The Overseas Investment Amendment Bill

Written By: - Date published: 10:55 am, March 9th, 2018 - 73 comments
Categories: capitalism, Economy, Globalisation, International, overseas investment - Tags:

I’m beginning to change my mind about the current foreign ownership bill now before Select Committee.

Sir Eion Edgar, who is one of New Zealand’s greatest philanthropists, told the Finance and Expenditure Select Committee that the foreign buyer ban would “be detrimental to New Zealand’s international reputation and greatly restrict overseas parties contributing to the benefit of New Zealand.”

What do you think of these case studies that Sir Eion Edgar cited?

  1. Public access to iconic South Island high-country stations. Example: Robert “Mutt” Lange buying and forming a single estate larger than many of our National Parks, and spending $50 million to restore them, while also allowing controlled public access such as the Motatapu event. 90% of that land is now in QEII Trust.
  2. Leisure facilities. Example: Millbrook Resort Arrowtown is owned by Eiichi Ishii and is one of the finest in the world. That’s highly managed land, low impact tourism, several hundred million of capital to do it.
  3. Leisure facilities. Glenorchy Campground. Now run by Paul and Debbi Brainerd, they are turning a low-end and run-down facility into an eco-friendly place to cater for all types of visitors. They intend to gift the whole thing once it is cashflow positive.

Opponents may well say we could simply do without all of those things. Or that they might have occurred a different way if they were only able to be bought by locals.

CAFCA’s initial view was that this is all baby steps but the government really needs to get its arse-kicking boots on. Or as they succinctly put it: “Our advice to the Government on how to approach this subject is simple and succinct – less arse kissing and more arse kicking.”

Parliament has already extended the submission period for this bill, so from here it’s the Committee’s job to write the Select Committee report and then get the new bill through to its second reading.

Just in case you wanted to contact them outside the submission process, members of the Finance and Expenditure Committee are:

  • Michael Wood, Chair (Labour)
  • Fletcher Tabuteau, Deputy Chair (New Zealand First)
  • Kiritapu Allan (Labour)
  • Andrew Bayly (National)
  • David Carter (National)
  • Tamati Coffey (Labour)
  • Steven Joyce (National)
  • Barbara Kuriger (National)
  • Willow-Jean Prime (Labour)
  • Deborah Russell (Labour)
  • David Seymour (Act)
  • Duncan Webb (Labour)
  • Lawrence Yule (National)

What gives me pause is looking around New Zealand and checking: what would not be here if these and similar measures had been in place for a few decades.

Would there be massive milk-processing business in Gore and Pokeno and Canterbury? I suspect Fonterra would have retained even greater dominance.

Would there still have been a housing price boom? Pretty hard to prove either way since there were no accurate figures kept for so long.

Would Avatar and the entire New Zealand film industry have been sustained on the strength of Sir Peter Jackson’s businesses alone? It’s a bold call to say yes to that.

Is this a largely symbolic move that really only affects the elite of the elite? Maybe there’s an element of truth to that, but also a suspicion that our service and tourism industry has grown so fast and built so many careers and employs so many of us because of the services that these people and their investments need.

The big alternative to foreign capital is that the locals try to get some together. And that continues. Tens of thousands of locals have turned to private debt, serviced through foreign banks, to leverage a little more local wealth in the form of multiple mortgages. All we have out of that is a whole bunch of sovereign risk and a housing crisis.

So there is no comfortable position, and even the counterfactuals remain heavily proscribed. Even the National Government stopped some foreign sales, such as Lochinver Station by Minister Paula Bennett. So there is some cross-party sympathy.

I’m reasonably patriotic. We should own as much as we can – it’s good for us and generally good for the country. But we haven’t done right by this land. Sometimes foreigners can see that and actually do a better job than us. It’s a paradox we just don’t have enough local capital to really liberate New Zealand.

As Minister Twyford has noted, it’s hard to see this bill going through its remaining stages unchanged.

73 comments on “The Overseas Investment Amendment Bill”

  1. Molly 1

    Ad, sometimes your perspective makes me understand why we fail to maintain a good hold on our values.

    This view of land as a commodity to be made productive, lies at the heart of failures to look after our environment, our people and our well being.

    The other alternative to foreign sales that are too high for NZers to compete, is not NZers collaborating. It is that the land won’t be sold, until the price is reduced to manageable levels.

    • Ad 1.1

      If you were thinking about damage to the land generally, there would be a pretty good case to make that locals have made it worse than non-citizens. It would be a pretty interesting evaluation.

      I can’t see your alternative as likely under any current parliamentary mix, but Eugenie Sage is a good head overlooking tenure review,

      • weka 1.1.1

        No reason we can’t regulate land use in NZ.

