Govt needs to restrict foreign buyers of NZ property, Green Party says, following real estate agent concerns in Auckland

By Alex Tarrant

The Green Party says the government needs to impose restrictions on foreigners buying New Zealand residential property after an Auckland real estate agent warned Kiwi home buyers were finding it hard to compete with offshore Chinese buyers.

The NZ Herald this week reported Barfoot and Thompson agent Ian Thornhill saying he was worried about the effects of Chinese buyers "offloading some surplus funds" into the New Zealand housing market.

"I don't think it's a good thing at all. Kiwis are getting really upset. They can't compete with Asians who have the money and they pay more. You can see Kiwis only have a certain amount of money to spend but they do stretch themselves. This is all having an impact on us. It's as plain as the nose on your face, what's happening in the auction rooms each week," Thornhill said.

'Restrict them'

Green Party co-leader Russel Norman used the opportunity to point to the Greens' foreign investment policy.

"Hong Kong has imposed a 15 per cent emergency tax on foreign buyers of residential property. Hong Kong took this step after investors from Mainland China drove up prices creating a housing bubble," Norman said.

Real estate agents in Auckland are raising concerns that overseas buyers are driving up house prices in Auckland. Many of these buyers may not even be intending to live in the homes they have bought," he said.

“Australia also has restrictions on overseas buyers purchasing residential properties. Overseas buyers cannot buy established dwellings as investment properties or as homes, unless they meet certain strict criteria.

The situation as it stands in New Zealand is that foreign buyers only need approval under certain conditions such as when the deal is worth more than NZ$100 million.

Our weak overseas investment laws mean New Zealand is a good place to speculate in property for overseas investors," Norman said.

“This situation may be great news for real estate agents but in an already tightly squeezed market, is bad news for New Zealand home buyers. Reducing price pressure from overseas investors is just part of the Green Party’s solution to making housing more affordable,” he said.

“A capital gains tax (excluding the family home) will further reduce speculation while greater government investment in affordable housing, a warrant of fitness for rental properties, and assistance for first home buyers will ensure more Kiwi families get to live in warm, healthy homes.”

We welcome your help to improve our coverage of this issue. Any examples or experiences to relate? Any links to other news, data or research to shed more light on this? Any insight or views on what might happen next or what should happen next? Any errors to correct?

We welcome your comments below. If you are not already registered, please register to comment or click on the "Register" link below a comment.

Remember we welcome robust, respectful and insightful debate. We don't welcome abusive or defamatory comments and will de-register those repeatedly making such comments. Our current Comment policy is here.


Typical politicians shorterm reaction to some situation in Auckland.  But taking a long term view it's important that as a nation and a group of citizens we continue to own our own stuff.  There is economic benefit in doing so.

Unfortunately, as a nation, we'd like to own it but we're not very interested in saving toward that goal.

Speak for yourself! I'm bloody good at saving, but the property market is rushing away from me at a rate faster than I can save.... the debt I would need to take on to buy a house increases each and every day.

Having just had both of our late thirty year kids buy houses in Auckland, I could possibly jump to  the me-me-me side of this argument BUT the facts are there is one way of making Auckland less liveable for its citizens and that is to deprive them of the benefits of owning their own home.
If there is a case for letting overseas moneybags buying up NZ it is not houses.
One side effect that many do not realise (including our politicians) is that this massive cash inflow keeps the exchange rate artificially high and is helping destroy export industry as well as making farming much less profitable (and in some cases will destroy their equity)
My message to Russel Norman is 'Get on with it" I may not agree with Green policies but this is big enough to encouräge me to consider them for my next vote in 2014.

Agree totally with you.  There are a lot of decent people who try very hard to save, make all sorts of sacrifices just to watch house affordability racing ahead, beyond the horizon of what they can reasonably expect in their lives.  At what point do they just give up and slide down the heap and add to the increasing social problems and costs of our country.  Remove people's hope and they have nothing to aspire and work towards.

Not only do you need to be good at saving Esprit, but banks need to return a decent interest rate on savings, which they don't! The present policy encourages people to spend their money, rather than saving it. I wonder why do we have this policy? Who wants it? I am afraid as a saver you are on a league of your own. 

