Labour fronts with Chinese investor figures

  • 11/07/2015
Labour housing spokesperson Phil Twyford (File)
Labour housing spokesperson Phil Twyford (File)

New information released this weekend by Labour suggests Asian buyers, specifically ethnic Chinese buyers, are snapping up more houses in Auckland than previously estimated. The information released is only estimated because New Zealand still has no foreign buyers register.

The sales data covers 45 percent of all Auckland sales from February to April this year and shows that while Chinese make up nine percent of the Auckland population, 39.5 percent of the houses sold in Auckland were to people with Chinese surnames.

The Nation revealed that of suburbs with more than 100 house sales, the three most popular amongst those with Chinese surnames were Albany, Epsom and Milford.

Labour Housing spokesperson Phil Twyford says it is comprehensive data from a major Auckland real estate firm.

"The records include 4000 thousand individual house record showing every house sold in the Auckland region over the three month period," says Mr Twyford.

"That is a remarkable discrepancy and in my view is simply not plausible to suggest…that ethnic Chinese people buying houses in Auckland are all Chinese New Zealanders. It points I think to only one possible conclusion, and that is that off-shore Chinese investors have a very significant presence in the Auckland real-estate market."

ACT Leader David Seymour acknowledges the records are plausible but he believes Labour is fronting with these statistics to gain votes "that they can't find anywhere else".

"They're not really interested in foreign ownership they're interested in targeting Chinese and that is racist," says Mr Seymour.

Mr Seymour said housing affordability was a problem but this could be fixed by solving the issue of supply.

Commentators on Twitter also said the data supplied by Labour did not stand up to scrutiny as it counted Chinese-sounding names in property transactions, did not say whether buyers were New Zealand residents and focused on percentages, rather than actual numbers.

Economist and Generation Rent author Shamubeel Eaqub also called Labour's statistics "racist" and "half-baked", saying it revealed the need for actual data to be collected about foreign investment.

But the analyst who crunched the numbers for Labour, Rob Salmond, defended the research in a blog post.

"As always, the aim is to reasonably know more today than we reasonably knew yesterday. We, collectively, triangulate on the truth," he said.

Mr Salmond said the large discrepancy between the number of Chinese residents and Chinese buyers, plus statistics about the incomes of Chinese residents pointed to foreign buying.

"Can Labour prove that any individual buyer is foreign? No. All we have is their last name.

"But can Labour conclude on the preponderance of all available evidence from the aggregate data that there is likely a large impact of offshore investment from China in Auckland's real estate market? Yes."

United Future leader Peter Dunne tweeted :"Ye gods! Labour now vying with NZFirst to be local branch of UKIP & other xenophobes on Auckland housing. A sad day for tolerance".

3 News / NZN

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