      • Molly 1.1.2

        There are failures in the regulatory process for protecting the environment, which can (and should) be fixed. Reliance on the goodwill of foreign investment for own failed responsibilities, is not a good solution – for many reasons.
        1. We are then not incentivised to improve domestic regulations and processes to produce the best outcome.
        2. We introduce foreign stakeholders (with their own set of values) into the mix, particularly troublesome when it comes to issues pertaining to the Treaty of Waitangi, and the values that Māori place on land that are not associated with ownership – even NZers are still having trouble with that,
        3. We have a housing crisis – this is associated with the rising cost of land – which is fed by overseas investment in property regardless. This is true, whether it is direct or not.
        4. That ‘goodwill’ you take note of, can be removed or changed at any time.
        5. Why do people buy land in countries that they do not intend to reside in? If not for residency, then it will be for profit or some other individual benefit. That benefit does not necessarily translate to benefits for all NZers.

    • weka 1.2

      +1 on the values. The post is an neoliberal argument that misses the true importance of land.

      • andrew murray 1.2.1

        Absolutely… plus 1

        • cleangreen


          We agree that it is now wrong to mview land as simple “a cash cow” to uise for profit only and ramp up production is destroying the land equally as conversion to other ‘productive’ uses.

          We must slow the growth of land “intensive productivity’ as in my rural area we see the dramatic degradation in environmental heath when any “factory farms” have entered our region in Gisborne so lats not do this”‘

          • WILD KATIPO

            You bloody tell ’em CLEANGREEN !!!

            Why is it that post 1984 we all seemed so obsessed with this navel gazing about should or shouldn’t foreigners be able to buy our land?

            And as for the three first examples held up as noble success story’s with philanthropic ideals , – there is at least one or maybe two times more whereby foreign concerns have come in here , screwed the environment, sucked out all the profits then left without so much as a buy you or leave.

            And just why is it that post 1984 , poor widdle New Zealanders need to have their hands held on everything on land use to erecting a damned hotel ?!!?

            As a matter of fact , – what the f@ck are Australians doing owning 90 % of our bloody banks for anyways , for crying out loud !?!

            And just WHO was it that insisted suddenly that every square inch of our bloody land HAD TO be turned into a money making venture? – the same crowd who pilfered our water and sold it off to the Chinese?

            Whats wrong with leaving it as it is ?

            Do we really need gold plated toilet seats in the damn campgrounds and silken washing lines to hang our shorties on after the tramp ? Are we so obsessed with the mighty buck that we Kiwis have forgotten how to even pitch a tent?

            Hells teeth ! back in the late 1980’s-90s they were holding seminars on how to develop value added products for export in this country , – are we this bloody clueless now that we cant do anything on our own anymore and we need all this foreign capital?

            And is it any wonder why we have to have all these immigrants for cheap labour pouring in when over 600,000 Kiwis now call Australia home and have done since the neo liberal reforms? And why they left in the first place ?!!?

            Any guesses why , anyone?

            When prior to that we had more or less full employment , one wage that could actually support a family ( and a mortgage ) , we could build hydro dams, harbour bridges , the largest man made forest in the southern hemisphere, maintain an extensive stock of state houses, an efficient rail system , an education system that was basically free, one of the highest literacy rates in the world ,- and , – per capita , – were among the wealthiest citizens globally ( 6th wealthiest after Denmark !!!)

            And we sit here debating whether we NEED these foreigners to come in here and rescue us because we are so bloody clueless and need to have our bloody bums wiped for us now ?!!?

            FFS Y’ALL !!!

            New Right Fight – Who are the New Right?

            • Zorb6

              Post of the week.

            • eco maori

              +1000 Wild Katipo banning foreigners from Owning everything is basic national security or do we want a future for the mokos grandchildren we’re they are tenants in there OWN country they have to pay dividend for everything that is needed for a happy healthy life stuff that. That is the MAIN REASON WHY I OPPOSES THE tpp11. Ana to kai Ka kite ano. P.S I’m not going to roll over on any issues that will have a negative effect on My Mokos future.

            • Matthew Whitehead

              Honestly, I don’t mind foreigners owning land if we just ban them from using it in the ways we don’t want, although we would probably then need a different solution for high-intensity commercialisation of farming due to foreign ownership of the land. (which could just be banning high-intensity farming methods, or zoning most land to forbid them, if you feel like braving the TPP)

              But yeah, I think you’re absolutely right that there are things we can do to get local business up and running and chuck the bastards out if they’re not behaving properly.

  2. John 2

    Much of the foreign money has bid up the price of land – think Canterbury and Otago/Southland – to such an extent that the land has to be so intensively farmed to get a return and that frequently far far too many cows on generally unsuitable dairy land and that leads to polluted waterways and rivers that are no more than sewers. Overseas money has bid up the price of housing and made it unaffordable for the locals and the young. And what for? A few nice tracks and a few movie sets. No! No! No! There must be a better way. Why should hundreds of thousands of Kiwis no longer be able to enjoy a picnic and a swim at the river for a few pieces of silver from some ultra-wealthy foreign business owner?

    • Keepcalmcarryon 2.1

      So true John, the banks are farming the farmers at higher land prices due to foreign interests, we all pay for the pollution of over intensification as the farmer tries to pay the mortgage until they sell and need top dollar from an overseas buyer to make their capital gain.
      Witness the Mackenzie country what a disgrace

      • Graeme 2.1.1

        I think you’ll find the rape of the Mackenzie is pretty much home grown.