Good on you but the nation has run deficits for 30 years.

kiwis will have less money if the greenies get in
no forestry or mining will be allowed because a rare worm may be located somewhere,
they may find a policy like they want a bit harder to bring in than they think.

yes, they will probably demand that we be economical with the use of capital letters also

I think you'll find most people already have less money now with the Nat's in charge. In fact they're doing an excellent job of slowly destroying our exporters with the high dollar. Soon we'll all be able to sell even more of our houses to each other, or foreigners, and get really rich!!!!

Didn't the law allowing squating in England come about in in circumstances like this?  A terrible shortage of houses for the masses and a lot of houses lying arround empty owned by wealthy absentee owners.

At the very least, shouldn't these foreign house buyers be required to pay tax in NZ.  They should contribute to the costs of running the country in which they enjoy the benefits of owning property and thereby incur costs.  Why not charge 3-5% of the capital value, rebateable against any other tax paid in NZ?  Come to think of it why not do that with all rental propery also?

I have been pushing that barrow for a while.
The precedent is the FIF regime where you are taxed on income at 5% of the value of the asset whether it earns 0% or 20%.
Needless to say I have been chasing risk averse income in the region of 8% to 15% and it is relatively easy to find particularly in a depressed Euroland.

They do pay tax its called rates

I don't agree that this is their only obligation.  Shouldn't they pay their share of the roads, rail, defence, government services, and all other infrastructure that supports their property and they enjoy the use of when in the country?  Next we come to the social aspects such as health, education and social welfare.  None of these are user pays and our system is that the have's support the have not's.  I think that the foreign tax paying people who want to own property here should be no less liable to this obligation than a NZ tax payer.  Afterall they want all the benefits but want to make no other contribution.  Finally many other countries do not allow foreign ownership so they are recieving something of considerable value.  Why shouldn't we expect some payement in return.

I really like the Greens policies of banning everything.  Foreign ownership, mining and drilling, goods made in China.. how about banning McDonald and KFC?  It will be riot in South Auckland..

You add hydro power, fracking for gas,large scale wind farms (visual pollution) any form of rational behaviour. More than likely fun.

Now now, it's not all banned. Most policy I see is more taxation rather than outright ban.

I'd like to know how you would differentiate between genuine immigrants and foreign owners. Many in Auckland are both. the wife/ children live here and get the free education and the husband works back there in Asia.
With the leadership change, if there is a crackdown on corruption in China, expect many more very rich immigrants coming here in future.

Can you go to China and buy house on the spot....? So they have solve this problem somehow....!

Pretty tough in China. Even people from rural areas (provinces) are prevented from migrating into the cities and buying land and or housing and are excluded from accessing education for their children and other services.
But, these excluded people can come to new zealand, no problems, and achieve / obtain what they can't get in their own country. Infrastructure, education, health services and welfare.

No fear, chances are those asian kids will be excellent (infact amazing) at mathematics, science and music (mostly violin and Piano).  They will bring our standard up internationally and improve the general IQs.. 
Just feel sorry for those non-asian kids that have to do the massive catching up..  but kind of win-win situation really

Outline rules must be; they must be screened to make sure the money is not ill gotten and their intentions are genuine (to stay and live in NZ).

So, allow me to recap the Kiwi perspective.. And please, correct me if I am wrong!
Al those emmigrants who leave NZ for better oportunities overseas, like Australia, are demonized as ingrates and self-servers who care nothing for their country...
And yet, all those immigrants who are well-off in their countries and decide to leave it for a better country, like NZ, are demonized here for being rich and capable of buying houses with cash, such that their children can live in the country your children are leaving behind for a better one!
Hmmmn... Complex, convoluted idiosyncracies to say the least!!

Gotta blame somebody else.  It's not rational.

Again, NZ or Aotearoa is the land of the long WHITE cloud...

