Annette, through their company, Orange Lakes (NZ) Ltd.

What they paid has not  been revealed, but the station was valued at more than $13 million.

In a statement earlier this year, Mr Lauer said he and his family - he is a father of three - were "looking forward" to making a home in the Upper Clutha.

When asked for comment on the situation yesterday,  Mr Todd said he had "no comment to make on these matters".

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