        My observation after watching the development of Otago over the last 40 years is that the stupid stuff, both in inappropriate development, and over the top prices, is the work of New Zealanders. This is especially the case towards the end of an economic cycle.

        • Keepcalmcarryon

          It’s all related

        • weka

          And yet we know there are also NZers doing very good things with the land. And it’s NZers that are making the case to sell to overseas owners who do stupid shit. The solution here is to regulate land use in NZ. The neoliberal argument being run here will not protect NZ land, it will just try and mitigate the fuck ups.

          The biggest block to NZ farmers transitioning to regenerative and sustainable models is economics.

          • Graeme

            Maybe we could use the OIO to allow those willing to follow sustainable practices in, and force the knuckle draggers improve their practices. If you’ve got to be sustainable to own the land, you’ll be paying a premium for a property that’s already sustainable.

            • weka

              I’m all for the OIO changing its criteria towards sustainability and climate change mitigation. But there is simply no way around the fact that the exchange rate and access to cash means that overseas ownership will always make land here unaffordable for locals. We have watched exactly that happen in the past 20 years.

              In terms of protecting NZ land, we still need regulations on that irrespective of who owns it, and we need to find a way of making it affordable to farm sustainably and regeneratively. The people really wanting to do that simply don’t have access to the kind of money needed now to buy or convert rural land. Mutt Lange is a band aid on that situation.

              • Graeme

                Making it unlawful to farm or use any land unsustainably would make it more affordable to farm sustainably. Land values would adjust to the market. The other option is a more settled and comfortable world where affluent consumers are more willing to pay a premium for sustainably produced real food. No one has been able to demonstrate a market at this end big enough to sustain New Zealand’s industry so it’s a bit of chicken and egg argument until it all starts working, and you’d probably need better global conditions than now.

              • paul andersen

                maybe its a case of getting the OIO out of the office and putting on with many things its a case of getting the beauraucrats off their arse’s.

              • Matthew Whitehead

                Weka’s 100% right that there are balance-of-trade, exchange rate, and other issues with the available finance making problems here that a foreign ownership ban WOULD solve, it’s just a question of whether we’re willing to go there. I get the impression Labour aren’t.

      • bwaghorn 2.1.2

        been saying for years that the banks are the real farmers , just their live stock fences itsself in willingly

    • Skyer 2.2

      Agreed 100%

  3. Keepcalmcarryon 3

    “Reasonably patriotic” a bit like “ pretty legal”
    Let’s not pretend you aren’t in favour of open doors for migrants.
    The examples are shit, another golf course is what we get? Mutt Lange, as the sole overseas buyer who actually did anything decent, always trotted out as an example, a shame the others close off access . A camp ground somewhere got a clean up.
    If these are the arguments for making us tenants in our own country then there is real hope they will shut foreign land buyers out.
    Sir Edgar : rich person says rich people are important, all sorts of shit will trickle down. Yeah right

    • Ad 3.1

      Humbly, we are all migrants, some a lot longer than others.
      We’ve all made our share of damage, our share of contribution.
      The debate is fine when we point the finger at the outsiders trying to come in.
      The question is also about the many fingers from the same hand pointing straight back at us.

      • Keepcalmcarryon 3.1.1

        Bollocks to that.
        This is about wealthy overseas people displacing the kiwi public from their own land and reducing opportunities for kiwis to own their own farm.
        Half worthy attempt at straw man.

      • dukeofurl 3.1.2

        Who is talking about ‘migrants’ ( they wont be restricted)

        Its foreign entities and offshore buyers who dont have residency or citizenship.

        Isnt Edgar a high profile Queenstown property developer, who ‘talks about’ iconic sheep stations but who really wants Queenstown residential and housing to remain in offshore hands

      • cleangreen 3.1.3


        Remember “two wrongs don’t make a right”

        Now we know the cause and affect finally so we must make laws to prevent further degradation of our environment now please.

        Time for talking is over.

      • mikes 3.1.4

        “Humbly, we are all migrants, ”

        Speak for yourself. If someone is born in NZ they are not a migrant

      • mikes 3.1.5

        Why not allow foreigners to purchase a long term leasehold on properties, (99 years ??) with the proviso that the leasehold can’t be on sold simply to make profit and that they improve the land or use it for something that benefits most New Zealanders.

        Actual ownership of property (especially residential) should be NZ Citizens and permanent residents only. Also I would make it illegal for a company or corporation to buy residential property (with a few exceptions). When someone puts their name to a property it is much more transparent for things such as fair and proper tax payments, etc

    • Bearded Git 3.2

      The purchase of Hunter Valley Station by American newsreader Matt Lauer, now the subject of groping allegations, was a disaster for public access-the most important and user-friendly access up the Hunter Valley was not made a condition of the purchase.

      Mutt Lange’s farms are all pastoral leases and so owned by the NZ public. Tenure review would have required good public access in any event. QEII covenants do not allow public access, though Lange has put in some excellent public tracks.