It's not about ethnicity. There's just too many for a small country to handle without problems and no clear rationale except to "get bigger". Too many English, too many South Africans, too many Indians, too many Chinese.... Let's just take the foot off the immigration accelerator for a year or two and have a cup of tea (flat white)

So why single out "Chinese buyers"..  Infact I was back in Auckland last week, nosing at some opne homes in Ponsonby, Parnell and one auction .. Bugger all chinese bidders ,  quite a few English and one german couple..

True, they're easy targets because they're more "visible" and there's still a deep seated lingering fear of Asian hordes. I don't have a problem with anyone who really wants to live here and hasn't acquired their money by illegal means. But all immigrants need to to be absorbed at a pace the country, especially Auckland can cope with

Disagree about the asian hordes. Chinese have been coming to new zealand since the early 1800's. They integtrated, assimilated, blended, became part of their communities. They became part of the fabric of society, spread wide. That is no longer the case. Now they are coming in large numbers, and, congregating together in enclaves. They are not assimilating or integrating as they once did. If they are too visible in groups they are repsonsible for bringing that upon themselves.

Any evidence for all these myriad claims?
Large means what exactly?
Proof of enclaves?
Proof less are integrating than in the past?

QUOTE: The Asian ethnic group has been growing as a percentage of the total population. For the (whole of the) Auckland region as a whole, the percentage of people identifying with an Asian ethnicity increased from 6 percent to 19 percent between 1991 and 2006. Growth in this ethnic group over the 1991–2006 period has mostly been (concentrated) in the Auckland region's four cities (North Shore, Waitakere, Auckland, and Manukau ).
That's at the region level without getting down to specific suburbs such as Howick and Northcote.

Is that it?
On the back of a statistical increase in the number of New Zealanders of Asian heritage in Auckland you accused them of the the non crimes of:
"congregating in enclaves"
"not assimilating"
Well whip-de-do.

Could also be the reason why Vancouver is one of the most expensive cities in the world to live.  I have been there quite a few times in recent years and there are in fact suburb after suburb where all the street names are Asian, plus shops etcetera.  They have definitely not assimilated into Vancouver society.  Now it seems that in Auckland, Asians in particular are gathering altogether in groups where they feel most comfortable - within their own culture. 
I am not going to say "some of my best friends are Asian" and I don't really have a problem with them or any other foreign people except they have to learn to live in the society in which they have chosen if it is a foreign one.  Having said that - how about all the Kiwis that go to London and just stay in big groups together.  Its all about the difference in culture and it is easier to be with others of like mind. 
I have Canadian relatives and I have to say that just because they speak English  as their native language and look like us doesn't mean to say they are anything like New Zealanders.  Believe me they are not!  We are very different. 

Turn it around. How would the citizens of a major Asian city react if in two decades 20% of their population was made up of different European immigrants. Proportionately it would be over 2 million in some cities. They wouldn't allow it for social or cultural reasons. Too many too quickly. Even the Aussies didn't like too many Kiwis rocking up on mass in the 70's and we would have to be two of the most similar nationalities on earth.

a friend is a real estate agent managing properties in north shore..Have put in a comment when asked that most of the winning buyers were asian and some are bought by oversea buyers.. so I disagree your disagreement.

a friend is a real estate agent managing properties in north shore..Have put in a comment when asked that most of the winning buyers were asian and some are bought by oversea buyers.. so I disagree your disagreement.

Cherrypicking Chairman. Ponsonby, Parnell, Grey Lynn, Herne Bay, Westmere are areas that are representative of the partitioning and re-distribution that is going on in Auckland. You'd probably come to the same conclusion if you went to an auction in Otara. Your comment would have more credibility if you were to comment on the "enclaves" that have built up in auckland that didn't exist 30 years ago, with some analysis as to the causes and what happpened.

ummm, I think the article is cherry picking!
And now.. see what happened.. too many chinese buyers putting pressure on the land and Tongariro is blowing off. 
Or could it be Labour party sacrify wasn't enough to plesae Red God.. ;o)

A definition of ths word enclave you are throwing about wouldn't go amiss.  People from the old country end up near each other is no proof of a lack of assimilation.  Another phrase that could do with defining as it seems to be getting a fair bit of use as some kind of accusation.

Try ghetto instead.

we should be colour blind on this - basically if you want to buy a house in NZ, then SHOW US YOUR NZ PASSPORT.

