Govt relaxes foreign investors ban

By Moana Makapelu Lee

Government is softening its stance on banning foreign investors looking to buy properties in New Zealand. 

Trade Minister David Parker says investments by non-residents in apartment buildings will not affect New Zealand residents.

"They can't own them to keep.  They can only own them to lease out to on-sale."

The announcement comes after reports from the Finance and Expenditure Select Committee readings on the Minister's Overseas Investment Amendment Bill.  Foreign buyers will now be able to own 60% of large new apartment buildings.

According to statistics by Stats NZ in 2016, Māori and Pacific home-ownership rates fell by over 25% from 1991, with the biggest drops occurring in cities.

 "We think it will be the reverse. We think there will be more apartments built - and in a place like Auckland, that is normally the first place or often the first route to home ownership. This should be improving access, including for Māoridom."

Labour campaigned strongly to ban foreign investment.  National's Housing Spokesperson Judith Collins is welcoming the policy change.

"This is an admission after only eight months that a major policy plank that they had has actually failed already and it's actually making housing less affordable because there is less supply particularly coming from apartments."

Public health physician and Māori housing expert Rhys Jones says specific policies to support whānau into their own homes needs to be prioritised.

"I think absolutely Māori should be prioritised partly because Māori are one of the groups that live in the worst housing conditions at the moment but also, if you think historically, a lot of the land we use to build houses on has come from Māori land and we need to be addressing some of those inequities that have created through colonisation."

The bill now awaits a second reading.