    • Skyer 3.3

      100% correct. Lots of foreign buyers have now closed off land to kiwis all around the country. The Glenorchy Camp Ground was fine just the way it was, at least in my opinion. And yes, Eion Edgar will be looking out for himself and his rich friends. They want to be able to continue to build multi million dollar homes around Queenstown to sell to the super rich and want this area excluded from the legislation. Tough. Ban it.

  4. Pat 4

    As always the question is the balance….and current settings are unbalanced.

    A pause while the state of play can be determined is in order…the last administration (and to an extent the previous one) propped up the economy with an ultra loose migration/investment policy WITHOUT any mechanism to measure the impact (other than GDP)….how can a cost/benefit analysis then be done to determine what the balance point may be?

    Meanwhile the citizens of the country pay the price of that oversight(?)

  5. weka 5

    Public access to iconic South Island high-country stations. Example: Robert “Mutt” Lange buying and forming a single estate larger than many of our National Parks, and spending $50 million to restore them, while also allowing controlled public access such as the Motatapu event. 90% of that land is now in QEII Trust.

    The solution is to change farming practice in NZ so that NZ farmers look after the land. That we need mega wealthy offshore owners to save our land and biodiversity is not an argument for allowing foreign ownership. It should be pointing us to changing NZ culture. Foreign ownership increases land values and makes it much harder for NZers to farm and to farm regeneratively or sustainably.

    Lange came into that project from his then wife Shania Twain who bought the original station and closed public access. Yes that got changed a bit, but essentially it was still a net loss of sovereignty due to the cultural issues in foreign ownership.

    All that aside, what does this have to do with Labour’s changing the law? That law is only going to apply to residential housing afaik.

    Leisure facilities. Example: Millbrook Resort Arrowtown is owned by Eiichi Ishii and is one of the finest in the world. That’s highly managed land, low impact tourism, several hundred million of capital to do it.

    500 acres in land-tight Wakatipu Basin. Land that is desperately needed for housing, and will be needed for food growing in a post-carbon economy.

    What does Millbrook have to do with Labour’s law change?

    Leisure facilities. Glenorchy Campground. Now run by Paul and Debbi Brainerd, they are turning a low-end and run-down facility into an eco-friendly place to cater for all types of visitors. They intend to gift the whole thing once it is cashflow positive.

    The ecological footprint of that build and the tourism miles it will be utterly dependent upon is not something the planet can afford. They can make it the most
    ecological build in NZ* and they’re still going to be a net contributor to climate change because of the very nature of where they are and what kind of business they are.

    (*although I’m willing to bet they’re not even close to what say an Earthship build is)

    What does the Glenorchy Campground have to do with Labour’s law change?

    • Ad 5.1

      Yes I chose Sir Eion and CAFCA because they the responses that were the most diametrically opposed.

      • weka 5.1.1

        That doesn’t answer my question. Why are people talking about rural land? It’s not going to be affected by the Labour law change.

    • Graeme 5.2

      Millbrook could be caught up in Labour’s change depending on the definition of residential. A lot of small rural properties without any agricultural use could also get dragged in, or suddenly become very valuable. It all depends on the boundary definitions.

      Carving Millbrook and most of the Whakatipu up for “much needed housing” will just create more speculation, won’t do a thing for cheaper housing, and can’t be called sustainable by any definition. We follow that reasoning and Lake Hayes Estate / Shotover Country starts at Nevis Bluff and ends at Bob’s Cove to the west and Wye Creek to the south. And the residents will still be bitching about housing costs. The solution is not more subdivision, but different models of housing in much higher density for those who make the place work and maybe just getting on the ladder, and those who are here for the lifestyle need to be able to afford that lifestyle.

      • weka 5.2.1

        I’m not suggesting carving up Millbrook, I’m pointing out that the whole neoliberal argument being run here serves neoliberalism. Nothing will solve the housing crises that suits neoliberalism (that’s not just QL, that’s NZ).

        “Getting on the ladder” is part of that. Unless you think QL (not just the Wakatipu Basin) should build worker dorms and import cheap labour as it needs to, then housing needs to be affordable for lower incomes, and that includes rentals.

        “and those who are here for the lifestyle need to be able to afford that lifestyle”

        That’s the attitude that destroys community. If you want to live in a uber rich enclave, that’s fine, but other people have rights to community and housing despite that. I guess Queenstown could try and cede from the rest of the country, which is what this argument is beginning to look like.

        QLDC will have clear definitions of rural, rural residential, residential etc just like other places. I haven’t looked at Labour’s legislation to see how they intend to define it, but it might be a good idea if the people arguing against it do because this whole thing conversation here is just muddying the waters.

        • Graeme

          Thanks for telling me to go and read the current version of the bill, I didn’t realise this was moving as fast as it is and was going on earlier stuff that was more like what’s in the digest.

          The bit where people are talking about rural land comes from a long history of dubious semantics in classifying non-urban land used for residential purposes. This goes back to the old Town and Country Planning Act and continues today. Initially this bill relied on definitions council valuation rolls, which would have led to huge inconsistencies around the country. Now the bill, which is a bit of a moving target, goes on actual use and / or intent.