Aotearoa used to be the Land of the Long WHITE cloud, Mr. Chairman. Thanks to our hospitality industry it has been renamed the "Land of the Tall WHITE Van." Still WHITE...

I resent that, I put a lot of effort into my summer tan and you'd have be believe it's all for nought.

Aotearoa used to be the Land of the Long WHITE cloud, Mr. Chairman. Thanks to our hospitality industry it has been renamed the "Land of the Tall WHITE Van." Still WHITE...

It has been renamed tha "Land of the Tall WHITE Van," thanks to our hospitality industry.

Citizens only. 24 months from permanent residency to citizenship. Initial 12-24 month moratorium on all immigration, from anywhere until supply/demand come back into balance. Existing homes owned by foreigners can only be sold to citizens. Suspension of refugee intake from UN. NZ has done more than its fair share globally since WW2 .(I'd suspend our UN membership too until the Security Council is abolished but that's another issue) Tightening of company registration and foreign trusts. Heavy penalties for local banks found to be accepting laundered money or the proceeds of crime. Caps on corporate, trust or individual ownership of any property to prevent local over accumulation - we don't need a local aristocracy.

things are seriously amiss when i agree with the Greens. It also shows the breadth of the issue when banking CEOs are crying foul about our crazy house prices (maybe Andrew thorburn was outbid on a house recently by an even richer Asian). Whether there is enough supply in Akld or not is a moot point, but we can unquestionably reduce demand for housing in NZ via the following:
- immediate reduction (or moratorium) on immigration for ALL except essential services
- outright ban on purchase of NZ propery by a) non individuals (to forbid trusts/companies etc) and b) non passport holders
- ban neg gearing
- full CGT (and I am happy to throw in the family home here, but accept this is politically unpalatable)
- house included in any means testing (not sure the position in NZ, but in Aus it is excludded from pensions means testing)
- ban covered bonds (provides cheaper credit because it exposes depositors to more risk and by implication the taxpayer)
- 80% LVR ratios (especially when you consider the taxpayer is on the hook for bank failures)
This wont solve ALL alkds problems, but will
1) result in less investors and foreigners jumping ahead of the queue.
2) mean there are sane limits to which buyers can push each other up to - better to have a bidding war with a lower cap when the same person wins out in the end anyway.
These policies are a MUST and need implementing NOW, but dont expect gutless Jon Key to do a thing.

Good work. Hope it gets some traction. One thing you need to consider. How would you capture a non-resident who has a relative living in new zealand, that relative having obtained permanent residency, can act as a proxy, or "front", or stooge on behalf of the non-resident who could be obtaining cheap 1% money from an offshore bank (or corrupt money) and is channeling it into nz via the "front man" who can then accumulate any number of properties.

good points. Dont think you can completely prevent this type of thing occurring but the following might limit it:
- requirements for NZ passport at least means there is an additional step to invest here (even if via a relative), so it will have some impact if not complete.
-  CGT ensures that tax is paid when the asset is realised as the person buying must be a NZ tax payer (when a foreigner generally their own tax regime applies, or more likely they are dodging it)
- normal gifting tules should apply to someone who tries to give "their" funds to a relativeafter sale of a NZ house
- proof of income again would be useful ie if funds are coming from overseas to fund deposit / mortgage, must prove source. This would fall foul of gifting rules again if you cant prove they are your own funds.
It will never be perfect, but lets at least try to make it hard for them.

good points
I wasn't sure I'd ever vote for Labour again after the last mob, but ask me today and I'd vote for them hands down over that massive letdown that is Mr John Key. I was stupid enough to vote for hiim once

go the greens...finally some common sense in NZ...even if I don't agree with all their policies they are on the button with this one

Factboy - you said it, Greens foreign investmat policy doesn't work. You are a star.

Is there ever a problem that cannot be fixed in the Green world without a new tax being introduced?

