Ten foreign investors forced to dispose of New Zealand land in last 10 years
Last year, a total of 466,000ha was sold to offshore buyers with Overseas Investment Office approval - a five-fold increase on the previous year.
NZ Herald | 28 March 2017
Ten foreign investors forced to dispose of NZ land in last 10 years
Ten foreign investors have been forced to surrender sensitive land in New Zealand in the last decade after failing to meet the conditions of their purchase, figures obtained by the Herald show.
Another four investors voluntarily sold their land after the Overseas Investment Office (OIO) warned they were likely to face sanctions if they held onto the properties.
The OIO was unable to immediately name the individuals or companies who had to dispose of their land or why they were forced to dispose of it.
The foreign investment watchdog usually applies conditions on investors before they approve purchases of farmland, large tracts of land, or land near recreation areas or water. Conditions can include a requirement to maintain public access, to create jobs, or to invest in conservation programmes.
The OIO has been criticised by Opposition parties for failing to monitor these conditions, for being too lenient on investors, and for not keeping track of the amount of land going to offshore buyers.
Land Information Minister Mark Mitchell said last week he did not know how often conditions were breached.
Figures released to the Herald under the Official Information Act showed that the OIO was checking up on more investors every year. In 2016, it carried out checks on 419 consent holders.
"The increasing number of monitoring activities reflect increasingly comprehensive conditions of consent," a spokeswoman said.
But the OIO was unable to report how many consent holders had not met all their conditions. The spokeswoman said the OIO was improving its database to allow more accurate reporting.
The OIO was, however, able to report how many times it used its ultimate sanction for investors who had breached their conditions. It had forced investors to dispose of their land ten times between 2006 and 2017.
Meanwhile, the Labour Party alleged today that large amounts of land had been bought by foreigners without the required approval from the OIO.
It released documents which showed the OIO had investigated 115 investors for buying land without approval since 2011.
Just 31 of these investors had been penalised, and the average fine was $8500 - a punishment which Labour leader Andrew Little described as a "slap with a wet bus ticket".
Little claimed the 115 investors had bought 250,000ha of sensitive land. But Mitchell said that estimate was "way off" and the actual amount of land retrospectively approved by the OIO over this period was closer to 1400ha.
Last year, a total of 466,000ha was sold to offshore buyers with OIO approval - a five-fold increase on the previous year.
Mitchell said this did not reflect a "big buy-up" of New Zealand land because some of it was jointly bought by New Zealand investors.
28 March 2017
Quarter of a million hectares sold into overseas ownership
Press Release: New Zealand Labour Party
Andrew Little, Leader of the Opposition
28 March 2017
Quarter of a million hectares sold into overseas ownership illegally
Over 250,000 hectares of land have been bought by foreigners without required approval from the Overseas Investment Office since 2011, and the response was a slap with a wet bus ticket by National, says Leader of the Opposition Andrew Little.
“Our land is being sold into foreign ownership illegally on a massive scale, and National is doing nothing about it.
“The OIO had to validate the purchases retrospectively. It imposed fines in 31 cases of land being sold without approval, totalling 257,000 hectares valued at over half a billion dollars. The average fine was $8,500, or less than $1 a hectare. In other cases, no fine was imposed or the buyers were allowed to make a donation to charity to settle the issue.
“No wonder foreign buyers aren’t bothering to comply with the law when the penalties the Government imposes are so trivial. It’s cheaper to ignore the OIO and pay the fine if you get caught than it is to go through the approval process. What does this say about how the Government values the role of the OIO as guardians of our sensitive land?
“The fact so much of our land is being sold into overseas ownership illegally shows the OIO doesn’t have the resources needed to do its job properly. National is clearly not concerned about foreigners buying sensitive land if it is failing to give the OIO the tools to do its job.
“Labour will properly resource the OIO so it can better police who is buying our sensitive land and give it the tools to ensure foreign buyers are sticking to the conditions of their purchase. Overseas purchases of our land should only be allowed when they create real value for New Zealand,” says Andrew Little.
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