          “residential (but not otherwise sensitive) land, in relation to an overseas investment in sensitive land, means that the relevant land is land that—
          is, or includes, residential land; but
          is not otherwise sensitive under Part 1 of Schedule 1
          residential dwelling—
          means a building or group of buildings, or part of a building or group of buildings, that is—
          used, or intended to be used, only or mainly for residential purposes; and
          occupied, or intended to be occupied, exclusively as the home or residence of not more than 1 household; but
          does not include any dwelling—
          to the extent that it is, or is part of, a long-term accommodation facility or an excluded accommodation facility; or
          within a class set out in regulations as a class of dwellings not to be treated as residential dwellings in this Act”

          There’s also appeared an exclusion, (b)ii which allows the Minister to regulate to exclude a class of dwellings.

          The definition of “excluded accomodation facility” would probably pick up Millbrook, and I can see someone having a crack at getting a few ruralish subdivisions in there based on the anal covenants attached.

          The broad definition and ability to exclude by regulation looks like a looming political disaster, but probably no different to the traps in immigration.

          The bill is still a work in progress, so there will be further changes but the direction is coming right from a Whakatipu perspective.

  6. Antoine 6

    Question – If the Bill’s process is delayed significantly, will it run into TPP ratification and become impossible?

    Or is there plenty of time to do one before the other.


  7. AB 8

    I don’t think it’s unusual that something we disapprove of in principle can throw up instances where it actually delivers short-term utility.
    It’s fine to acknowledge this, but even if we confine ourselves just to the framework of utilitarianism, some other questions still need to be asked:
    – are these instances of good things happening intrinsic to the way the system is set up? Are they the likely outcome of the system, or are they pleasant exceptions?
    – how durable are they, will they last or can they be reversed over time (e.g. when he current owners sell these properties in the future)

  8. dukeofurl 9

    The current restrictions limit ‘sensitive’ land including farmland in general. So it would change for iconic high country stations.
    The examples given are where there is been considerable input to enhance a property- likely as a requirement of the OIO process.

    The new changes I understand are targeted at residential land from future residential down to existing houses.

    Clearly they have to carry through the existing restrictions ( which do need tightening up as the current approvals are largely rubber stamp) and extend them for the housing area.

    There seems to be a lot of scare mongering as though foreign entities and off shore owners have open slather on all NZ land.

    • ropata 9.1

      Scaremongering? The OIO has rubber stamped millions of hectares to foreign buyers

      So what’s wrong with foreign investment? It can be summed up by the difference between owning or renting your house (and I’ve experienced both). Ownership is power; owners make the decisions; owners reap the rewards. For tenants, it might be a very comfortable tenancy, but that can change at the whim of the owner; there is no long term security of tenure; rent is dead money and there is nothing to show at the end of it. Present foreign investment policies are well on the way of turning New Zealanders into tenants in our own land…

      Of course the foreign takeovers which attract the highest public attention and opposition are those involving rural land. The specifics change from decade to decade but the issue remains the same. The Crafar farms are just the latest focal point. Actually, of much more importance is the takeover, by other Chinese transnationals, of PGG Wrightson, a major NZ agribusiness. The prize is not the company per se but the fact that it has commercial rights to 90% of the technology on which NZ’s grass seed manufacturing is based. To quote a seed company director speaking to a farmers’ paper: “Having this technology controlled overseas was ‘like selling 5,000 farms to overseas buyers. Everyone was up in arms when it looked like 20 Crafar farms would be sold to the Chinese, but this is much bigger'”.

      Every time there is controversy about some particular foreign land purchase, the apologists say “Well, they can’t take the land with them”. Quite – and why would they want to, when they can own it here and milk it for all its worth (the company which now owns the Crafar farms is even called Milk New Zealand ). What a lazy argument. Ask Maori what happened when Britain colonised NZ – the British didn’t take the land with them, did they, but that didn’t seem to help Maori one bit. It’s rather like saying Telecom can’t take all the phones with it. Once again, why would they want to? They’re happy to leave the phones here and take the money with them.

      If we don’t watch out, NZ’s agriculture will go the way of the wine industry, which did all the hard work to establish itself as a keystone part of the economy and a player on the world scene, only to be progressively bought out by transnational corporations and to now have been reduced to being a bulk grape grower for foreign booze giants.

  9. Graeme 10

    While Edgar raises some very valid arguments, all the examples are providing much more sustainable land uses than would have been reasonably expected under NZ ownership, I have begun to question the motives of what he says as he is becoming a self interested nimby.

    Several years ago he got rather vexed about the effects of aircraft flying past his house on Kelvin Peninsula, it’s quite a nice house. Mr Edgar’s solution was to move the airport to the top of Queenstown Hill on the other side of Frankton Arm. The cost, and technical difficulty of the relocation, along with the operational problems of an airport on top of a mountain seemed to pass him by. But hey, he’s a stock broker, they sell pups, sorry, I mean other people’s bright ideas.

    Mr Edgar is getting on now, he’ll be wanting to sell his flash house in a few years to help the family trust. Taking out a lot of the prospective market might reduce their options.

