Land Information New Zealand (LINZ) has released figures detailing approved land investments by area since 2010, grouping buyers by country. The results are as follows:
- USA: 168,154 hectares
- UK: 66,932 hectares
- Israel: 52,325 hectares
- Switzerland: 36,965 hectares
- China: 34,908 hectares
The land bought has overwhelmingly been used for forestry and agriculture.
While China came in at fifth place in the long-term figures, purchases from China topped the 2014 list with 10,989 hectares, an increase from 53 hectares in 2010 and, as noted in NBR, a move that has attracted the most criticism seen directed towards foreign buyers.
The NZ government is currently reviewing Australia’s planned register of foreign-owned buyers in Australia with interest. In October 2014, the Australian Government announced its intention to have the register in place by last Christmas. However, the process has been delayed – in December, Cabinet sent the Australian Treasury’s latest submission back to be refined. ABC reports that the introduction of the Australian register has been complicated by its federal system, as individual states are responsible for land titles and keeping track of purchase information. The Australian Government must gain the commitment of the states and allocate the appropriate resources to cover the additional costs imposed upon them.
There is further speculation from the Australian Farm Institute that political pressures may also be holding up the register, due to concerns the measure will be seen to discourage foreign investment.
Earlier difficulties faced in Australia included the appropriate classification of ‘foreign person’ – particularly in relation to businesses or trusts with a mixture of Australian and foreign ownership. There were concerns that too broad a definition would give a misleading impression about the scale of foreign ownership, and encourage xenophobic reactions from some members of the community (read more here).
From a technical perspective, introduction of such a register would face less difficulty in New Zealand, as LINZ is centralised (and includes the Overseas Investment Office). As noted by Prime Minister John Key, the Overseas Investment Office signs off on most sales of land over 4.5 hectares, so in reality the Government already has good information about foreign ownership – but the register would provide this information publicly. The Government is likely to be equally wary of discouraging foreign investment.