Special laws for rich people

Written By: - Date published: 1:19 pm, February 24th, 2018 - 47 comments
Categories: capitalism, Economy, housing, overseas investment - Tags: ,

This made me laugh. Idiot Savant at No Right Turn reports that Queenstown Lakes District Council wants an exemption on luxury houses from the government’s foreign buyers ban. Because no-one in New Zealand can afford to buy those houses, very rich people that live in another country won’t be able to sell their overpriced houses for a capitalist profit. Boo fucking hoo.

Not so funny is that the Mayor and CE are willing to throw locals under a bus. Queenstown Lakes has a housing shortage that means that builders live in tents on building sites and families can’t afford to rent even if they can find a house. House prices have been increasing on par with Auckland at the same time as long term rental properties are being converted to AirBnB and similar accommodation.

Idiot/Savant,

The proposed law doesn’t apply to anyone who actually lives here, so what QLDC is saying is that non-resident foreigners should be allowed to own parts of New Zealand for use as emergency boltholes for when they’ve fucked up the world, or as a commodity, effectively a house-shaped gold bar. And I just don’t see why we should accept that, especially when said house-shaped gold bars are fucking things up for the rest of us. While QLDC is correct that the luxury property market is effectively a foreign market, utterly out of reach of almost all kiwis, those empty luxury houses are still taking up land which could be used for real homes for real people – something Queenstown is desperately short of. If they are devalued by the law, then maybe that land will be used for other purposes. The only losers in that will be the foreign speculators and the parasitic developers and real-estate agents who service them. But I guess the latter are exactly the sorts of people who get elected to local authorities and use them as a platform to promote their own economic interests.

From QLDC’s submission (PDF) on the Overseas Investment Amendment Bill,

1.1.4  QLDC is keen to improve affordability for all New Zealanders, as it provides our ratepayers with a significant challenge. However, QLDC on behalf of its highly international community does not support the Bill as it currently stands for the following reasons

In other words, QLDC are prioritising non-NZ residents over the people that live in their district.

1.4.1 The Bill does not provide sufficient evidence to support the proposition that overseas buyers are pushing up house prices. The role played by second home ownership (irrespective of nationality) needs to be considered.

I don’t know if that phrasing was intentional or a mistake, but they appear to be saying that NZers who own holiday homes should be targeted instead of uber wealthy foreigners. If they meant investors with additional properties, they should have said so.

2.2.2  Due to the prevalence of affordability issues in the District, QLDC has undertaken considerable work to understand the nature of the problem in our region and is therefore well positioned to provide informed comment on the matter.

That would be the QLDC that has allowed a major housing crisis, including for renters, to develop in its district in the same way that the National government has nationally.

2.6  This hospitable outlook isn’t new, as residents of the Queenstown Lakes District have traditionally always been very international. An eclectic, multicultural community is part of our history and fabric, reflected in settlements at every corner of our District, from the Chinese gold-mining settlement in Arrowtown to the Scottish farmers in Kinloch.

2.7  Our vision for our 2018/28 Ten Year Plan is “vibrant communities, enduring landscapes, bold leadership”. Inclusivity for all, including overseas migrants, is a key community outcome for QLDC.

2.8  We are keen to ensure that all who make the commitments required through a residency class visa are given the opportunity to settle, contribute and make the District their home. Being able to purchase homes and land is a central part of welcoming migrants into our community and into kiwi culture.

QLDC appears to be confused about the differences between colonisation, migration, and economic class imperialism. Or the difference between someone who migrates to NZ and someone who buys and sells property from off shore.

Maybe they’re arguing for a globalist approach whereby national borders have less meaning, but funnily enough they don’t appear to be pushing for a living wage for either the people that live there permanently or the large numbers of temporary migrant workers that the area depends upon.

Or maybe they’re just wanting to give residency to uber wealthy non-resident property owners the people killing the planet who have already bought end of the world bolt-holes.

4.4.1  In reference to the points outlined in section 3.0, QLDC recommends that the progress of the Bill is delayed in order to faciliate collation of comprehensive research and to engage in a dialogue with a broader range of stakeholders and interested parties. This will enable officers to explore potential impacts in greater detail.

Colour me really fucking cynical, but Labour have been signalling this for a year or more, so if rich people haven’t gotten their affairs in order by now they’re going to have to suck it up.