    I’ve done a bit of scratching around about QLDC’s submission and the effects of a ban could be quite chilling on the whole district. One issue was the effect of a reduction in top end values on rating of lower value properties, in effect the rates burden on the drop in value would be spread over the whole rating base putting up rates on low value properties. An increase in top end values decreases rates on low end properties.

    Considering your average tradie or small business owner is unlikely to own, or live in a 2 – 20 million dollar property there seems to be little point in a ban on foreign ownership of these properties, and it may be counter productive in terms of housing affordability.

    Maybe a solution is an exemption for designated properties, or the upper x percentile. A national interest argument to the OIO shouldn’t be too hard either.

    • Ad 10.1

      Like an upper value limit, that could be altered over time?

      Sounds sensible. Reminds me of the LTR ratios required for investment properties. Banks are the real enforcers for that one. Sends the right chill through the speculator real estate investor market.

      • Graeme 10.1.1

        The objective is to take overseas owners / investors / speculators out of the part of the market where most (90% ?) New Zealand residents are. Allowing overseas money into the bit where most New Zealanders aren’t, with a national interest test, would be to everyones benefit.

        Not sure how you’d do it, I’ll leave that to better minds than mine, but a prescribed route through the OIO process could be one idea for places like Millbrook or other high end properties. Still like the idea of some sort of approval process to make the point that owning property here is a privilege for non residents.

    • mikes 10.2

      “Considering your average tradie or small business owner is unlikely to own, or live in a 2 – 20 million dollar property there seems to be little point in a ban on foreign ownership of these properties, ”

      I know quite a few millionaire tradesmen. That aside why exempt expensive houses? Surely if nobody can afford to buy them then the price will come down (a good thing) and / or the developers might think about building higher quantities of more affordable housing in the future (a good thing)

  10. Siobhan McCormack 11

    Here we are with this return to CEO style philanthropists telling us what’s in our best interests.

    I wonder if there is any correlation between wage stagnation and job insecurity, and growth in Philanthropy from wealthy individuals.

    • mikes 11.1

      “I wonder if there is any correlation between wage stagnation and job insecurity, and growth in Philanthropy from wealthy individuals.”

      Hehe good call Siobhan. Could quite easily be when you think about it because there’s almost certainly going to be correlation between wage stagnation, job insecurity; and wealthy individuals for starters so just adding another variable onto that.

      You could theorize now without even any data that if there’s growth in philanthropy from wealthy individuals, then that must mean they have more money to throw around, which no doubt will come at the expense of (at least in part) wage stagnation and the growth of insecure part time and low hour jobs??

  11. cleangreen 12


    “Here we are with this return to CEO style philanthropists telling us what’s in our best interests”

    yes this is all corporate style takeover double speak we are now seeing here as they talk over us and diminish our effectiveness as national always did and we hope Labour don’t repeat the mistakes here now they see how bad things have gotten.

  12. Stuart Munro 13

    I think this issue would benefit from some of the kind of analysis Andy Yan produced for Vancouver.

    By building a fairly comprehensive data picture the causes of problems are highlighted and some impractical solutions avoided.

    I have to say that foreign capital has produced no noticeable benefits in my life or those of my friends – so the neo-liberal presumption is on a hiding to nothing.

    It would be nice for a change to have a government that even briefly ceased whoring themselves to corporate influence and paid some attention to the folk they are paid and sworn to represent. A pipedream of course – these fuckwits couldn’t sign the tpp fast enough.

    • greywarshark 13.1

      Stuart M
      Tell it like it is! And you’ll probably get a huge echo of applause from huge numbers of people.

    • Drowsy M. Kram 13.2

      Well said. Corporate power/influence constitutes an irresistible corrupting force.

      The current flock of government MPs may consider themselves less corrupt than some previous mobs, but the corporate capture of NZ will continue more or less unabated.

      Corruptus is the past participle of the Latin verb corrumpereto destroy, ruin, waste. – OED & Elementary Latin Dictionary, Lewis (1947)

      It appears in English- presumably from Norman French as corrump. :

      Etymology: < Old French corompre, corrumpre (modern French corrompre = Provençal corrompre, Italian corrompere) < Latin corrumpĕre to break in pieces, destroy, ruin, spoil, mar, adulterate, falsify, draw to evil, seduce, bribe, < cor- together, altogether + rumpĕre to break, violate, destroy, etc. In French also to spoil by decomposition, rot, render putrid. (OED)

      In the time of Chaucer the verb corrump was used to mean:

      1. trans. To bring to naught, destroy, mar, spoil, render useless.
      2. To decompose, cause to rot or decay; to infect or taint with corruption.

      and especially, in view of the modern meaning:

      3. To destroy morally, make morally corrupt. and
      4. To corrupt by bribery.

  13. What do you think of these case studies that Sir Eion Edgar cited?

    Public access to iconic South Island high-country stations. Example: Robert “Mutt” Lange buying and forming a single estate larger than many of our National Parks, and spending $50 million to restore them, while also allowing controlled public access such as the Motatapu event. 90% of that land is now in QEII Trust.
    Leisure facilities. Example: Millbrook Resort Arrowtown is owned by Eiichi Ishii and is one of the finest in the world. That’s highly managed land, low impact tourism, several hundred million of capital to do it.
    Leisure facilities. Glenorchy Campground. Now run by Paul and Debbi Brainerd, they are turning a low-end and run-down facility into an eco-friendly place to cater for all types of visitors. They intend to gift the whole thing once it is cashflow positive.

