Steven Joyce says Govt will collate and publish data on where foreign buyers are coming from after new rules on reporting investment property buying kick in from Oct 1

By Bernard Hickey

Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce has revealed the Government plans to collate and publish data on non-resident buyers of rental properties after it starts being collected from October 1.

Joyce criticised the release of data by Labour over weekend showing people with Chinese names bought 39.5% of houses through one estate agency chain in Auckland from February to April, saying data showing the actual levels and nationality of foreign buyers was going to be released anyway.

“Labour knows the data is being collected from the 1st of October and yet they have now chosen to go and pick on people with Chinese sounding surnames in the sure knowledge that in a few months time we’ll start getting actual data,” Joyce told Morning Report.

The Government announced new rules in the Budget which will force buyers of investment properties, both resident and non-resident, to declare their IRD numbers to LINZ. Non-residents will also have to open bank accounts here, obtain New Zealand IRD numbers and declare their home country tax details.

“The real information will be collected from the 1st of October and it will undoubtedly be released,” Joyce said, adding it would be not be itemised by surname, but would show which countries the non-residents were buying from.

Asked if the Government would act to restrict non-resident buyers if the data showed it was a significant driver of Auckland house prices, Joyce said the Government “would deal with that at the time, but we wouldn’t be going around and saying that your surname, which is same surname whether you’ve been here for 100 years or a year, will determine the way people feel about you buying houses, which is what the Labour Party is doing.”

“I actually think they’ll pay for it electorally from ethnic communities, not just Chinese communities, around New Zealand for years and years into the future.”

Labour calls for full register

Labour Leader Andrew Little said the Government should set up a full foreign buyer’s register. Little said Joyce was being ‘cute’ by saying the data on investment properties would be collected from October 1.

“From that date all house buyers will have to have a New Zealand IRD number. That is not the same as a foreign buyers register because there is no guarantee the information will be available in a way that allows public scrutiny,” Little said.

“A register would provide a searchable and up-to-date database which would inform the market and public debate. Without one, the Government will simply pick and choose data to support its false claim foreign speculators only account for 1 per cent of all house sales,” he said.

“The Government must also assure New Zealanders non-resident foreign buyers purchasing properties through companies or trusts will be required to disclose overseas interest in accordance with the Overseas Investment Act which has a 25 per cent threshold,” he said.

“Kiwi families who are struggling to buy their own home want to know the impact offshore speculators are having on skyrocketing Auckland house prices. They are sick and tired of losing homes at auction to higher bidders down the end of a telephone line in another country.”

Labour criticises Devoy

Meanwhile, Labour continued its attack, criticising Race Relations Commissioner Susan Devoy for intervening in the debate.

Devoy criticised Labour Housing Spokesman Phil Twyford for releasing “half baked” data and blaming Chinese New Zealanders for house price inflation.

“Dumbing down complex economic woes and blaming them on an ethnic community whose members are already feeling under pressure is neither new nor unique but it’s always disappointing,” Devoy said.

Labour’s Shadow Attorney General, David Parker, said Devoy’s comments were wrong and would undermine her role.

“She should re-read the Human Rights Act because there is nothing in the Act that says contentious issues ought not to be discussed,” Parker said.

“There is nothing racist in what has been said. Labour’s policy is that if you have the right to live here you have the right to buy here, whatever your ethnicity,” he said.

“I am surprised Ms Devoy has not commented that it is outrageous that the Herald article showed that Maori and Pasifika are grossly under represented as house buyers, house sellers and agents. Surely this level of social exclusion is bad for race relations.”

(Updated with Little’s call for a full foreign buyer’s register)