Queenstown has always been a gold-mining town, so none of this is a surprise. It’s still shocking to see it stated so boldly. QLDC appear to sit somewhere between National and Labour. They at least recognise the housing crisis exists, but they appear to be happy to tinker around the edges so long as their core business interests aren’t affected. What they’re not willing to do is understand and act on the reality that the housing market and greed economics are now utterly incompatible with the right of NZers to have a home.

47 comments on “Special laws for rich people”

  1. One Anonymous Bloke 1

    Market forces are for other people.

  2. Keepcalmcarryon 2

    Such a revealing piece thanks Weka.
    The only bit I’d disagree with is QLDC sitting between labour and national, they are actually somewhere to the right ACT. The only reason they recognize a housing crisis ( from overseas sakes and bad development rules for Jax profit for the boys) is because it’s hard to get coolies (of whatever nationality) to be able to do the work and run the joint.

    • weka 2.1

      The reason I place them between National and Labour is that as with every council there are still good people in there too, and they’re not in denial of the actual existence of the crisis (unlike National). The district has a community housing trust that appears to have some support from the council. What I wrote in the post is the greed/corporate interest end of the spectrum and doesn’t include other things that make the council not quite as ACT as one might think. Unfortunately it’s that greed part of the community that has the most power.

      • Keepcalmcarryon 2.1.1

        Agree there are good people about the place yet QLDC put out the statements you’ve quoted above.
        As an entity they own virtually all the blame for the train wreck that is Queenstown planning and development. Money before, well, everything.
        Was talking today with a 24 yr QT resident who is leaving because the overdevelopment has created too much congestion expense and loss of way of life. Sad but common. Their properties will be quickly snapped up mostly not by other workers.

      • Graeme 2.1.2

        QLDC got fucked over by National with the SHAs. These upended strategic planning and put huge development demands on council and the district. Short term the SHAs have created more problems than they have solved. Long term they will crash the market and A LOT of people are going to be badly burnt. Tradies with 90% mortgages on million dollar properties in Shotover Country is not going to end well.

        There’s a lot of good stuff being done by our mayor and council to sort out the rating issues we have and how we are hampered by current legislation, I’ve said a bit about this on OM today.

        An alternative view on QLDC’s submission is that the proposed restrictions aren’t going to do much, are easily, but expensively, got around and that the very upper end of the market isn’t the problem.

    • patricia bremner 2.2

      Yes Keepcalmandcarryon, (Love the name). I think of Queenstown as the Southern Epsom. Same values and problems. But then, as Weka said, “some good people on Council don’t have the power”. But Wow Wow!! Change is blowing out the crap.

  3. Incognito 3

    Why do people keep voting for so-called representatives who are clearly not advocating (for) the interest of the people and often even act directly and blatantly against the interests of the many in favour of the interests of a few (who may not even be eligible to vote)? There’s something terribly wrong with our so-called democratic model if it can that easily ‘corrupted’ without supposed controls & safe-guards such as accountability, transparency, responsibility and the power to stop and revoke the (actions of) the elected members.

    • weka 3.1

      Just looked it up, voter turnout averages around 50%. I’m guessing there’s a pretty big skew in that towards rich people and landowners, with low wage workers and semi-permanent residents not voting much.

      • Graeme 3.1.1

        Yeah, turnout for General Elections is pitiful in Queenstown Lakes. My observation is it’s due to the transient population, with little long term affinity to the area, combined with most people having to work to bloody hard to bother going out to vote. Being a one party state doesn’t help much either.

        But have noticed a large swing towards Labour / pivot away from National lately. Spent an hour taking very positive things about our current government with my insurance broker last week, rather than discussing our insurance, which was a surprise. Nats pissed a lot of people off in various ways over the last 9 years.

        Having our old MP (David Parker) back in the Beehive has pleased a lot of people too. If the Government wants to be pragmatic there’s a big opportunity here.

    • cleangreen 3.2

      Incognito,
      “Why do people keep voting for so-called representatives who are clearly not advocating (for) the interest of the people”

      It is because a lot of folks are so feed up with the current system that all they see is “self interest before public service”

      We have many prepared to take the opportunity to gain financially from their position it seems.

      Martyn Bradbury summed this up well when he called all voters as “sheeples” and they don’t watch and follow what these “representatives” are really up to.