Simple solution: introduce a 7.5% stamp duty on purchase for residential property for all non resident buyers including companies with non resident shareholdings over 25%.
That would produce maybe $50-150m in annual tax revenue (not a lot but worth having).   It wouldn't penalise local buyers, and wouldn't greatly affect long term foreign based investors.
A win-win all round.  If the problem persists keep raising the stamp duty.
However, I fear that immigration is actually the main driver of Auckland prices rather than foreign investors.
10 years ago, regional NZ had a problem with Australians snapping up cheap rental properties.  They were responsible for spectacular gains in some centres.  I heard of buyers arriving from Oz and buying 20 properties in one visit.

They could buy houses in places like Kauwerau for $10-20,000. Plenty of Aussies got burnt buying Auckland apartments off plans. Revenge for all the Kiwis who got burnt doing the same on the Gold Coast a while back :)
Supply will never catch up in Auckland until the immigration pressure is relieved. This government and Labour before it doesn't want to turn off the tap because its only economic plan involves bringing in more people who they hope will invest and spend.

Xenophobia as a political platform. Proof nothing changes under the sun.

What the dickens is xenophobic about being extremely concerned about the people of this country not being able to afford to purchase homes in THEIR OWN COUNTRY. I am sick and tired of having that accusation dragged out every time someone shows some concern for our sovereignty, our ability to afford to live in our own country, and our means to earn a living being sold up the river to foreigners. ANY FOREIGNERS!
Please find something else to accuse us of, because for the bulk of us the attitude to immigrants (notice I said immigrants, not people who buy out stuff out from under us without setting foot here often) is if you want to live here amongst us and contribute to and enjoy the lifestyle that is possible, welcome

Seriously - have you read the comments on this thread?
Xenophobia is a dislike or fear of people from other countries.
Comments from this thread:
"Now they are coming in large numbers .."
"They are not assimilating .."
"Suspension of refugee intake .."
"we don't need a local aristocracy .."
"foreigners jumping ahead of the queue .."
Some talk about large numbers and stopping all immigration, even poor refugees who have left their country of birth - some to save their lives. Others infer we are creating a queue jumping aristocracy which you'd think by definition would be a small group.  Someone even thinks there is some kind of real estate queue that nameless rich foreigners are jumping.
It's barely rational.
It also distracts from the real structural problems in the economy with a glib blame on foreigners.

Ralph, lets look at if from another viewpoint. Would any type of opposition to immigration and foreign investment ever NOT be xenophobic in your eyes?
Where would you personally draw the line?
- 1000 immigrants a year
- 100,0000
- 1,000,000
I draw the line in the sand at when the immigration intake and foreign investment no longer benefits NZers as a whole. Currently I see immigration as being used by govt to artificially drive growth as opposed to a need for skills etc. Housing is flipping expensive in this country - yes immigration and foreign investment are not the only problems but they are a big part of it. If we ban foreign investment in residential property outright and massively reduce immigration for all except essential services then we will turn off a lot of the demand tap and buy some TIME to fix the other issues (eg tax, supply side etc). I'd like my kids to be able to afford a house, wouldnt you? We are a sovereign country, the govt's duty is to act in the best interests of NZ as a whole, not to foreign nationals and Aus owned banks.

It would have to be rational.

Ihaven't heard of any sellers complaining about who buys their house,and i certainly haven't heard of a real estate agent refusing commision on a house sold to an overseas buyer.

was a national the moment Im a LABOUR voter!!

I am sure Russel Norman must be following here.
This gives him extra traction to keep the pressure on.
Never voted Greens but this one would swing me over

i'm a red neck social conservative from way back, but the Greens will have my vote come next election.

Something else to consider. Other countries are tightening up their rules regarding foreign ownership. The longer we leave it to sort this the more pressure is going to go on our houses, farms etc.
Get off your hands, Natl, and sort this, as 2 years time is far too long to wait for Labour and the Greens to sort it

Asian-Vasion. Coming to a shopping mall near you (8 November 2012) where do you draw the line.
You want some proof they're not assimilating. They're imposing their values not absorbing ours. Watch this. The video is set in Queensland, in a suburb called Castle Hill. The Shopping Centre is Government owned through the "Queensland Investment Corporation" which is responsible for managing Queensland State Government Superannuation .. one person interviewed calls it the asian-vasion
And Australia has tougher, immigration rules, non-resident property ownership, anti-money-laundering laws in place for 10 years, while nz anti-money-laundering rules have yet to be activated.

