Key won't rule out foreign buyer register

  • 20/07/2015
John Key (Briar Marbeck/3 News)
John Key (Briar Marbeck/3 News)

The Government will wait and see what is thrown up by new data before deciding whether foreign home buyers will face controls, says Prime Minister John Key.

Information from a tax non-resident list will start to reveal who is buying New Zealand houses, and where they live, from October this year.

But it is not definitive, with New Zealanders who are living abroad as tax residents of other countries still appearing if they purchase property.

"You'll know how many people are out of China buying those properties that are either non-resident or citizens," Mr Key told TV3's Paul Henry programme on Monday.

He said it would start to provide the data to make informed policy decisions, instead of Labour's "desperate" list of foreign buyers which has no basis in fact.

"If you are a New Zealand citizen or resident, you have a very strong claim to buying a house in New Zealand – for goodness' sake, you're living here and this is a country where you're spending a lot of time. They know the bulk of people on that list are that."

Leaked data showed nearly 40 percent of Auckland house sales over a few months through agents Barefoot & Thompson went to people with Chinese-sounding names, four times the expected number based on resident population.

Labour says the discrepancy shows many properties are being bought by foreigners, but has been criticised as inaccurate and racist – including by many Labour Party members.

"I remember Labour being the multicultural party, welcoming all New Zealanders – and all of a sudden they are hanging on a list which a) they know is factually incorrect, b) they know they're misrepresenting," says Mr Key.

"My next-door neighbour is Mark Chin; he is about as Chinese as I am. He may well be on that list, so we can't put too much credence in that."

While he does not think it is currently necessary, Mr Key would not rule out implementing a foreign buyers register if it was required. He declined to say what level of foreign ownership would trigger changes.

"If there was a real issue, and we perceived there to be a real issue then we'll always think about other policy steps and we've done that all of the way. We've always been open… The way to fix this issue in terms of housing has been supply, and living proof of that has been Christchurch."

NZN / 3 News