      That’s why we are hollering from these blog sites in the hope of waking people up as they say; – ‘wake up NZ’.

  4. Graeme 4

    It’s a mistake to say that the upper end of the market is creating problems at the middle and bottom.

    Affordability and supply problems in the bottom half of the market are totally due to development pressure and tourism factors (AirBnB taking 14% of potential rentals), and it really took off when Nick Smith rocked into town with his SHAs, so much so that Council had to approve a second round of the things to “solve” the problems created by the first. That sent houses in Shotover Country from $600K to million. Add in all the big box duplication “to cater to expected demand from the occupants of the new houses” and we have a right fuck up.

    The rural estates on the other hand are very cashflow negative, they cost a lot to maintain and employ a lot of people throughout the cycle. Their effect on the environment and amenity of Whakatipu is a hell of a lot less than the current round of bottom end ticky tacky, bearing in mind that this bottom end tick tacky still sells for the thick end of a million and I don’t think the developers are making that big profits. Big cashflow, but there could be some surprises coming.

    Most foreign purchases go to the OIO already, there’s always a bit of DOC estate to trip things up, and that’s what the buyers want anyway (DOC estate next door, not the OIO trip up). The community good does pretty well out of OIO settlements, walkways, planting areas and sometimes the overseas ownership is better than if the land was surrendered to DOC, what Mutt Lange is doing compensates for several Peter Thiels. Real Estate companies have OIO specialists in house, this will extend to immigration in house with the new legislation. I’ve heard of prospective purchasers preparing to go down the residency path already, which may be a good thing.

    An interesting view on the benefit of high end development in Whakatipu is in this report done to quantify the benefit of irrigation abstraction from the Arrow River. This water is used to irrigate most of the Basin, and in particular several golf courses. Very little cow shit comes from this water. https://www.orc.govt.nz/media/4265/arrow-economic-assessment-report-summary.pdf OK it’s BERL, and the thinking could be a bit wooly, but they come up with a number that equates GDP due to amenity with GDP from tourism. Food for thought and probably caused a bit of nashing on the oaties in the hallowed halls of Stafford Street, but also a true indication of where the Whakatipu’s economy should be headed.

    Affordable accomodation is always going to be an issue, just as it has always been. But we have been able to make Whakatipu work for us, and know many who have too. have also seen many people, at all levels, get totally destroyed by the place. It is very easy to live way beyond your means here. When garages at Housing Trust http://www.qlcht.org.nz are chocca with the toys, with the car is parked outside you have to wonder. That’s not to say the trust isn’t doing very good work, but the future is in high density rental, or sponsored hostel type accomodation for workers, and lots of it. The trust is taking a lead here along with a few private operators http://www.newground.co.nz/remarkables-park-apartments/

    Getting Whakatipu out of the boom bust cycle of short term development should be the focus of Council and Government. I see Council trying hard to preserve the current industry we have with high worth individuals and have an industry that can complement tourism while being cycle immune, and could be highly counter cyclic in some circumstances.

    • weka 4.1

      “It’s a mistake to say that the upper end of the market is creating problems at the middle and bottom.”

      Is anyone actually saying that?

      There are many good points in what you say. However I think there are some underlying values issues here. Not sure if I followed the golf course point but golf courses instead of dairy farms really is a very low aspiration (golf courses are polluting in other ways, and in an area of such land restriction as the Wakatipu Basin, a waste of bloody good land).

      If most of the overseas buys are rural land, then what is the council’s problem exactly? The amendment applies to residential.

      While Mutt Lange is held up as the exemplar (and he is doing good stuff), we’d have to do an actual audit of large stations in NZ and compare. Myself, I’d prefer to see incentives and restrictions placed on what can be done with the land itself, and then prioritise NZ ownership to maintain sovereignty and culture. That’s a separate issue than Labour’s Bill though (needless to say they should have included rural land).

      Queenstown Lakes covers a larger area than the Wakatipu Basin, and the housing crisis is broader still. What happens in Queenstown and Arrowtown affects other areas. The thing that stood out for me about the submission was the impression that it’s still rich dudes looking after rich dudes. Same as it ever was. The economic arguments just sound like par for the course trickle down theory, and we know that doesn’t work. If the council was serious about fixing the housing crisis it would have stomped hard on the AirBnB issue early on. Same as with National, everyone saw this coming and chose to not act because of money. That’s why the expensive house exemption is such an easy target.