    Standard, run of the mill, capitalist theft hidden behind the delusion that they’re doing good. Pretty much guarantee that they didn’t actually bring anything to these shores to do any of it which means we could have done it without their money as no country needs foreign money to utilise its own resources.

    If we wanted to do it we could have if the capitalists weren’t standing in the way.

    What gives me pause is looking around New Zealand and checking: what would not be here if these and similar measures had been in place for a few decades.

    I tend to look at it the other way: What could we have achieved if we didn’t have these rich pricks stealing so much from us?

    Would there still have been a housing price boom?

    Probably not. Sure, there isn’t a lot of hard data but just look at the politicians working to protect rich pricks. IIRC, there’s been an article here and there about farmers being concerned about farm prices dropping because nobody in NZ can afford the prices that they expect.

    The big alternative to foreign capital is that the locals try to get some together.

    No it’s not. There’s also the fact that the government can create any money it likes and doing so is also the only workable solution.

    It’s a paradox we just don’t have enough local capital to really liberate New Zealand.

    Yes we do. It’s a delusion to think that we can’t afford to utilise our own resources. In fact, selling off our country makes it harder for us to work it.

    • Keepcalmcarryon 14.1

      But think of the golf course we wouldn’t have, come on DTB, see the big picture here.

  14. greywarshark 15

    I wonder if someone said that to Eva Rickard when she organised protest to get Maori land developed into a golf course, returned decades ago, in Rotorua or Hamilton I can’t remember. Golf being a sacred taonga to the wealthy.

  15. Incognito 16

    I get that some get very excited about Philanthropy Porn & Prostitution Partnerships (PPPPs)* but IMO there are big issues that get ignored or glossed over (as usual).

    If these rich benefactors do such wonderful work, and indeed some really do good work, then why can’t our democratically-elected and representative Government do a similar or even better job? Or appoint (local) guardians whose task & duty it is to look after the land for all New Zealanders, for current and future generations? The (misleading) answer always and inevitably seems to be: money …

    Take NZ universities, for example, which now actively (have to) chase philanthropic funds to survive (in a global highly-competitive market for students, staff, and grants). The third medical school in NZ just lost a promised large donation by a wealthy businessman because he was not impressed with ‘the process’ … Even children’s hospitals now rely on rich donors to get things over the line.

    If our Government were to fully take on these responsibilities, as it should IMO, there would be no need for PPPPs. At all. Under such scenario, rich or not so rich people would still be very welcome to make big donations but it would not ‘buy’ as much influence as it does seem to do now, it would not come with strings attached as it does now, and it would not be on terms dictated by the donor as is often the case now. When you indicate on your NZ driver’s licence that you’re an organ donor it doesn’t come with a whole list of restrictions & conditions either, does it?

    Please note that I did not mention or discuss the nationality or residency status of said philantropers/donors, which is a point for another discussion altogether.

    *I’m sure some will take offence because it is deliberately provocative; please think about it for a moment before you shoot off your mouth 😉

  16. Janet 17

    I was not surprised to read of over-wealthy overseas “investors” decrying the wish we New Zealanders have voted for, to close out foreign buyers of our homes and the land our pioneering forebears struggled and sacrificed to develop so that their families that followed could live a free and prosperous life. Instead, now that the hard work has been done, over- wealthy international are moving in and building opulent bolt holes and play grounds across New Zealand to entertain themselves and their over-wealthy mates. It is nothing about “helping” New Zealand. They are wolves in sheepskins with plans to match.
    Do you not remember some years ago a Business Roundtable conference in Wellington deciding (for us!) that New Zealand should steer its development towards being the land of recreation and rest for the rest of the world. My Great, great, grandparents’ offspring are seriously in danger of becoming the servants and entertainers of the over-wealthy investors and developers of the world rather than independent sustainable food producers, if the government renege on passing the legislation so sorely needed to curtail property purchasing by offshore buyers. God save New Zealand by making sure the present government does what it said it would do.

  17. savenz 18

    If it were a few foreign people coming to NZ to do some low impact tourism ventures that would be fine.

    It’s not. Increasingly money from all over the world is being used to buy ‘gold bricks’ aka property and land investments which then mean the local people can’t afford to buy their own land as it drives up prices and actually takes land and housing out of local circulation.

    See this from the UK, they made the same mistake before NZ, thinking global money would create investment to build houses and increase affordability, it didn’t! The opposite happened (just like NZ) they build luxury houses that were under utilised and local workers could not afford.

    Also the routs are huge. Look at this article from

    High Country selloff scandal laid bare by SIMON LOUISSON

    “An analysis by an author on the subject, Ann Bower, published in 2015 found the median capital gain of sales after tenure reviews was 69,200 percent
    Across all tenure reviews since 1998, land valued at $320 million was bought by farmers for $143m, while land valued at $78m was purchased by the Crown for $208m”

    Land is sold cheap and then on sold to foreigner’s at great profit which keeps the prices up.

