Foreign investors buy $2.1b of NZ assets in five months, but…

It pays to read past the headline and opening paragraph.

Newstalk ZB (NZH) report: Foreign investors snap up $2.1b of NZ assets in five months

Foreigners got consent to buy $2.1 billion of New Zealand assets classed as rural, sensitive or worth $100m-plus in the first five months of the year.

But this is ‘a sharp decline’.

The Overseas Investment Office has just released its list of decisions made between January and May, and the figures show a sharp decline from the $4.6b recorded over the same period last year.


It’s also worth noting that New Zealand has survived and thrived on foreign investment for two hundred years.

Russell and Hooton on trusts

An exchange on Twitter between Deborah Russell (@beefaerie)and Matthew Hooton (MatthewHootonNZ) on trusts.

Deborah Russell: I’m going to be on Breakfast on TV One tomorrow morning, shortly after the 7am news, talking about the

Matthew Hooton: Would you mind explaining that there are no such thing as ‘foreign’ or ‘family’ trusts in NZ law, but only ‘trusts’?

Deborah Russell: I’ll do my best. I have found that most people don’t quite get what’s going on. “Foreign trust” is only for tax purposes.

But the problem is “foreign trusts” and what gets shunted into them, and the lack of information about them.

Matthew Hooton: Also don’t dividends get taxed where paid? So a NZ trust owning e.g. Rio Tinto shares doesn’t get off tax on dividends?

Deborah Russell: They would get taxed in Australia, and in NZ, with our Double Tax Agreement sorting out how much tax is paid in each place.

So the NZ trust *would* pay tax on the Rio Tinto dividends. But the problem is “foreign trusts” and what gets shunted into them, and the lack of information about them.

I think it’s a moral issue, not a tax issue wrt “foreign trusts”. Happy to discuss at length sometime.

Matthew Hooton: Then should get an ethicist on not a tax expert

Deborah Russell: As my PhD is in Philosophy, and I’ve lectured in Ethics, Political Theory, AND Tax, I guess I fit the bill. And Business Ethics, Professional Ethics, Applied Ethics. And more.

Matthew Hooton: Excellent. You’ll be able to talk about the ethics of publishing 240,000 names & addresses, many who have done nothing wrong.

Deborah Russell: Many of whom *may* have done nothing immoral. People may have interesting reasons for consulting a Panamanian firm.

Matthew Hooton: The itself says being on The List does not mean the person has done anything wrong. So why issue the list if not to smear?

Deborah Russell: To crowd source knowledge.

So it could be interesting, just after 7 am on Breakfast, TV One.

Greens and foreign banks

The Greens recently released policy to promote Kiwibank over Australian owned banks.

More Green MPs than not deal with Kiwibank (or TSB, a New Zealand owned bank). Only three of them have mortgages with foreign owned banks and one has a Kiwisaver account with one.

All MPS are free to choose which banks they do business with, and may have good reasons for dealing with non-New Zealand owned banks.

Steffan Browning

  • Kiwibank Kiwisaver

David Clendon

  • ASB Bank – mortgage

Marama Davidson – none

Catherine Delahunty

  • ASB Bank KiwiSaver
  • Kiwibank – mortgage

Julie Anne Genter

  • Kiwibank – mortgage

Dr Kennedy Graham

  • Kiwibank KiwiSaver
  • Kiwibank – mortgage

Kevin Hague

  • Kiwibank – mortgage

Gareth Hughes

  • ASB Bank – KiwiSaver
  • Westpac Bank – mortgage

Jan Logie

  • Bank of New Zealand – mortgage

Mojo Mathers

  • Kiwibank – mortgage

Denise Roche

  • TSB Bank – mortgage

James Shaw

  • Kiwibank Kiwi Wealth KiwiSaver

Metiria Turei

  • Kiwibank – mortgage

Source: 2016 Register of Pecuniary Interests






Robertson versus LINZ on foreign ownership register

OIA documents show that LINZ thinks a foreign ownership register of landowners wouldn’t be easy nor accurate.

NewstalkZB reports: Stoush brewing over foreign landowner register.

Documents obtained under the Official Information Act show Land Information New Zealand believes a land transfer system wouldn’t be an appropriate way to collect the information, nor would it produce accurate results.

LINZ warns enforcement of a register could be difficult, and requiring land owners to provide their immigration status could be inconsistent with the Privacy Act.

Officials also say singling out foreign land owners could breach the Bill of Rights and Human Rights Acts.

But Labour’s Grant Robertson doesn’t agree.

“They make the point of looking at the state of Queensland and come up with every small and minor reason why it might not be possible. In reality, if there is a will and need to do this it can be done.”

It would cost an extra $100,000 for changes to be made to the electronic land transfer system to record a property owners’ residence status

Labour MP Grant Robertson says given the price of houses in Auckland at the moment, $100,000 is a bargain to get the system going.

He says it seems to him New Zealanders want to know more about the origins of people who’re purchasing houses.

How many New Zealanders want to know about this apart from MPs who want to use it for political ammunition?

What would a register be useful for apart from complaining about how many foreigners buy property here? The next step would be actually stopping foreign ownership, but then a register would be superfluous.

Robertson is Labour’s finance spokesperson, why is he speaking on this? He may just have responded to journalist inquiries, there’s nothing on this on his Facebook timeline, Twitter, his website or the Labour media release page.

The most important question is what will a foreign onwership register achieve?