      To be fair, this isn’t just about QL, it’s happening in many places in NZ. The middle and upper classes protecting their assets ahead of the wellbeing of lower income people. It’s just that the problems are easier to point to in QL.

      • Graeme 4.1.1

        It’s a bit of a stretch to say that Millbrook, The HIlls and jacks Point are “good” land. Millbrook and Hills were effectively abandoned agriculturally when the current owners took them on. No one has made a go of farming on the north side of the lake for a very long time, apart form a small pocket underneath Coronet Peak. The resort use is all that’s stopping that land being carved up into another Shotover Country. In both cases it nearly happened.

        A lot of the rural land falls within act because it isn’t productive agricultural land or is resort zoned which is residential. Don’t have the reference, but that’s how it was explained to me by a real estate friend. They support the very high end being taken out of act to make it all more honest. The proposed restrictions won’t stop rich people buying, it’ll just make them grumpy. It’s like early 60’s new car adds, “Immediate delivery with overseas funds”, didn’t stop anyone with the money, just made it all underhand and kept everyone else driving wrecks.

        The concern I see is that the legislation not damage the high net worth industry that we have here. This is unfortunately the only provider of employment here other than tourism and development. Development has serious sustainability issues and is counter-productive with tourism and HNW residences. The non / counter cyclic nature of HNW residences makes it attractive as well.

        Easing up on, or managing development along with some sensible regulation of AirBnB will do more for affordability than stopping HNW buyers of property.

        I shudder at the thought of how this development boom is going to unwind. Once the SHA / Frankton thing unwinds it won’t be pretty. Lets just say there won’t be an accomodation crisis, especially if things like New Ground are well advanced.

        There’s rich people and less well of people in all communities, In Queenstown the range is a lot larger but we still have a community, however this community is very different to anywhere else. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea so a lot (actually most) can’t survive here but to those that can it’s home and we would find it very hard anywhere else.

        • One Anonymous Bloke 4.1.1.1

          So build a lodge for high net worth tourists who can no longer buy property, and start a grief counselling service for high net worth individuals whose property portfolio has just experienced a correction.

          Market forces. Property developers are supposed to like those, aren’t they?

          Will the tourists stop coming if locals can afford to buy property? Yeah nah.

        • McFlock 4.1.1.2

          Moved away from there about thirty years ago.

          seems weird that my childhood home is now worth several million. It was solidly middle class back then, built by people with honest day jobs.

          Visited again about ten years ago. The Remarkables are still… well, remarkable, the air fresh and bracing, the vistas glorious. But so many people, and buildings everywhere. And soulless.

          There’s probably a poem about never going back home and the futility of our mortal existence that would sum it up, but I don’t know it.

          • Graeme 4.1.1.2.1

            My father in law owned a house at the to of Adelaide Street in early 70’s, had to sell it because he couldn’t keep the mortgage up on a mechanic’s wage, got $21000 for it and came out ok. The place has always been like this.

            Your reactions are quite normal for people who leave, it’s not everyones cup of tea.

            Dig out an early book by one of the first settlers here, Alfred Duncan “The Wakatipuians or Early Days in New Zealand” he’s who Mt Alfred at the head of the lake is named after and the first person to say the place was ruined. Remarkably similar sentiments to that of many today.

  5. patricia bremner 5

    My tuppence worth…

    .How to get civic participation from transient workers and visitors?

    How To get funds to effectively run the Council?

    These problems may be solved by ….

    Those who invested in a “gold bar property” will be caught by the 5 year rule.

    Those who are in the “tacky pass through crowd” will pay tourist fees.

    Those who want an electrician or plumber will have to pay mega charges on “travel”as part of any bill, as they push the middle class “out of town”

    Land bankers need to build mid priced properties.

    The council rates for large and lakeside properties should reflect the value they are obtaining for their owners.

    Speculation has risks. Private owners should not expect the public to underwrite their “poor choices”.

    Those in the Airnib group should pay commercial rates and taxes and be forced to licence their premises.

    • Graeme 5.1

      ” Those who invested in a “gold bar property” will be caught by the 5 year rule.”

