Project developer Carbon Conscious New Zealand has been made to pay NZ$40,000 ($28,000) for breaching the country’s Overseas Investment Act when buying land for a carbon forestry project.
In a ruling last week, the High Court found that the Australia-headquartered company had acted on poor legal advice rather than knowingly breaking the law, but still ruled it should pay the penalty as well as NZ$6,000 in fees.
Following a deal to sell forestry-based carbon credits to electricity generator Origin Energy, Carbon Conscious in Aug. 2012 bought a 112-hectare forest property via NZ firm Katey LR Investment.
The purchase was made based on the understanding that Carbon Conscious New Zealand – a subsidiary of an Australian entity and hence considered an overseas company – would avoid having to seek consent from the Overseas Investment Office (OIO).
“Giving poor advice can expose clients to significant legal liability, as they’re responsible for complying with the law. They can’t hide behind their lawyer’s advice if things go wrong,” said Annelies McClure with the OIO.
“The lawyer who acted for Carbon Conscious is no longer practising, and the OIO is pursuing action against him for his role in the Carbon Conscious matter,” she added.
By Stian Reklev – firstname.lastname@example.org