Immigration: Just one visa approved under Government's new investor scheme - and they were already here

When the Government announced a facelift for its investor visa scheme, it promised to attract high-value investors to grow the New Zealand economy.

But Newshub can reveal only one visa has been approved since it was launched nine months ago.

As the sun set on a September day in New York, the then-Economic Development Minister launched the Government's overhauled investment visa scheme at a swanky event.

"We want people to come to New Zealand," said Stuart Nash. "Foreign direct investment plays a really important role in how we grow our economy."

The new Active Investor Plus Visa increased the amount foreigners had to invest in New Zealand to buy a pathway to residency from $3 million to a minimum of $5 million.

Half of that has to be invested directly in Kiwi companies, rather than passive bonds.

Former NZ First MP Tuariki Delamere was the Immigration Minister in the '90s and came up with the old investor visa.

He hates the changes, especially the English-language requirement.

"It's a load of bollocks. I call it the inactive, anti-Asian investor policy," he said.

"This requirement that the Labour Party's put in that you need English is just a load of garbage. If you don't want Chinese, be honest about it and say you don't want Chinese."

He's now an immigration advisor and says the new visa is too complicated.

"Any investor with half a brain would walk away from it," said Delamere.

Newshub can reveal since the new investor visa went live in September, there have been 27 applications worth an estimated $405 million. 

But only one has been approved in nine months - and the applicant was already here. Ten have been approved in principle, which means they require more documents.

"It's not about turnaround, it's about the quality of the investment," said Immigration Minister Andrew Little.

National's immigration spokesperson Erica Stanford said: "We had killed a golden goose that was laying golden eggs for a decade bringing in billions and billions in investment".

But Little said the goose "didn't lay any eggs".

"Passive investments don't benefit the community, don't benefit New Zealand it was basically money going offshore."

But Immigration New Zealand's own research from 2018 shows that after an investor gets a visa and gets here, they go on to invest further once they're here and growth investment - for example in Kiwi companies - makes up about half of all their investment.

There are still investors getting through the door under the old investor visas as Immigration New Zealand clears the backlog.

They're bringing in the big bucks.

"It'd be the hundreds of millions but I don't know the precise figure," said Little. 

The minister later confirmed 86 investor visas since September had been approved under the old settings versus the one under the new scheme.