      Most of the HNW’s are pretty long term, generally longer than 5 years so won’t be affected.

      “Those who are in the “tacky pass through crowd” will pay tourist fees.”

      5 year rule will sort them out, will really put the negative reactions in another league though.

      “Those who want an electrician or plumber will have to pay mega charges on “travel”as part of any bill, as they push the middle class “out of town”

      Tradies from Cromwell are actually cheaper. A $3000 panel beating quote in Queenstown was $1000 in Cromwell.

      “Land bankers need to build mid priced properties.”

      80’s architectural homes are being sold and the first thing the new owner has through the door is a 20 tonne digger. The challenge is to maintain effective capitalisation and affordable pricing. Hence the New Ground development, I hope that works.

      With the rest Council is hamstrung by rating legislation, hence calls for bed tax and changes to rating powers.

      • patricia bremner 5.1.1

        OK Graeme, what do you propose?

        • Graeme 5.1.1.1

          I used to think that the egalitarian approach to development in the Whakatipu was the way to go, provide affordable properties for people to start like other towns and having a balanced community. After nearly 40 years and several development cycles I’ve really gone off that view. it doesn’t matter how many “affordable” homes are built, they are either unaffordable or undercapitalised within a cycle, so the place os back to square one.

          At present the accomodation problem has two sides. All the construction workers here to build more houses and commercial space to feed off each other. There’s starting to be a degree of irrationality to that and it probably won’t end well. AirBnB is having an effect as well but that may be smaller than the construction boom.

          My response would be to put a limit on suburban development and force high density brown field development. That’s happening anyway but it’s hard to make the numbers and management model work.

          The “goldbar” thing I see as an asset not a liability. it provides employment, and it’s people with money who are dropping it in the community, not battlers trying to make ends meet or muppets living a lie. Ok property prices are going to go through the roof even more than they are now, but the alternative is no less sustainable.

          • Graeme 5.1.1.1.1

            That last phrase should be :- but the alternative is no more sustainable.

            Site, or my dodgy trackpad, did something funny and randomly submitted on me, so had to rely on the edit.

            • One Anonymous Bloke 5.1.1.1.1.1

              It’s perfectly sustainable to remove houses from the speculation market, thereby driving investment into more productive – and less socially toxic – sectors.

              • Graeme

                The speculation in Queenstown is at the lower or normal end of the market, the “goldbars” are buying for the utility rather than the investment, and then spending several good wages a year keeping the properties in top condition. I can see some sustainability in that.

                People who buy the fruits of the SHAs are doing it with the expectation of better than 5% pa return, preferably 20% after the brightline. There’s no way that can be sustainable. And It’s mainly New Zealanders and Australians playing in this sandpit, so the foreign buyer restrictions will do little. 5 year brightline, well that will make it interesting when our property cycle generally 4 years from peak to trough.

  6. greywarshark 6

    QLDC should show that they are cognisant of the problems that foreign owners will have if not able to sell their high strata (floating above the affordability of even well-off NZs) properties. They will allow rule changes in their planning department to allow for such properties to be converted to attractive two to four separate units which combined should sell at a high enough price because of their location.

    This I imagine would be the case even allowing for adequately supervised alterations according to Council standards, with some structural alteration required such as extra entry doors, internal and external staircases, some more bathrooms. If wishing to do so, the owner’s or agent’s application will be accepted as soon as all required information, plan and specifications are provided, and the fee paid. The Council will then give it their attention as promptly as possible and requires a contact number and address of the owner or owner’s housing representative who will be able to provide information as requested to enable the scrutiny of the application. It is suggested that the work should be carried out by suitable local builders with the right expertise, and a list is provided by the Council as an attachment.

    It is unfortunate that recovery of their valued investment in NZ must require some more finance but this is very likely to be recovered as Queenstown is a very popular resort and properties of all types are very sought after.

    There you are QLDC – all worked out for you to go ahead with the original plan and still look after the interests of the mega-rich who of course should not have their day marred by a small hiccup in their capital accretion plans.

    • Graeme 6.1

      Most of them are already at least two res units, some more or easily converted to more. Even allowing subdivision lie that wouldn’t make it all that much more affordable because there’s several $100K in property upkeep each year. I’ve got a neighbour who goes through a large commercial mower each year mowing lawns, his largest is nearly 30ha. Then there’s the gardeners and housekeepers…

      Like I said above, these things are highly cashflow negative.