Is it possible this outcome is a reflection of income disparity between incumbent white trash and new immigrant populations with better developed inclinations to work at anything to be able to a satisfy a burning desire to consume.
Good old white Australians just like their Kiwi counterparts have realised that modern technologies (robots in particular) have made them redundant, much like the junk peddled to the immigrants - hence they take the state handouts as do the manufacturers of the gimcracks and robots. 
Previously suppressed consumers are a force little understood within our modern slumbering communities.

Is it really quiet in Australia at the moment? -  Shame the smh has to pilfer that rot from a not so inspiring masthead.

Coupla administrative points.
Any policy initiative which makes Local Gumnuts collect a tax via rates is gonna be an epic Fail.
Reason is quite simple:  the poor dears can barely keep pace taxing houses, sections, toilets - all of which the precsient common taterate will notice are fairly immobile.  Ask them to tax something a little faster-moving, and watch the log-jams occur.  Basically is the Poll Tax all over again, and look how long That lasted.
Similarly, you cannot tighten ownership rules around companies, trusts and other non-natural persons, without raising the entry price on creating these vehicles in the first place.  Which strikes fairly directly at the heart of entrepreneurship, creative destruction and all those nice capitalist principles.
Oh, wait.  Capitalist Principles.
Given that the Greens are actually watermelons (red inside) - so That's actually the whole Point of this - getting rid of some more CP's in the name of Fixin' Housin'
Silly me...but clearly from the thread, it's bought enough Votes from the Gullible, to fly electorally.....

It's the Land of the Wrong White Crowd.

While it's no surprise some comments here on increasing immigration from China ,are viewed as hysterical zenophobia to outright racism, it should be noted and dicussed as a potential for growing disquiet in those that will be most marginalised by changes in demographics of reasonable magnitude.
Firstly I would point out some naivety on the part of some commentors.
 I had had a long association with Tom Achee( Foodtown founder) and associateed Chinese business enterpreners such as Peter Y..
 Now while Tom and Peter were as NZ as you could get on many levels they still remained founders and members of the auckland Chinese association, an organisation to promote both business and cultural development of Chinese business people and  families alike.
 A coulple of senior Chinese leaders  have commented to me recently, they are uncomfortable with the flow of incoming mainland Chinese, (more descriptive words were used), I asked why , they said they (the incoming) were different, had a different overview of any need to fit in , as there would be enough of them to form communities of their own.
Now I have had Chinese neighbors for 25 years , and I think the world of them as they are just terrific people , but interestingly enough my friends wife speaks almost no english despite being resident for fifty years. Early in our relationship I asked my friend why that was, he told me she spent all her time in the company of her own people and just never felt the need to take the language on. That said she is a little beauty, caring and generous, raised four boys all professionals and one girl also a professional, so, not bad for no English.
 I say the above because I believe there are enclaves of Chinese immigrants , who for reasons of their own feel more comfortable in an environment that allows them the freedom of language and custom, and so it's how it's viewed rather than how it's enacted.
 As to those who should be concerned, it is of course our indigenous peoples who will be marginalised by growing numbers of immigrants who have little understanding of or indeed empathy for the Treaty of Waitangi as a living document, to be considered in all things New Zealand as in the prosperity and protection thereof.
On a more sinister note, tax evasion is of major concern among communities that use cash a the premium chioce of trading, but hey , I guess you'd have to be squeaky to be the first one throwing stones at that window.
 Happy Grounhog day..!

I went to school with one of the Y... sons.  It's a well known that the kiwi born Chinese and the recent chinese immigrants are holding pretty grim views of each other.  One has the view that 'when in Rome, do what Romans do".  The other; let's set up our own little world.  Hence the term "banaba.."

The case for a non-resident property tax is convincingly set out here by Auckland University Professor Manying Ip. Pretty compelling.
Although some buyers might live in their Auckland place, most would regard it purely as an investment. New Zealand has no restrictions on non-residents buying houses.