    Builder’s are kept out of circulation as they spend years and years on mansions while nobody can get a builder anymore.

    I don’t think the bill has gone far enough should be a complete ban of housing AND land unless you are resident 90 days or more and no trusts or businesses owning the land. You have to be a transparent private owner for land or housing, that’s it.

    With business assets, like China no more than 50% owned by foreign ownership and they have to pay a minimum of taxes here.

    No doubt foreigner’s with money will have their lawyers making sure the bill fails or has enough loop holes that it is a worthless piece of legislation.

    Just like in the unitary plan when everywhere was intensified but some cliff top roads got an exception.

    There seems to be a 2 rule laws now in NZ, exceptions for the rich and well connected and one for everyone else.

    Look at the USA, UK and the third world, inequality leads to social disruption if you allow 2 tier class systems to develop.

  18. Jess NZ 19

    Thanks Ad for putting up a devil’s advocate article so we can all read the much better counterarguments in the comments and be prepared for the discussion…

  19. savenz 20

    Interesting article about how UK may have breached human rights over Grenfell Tower, and the views of Leilani Farha, the UN special rapporteur on the right to adequate housing.

    “Farha has been a persistent critic of what she calls the “financialisation” of housing, by which unregulated global capital is allowed to pour billions into exclusive, hyper-expensive new property developments in cities such as London, excluding local residents from local housing, pushing up rents and and fuelling housing instability.”

  20. Macro 21

    The owners of expensive properties in Queenstown are not the only ones affected by this bill.
    One area of NZ that has given greatly to NZ but is overlooked by most in this country is the town of Waihi at the base of the Coromandel. Properties are not very expensive there – because – well do you want to live over an active mine shaft?
    Now the Hauraki District Council is submitting on “behalf of the people of Waihi” that the Bill be amended to allow the overseas mining company to buy these properties so that they can continue to mine under peoples houses, and then to sell them off again once they have finished that part of the mine.
    I guess it boils down to whether or not you think that we need to mine more gold, when there is around 165,000 of tonnes of the stuff already locked up in vaults around the world. Just to bear in mind that apart from the work that some locals get (most mine employees are foreign nationals) from this mining operation – and the link above has a pic of the open sore – NZ’s biggest environmental hole – the country only receives minor “royalties” on the gold and silver that is extracted from this operation – around $6.5 million in a good year.
    For a more informative view of what life is like in this mining town – here is an account by one local resident.

  21. Melanie Scott 22

    I have only just seen this article, so many of the commentors above may have moved on. While I agree that some foreign investment can be ‘a good thing’ especially if the investors have philosphic values that promote social and public interests – like public access or what George Monbiot would call embracing the idea of the commons. However two of the most agressive submissions made to the select committee came from American billionaire Ric Kayne, and his development partner John Darby & Associates. These two under the name of Te Arai North Ltd have done a deal with Te Uri O Hau Trust of Northland to build an exclusive multimillion dollar golf course and luxury housing estate. These facilities are marketed exclusively to North Americans by Legacy Partners. This development company applied to Auckland City Council for a non notified consent to close a public carpark and road access to said carpark at the northern end of the iconic Te Arai Beach and it’s famous surf break, used by surfers from all over NZ for many decades. Puplic uproar ensued and after nearly 7,000 people signed petitions opposing the closure of this part of the beach, the matter is now in limbo but the war has not been won. The reason for this secretive move, was to make it difficult for hoi poloi to enjoy a beach where rich overseas millionaires might want to desport themselves undisturbed. Beach front properties, created on a fragile, unique, unspoilt wild dune coastline will cost about a couple of million dollars, just for the land. Membership fees for the golf club are over $300,000 and the entry fee is about the same. John Key is a close friend of Ric Kayne and plays golf there all the time; he may be one of the few NZers who owns a property there. It is said that Ric Kayne ‘taught John Key all he knows about financial speculation and investment’. Locals are also battling the construction of a dam on the Te Arai Stream which interrupts the free flow of water and upstream movement of spawning fish. The endangered NZ Fairy Tern which number only about 40 birds in total, feed almost exclusively at the mouth of this stream and this is where the adults feed their young on a diet of live fish which is all they eat. The reason for the dam (which was built without council consent) was to slow water flow and prevent encroachment of sea water at the point where fresh water is pumped into a reservoir. The water is used to water the golf course. Needless to say, Auckland Council is bending over backwards to accommodate the developers and only about 5 rocks have been removed from the dam, in return for a retrospective consent. I could go on about the illegal appropriation of DOC land at the northern end of the development, to create a wider privacy buffer for the billionaire’s new house, and the fact that under the previous government DOC was instructed to turn a blind eye to this. There have been many more infringements of the Plan Change (166) issued by the Environment Court and the illegal removal (no consents applied for or demanded) to remove hundreds of thousands of cubic metres of sand from public land, to raise building platforms for luxury houses. So in balance, yes I do think there need to be some constraints on foreign ownership….

  22. Skyer 23

    Tough luck for the global multi millionaires. Ban it.

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