  7. Cricklewood 7

    I think its a complicated issue that you can see nationwide. Councils are spending on what I would call non core activities while dumping shit in waterways n harbours etc and to carry on as they are they need high property values and increasing rate revenue.

    Imho most if not all local authorties need to focus on core services first as sea level rise is gonna hurt the un prepared.

    In the interests of full disclosure the business I managed made money predominantly through Auckland Council and I can honestly say it is at best ‘Loose’ with spending to the point where I have been asked to break quotes up into smaller pieces to avoid clearance from higher up.

    We need a heap of reform and prioritization towards a changing enviroment.

  8. Bearded Git 8

    Great work idiot savant…..except the qldc.(which i live in) is not “somewhere between national and labour” but is firmly National.

    • Graeme 8.1

      But it has had a Labour MP, David Parker, as part of the old Otago electorate. He had, and still has a lot of respect here. I watched Jackie Dean get a very rough reception when she popped into Joe’s in Arrowtown on her victory lap the day she took it for National as part of Waitaki.

      Check out the Wanaka booths in the link in here /special-laws-for-rich-people/#comment-1453704 Wanaka isn’t as solidly blue as you may think.

  9. Jackel 9

    How quaint, people who care about money and being on holiday.

  10. The only losers in that will be the foreign speculators and the parasitic developers and real-estate agents who service them. But I guess the latter are exactly the sorts of people who get elected to local authorities and use them as a platform to promote their own economic interests.

    Fuck, ain’t that the truth, for every single fucking local government body in NZ. Our local governance is pretty much Third World, in that for many the whole point of gaining office is to pursue personal economic interest. At every local council election you get blurbs from candidates saying they have business interests in the community as though that were a recommendation rather than a red flag for constant, massive conflict of interest.

    NZ keeps getting voted top or near-top for perceived lack of corruption, but that’s more a reflection of self-delusion as long as we pretend our local governments aren’t built almost entirely out of conflicts of interest. In this case, you can guarantee various QLDC members will be benefiting financially from the housing crisis they’ve created and are trying to maintain.

    • One Anonymous Bloke 10.1

      At every local council election you get blurbs from candidates saying they have business interests in the community as though that were a recommendation rather than a red flag for constant, massive conflict of interest.

      This.

  11. Incognito 11

    They came, they bought, they profited.

    Today there’s an article on this on Stuff:

    https://www.stuff.co.nz/business/money/101713280/leave-regions-and-millionaires-mansions-out-of-foreign-ownership-ban-mps-told

    The arguments in favour of the über-rich are about their individual greatness and contributions to (local) community and economy, of course. The über-rich see themselves as indispensable and filling a vital role in society, it appears – what’s new. They also claim commitment to the region, the community, and the country. Why then is selling their properties an issue? The value of one’s property is only properly established and realised in the market. This is where the real problem lays IMO, for the über-rich: their wealth on paper, the projected value of their investment(s) might be affected because the Kiwi plebs cannot afford to buy it off them at the exorbitant prices that they expect and demand. They want to protect their assets by any means possible, e.g. scaremongering and subtle (economic) threats – what’s new. End of argument. I sincerely hope the Government is not going to cave in to their demands but given that it has caved on the CPTPP I’m not holding my breath and it will be BAU: for the few, not the many. Let’s not do this!

  12. millsy 12

    Why dont we just say it.

    The QLDC is unpatriotic. They support the interests of foreigners over the interest of kiwis.

  13. Tuppence Shrewsbury 13

    really missed the ball on this one. Could’ve taxed the shit out of foreign sellers and buyers with each transaction but instead chose to penalise everyone equally.

    • Dv 13.1

      A Tobin tax would help.

    • Keepcalmcarryon 13.2

      If labour et al are missing the ball by actually doing something then what exactly the fuck were National missing for 9 years of enabling speculators and foreign real estate sales Tuppence?
      Where were you calling for a tax when your sellout National mates were in office?
      Please show me the posts and restore my faith in your IQ

  14. Greg 14

    New zealnders can’t afford houses full stop in the last 9 years of nact the Mac mansons were not built for locals at all the wrong houses were built let then foreign ER get burned time to house the people liveing here

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