20 Dec 2017

Rush for foreign buyer law labelled a 'sham'

7:34 am on 20 December 2017

The government is being told its reason for pushing through legislation banning overseas buyers from purchasing existing homes is a sham.

An auction sign outside a house for sale in Auckland.

Photo: RNZ / Cole Eastham-Farrelly

National says the legislation is being rushed through on bogus pretences and the public isn't going to get the opportunity to have its say.

The Overseas Investment Amendment Bill passed its first reading in Parliament last night. It will stop foreign buyers purchasing existing houses, but will still allow them to buy residential land and build new housing.

Associate Finance Minister David Parker told Parliament the government acted in the nick of time.

"If this had not been done before TPP (Trans Pacific Partnership) came into effect it could in effect, never be done, what was happening was that National were trading New Zealanders' rights to control who buys homes in their country down the river, forever."

"It is not a right of overseas buyers to own a home here."

The select committee process has been significantly shortened and will be finished by 20 February.

The truncated process was necessary because it was not exactly clear when the new version of the Trans Pacific Partnership would be signed and the ban must be in place beforehand, he said.

"It may be signed in February or March, this is a matter that is again beyond the control of the government because it depends a bit on when other countries are ready to sign, we are ready to sign now."

It would come into force when six of the 11 countries ratified it.

But National's trade spokesperson Todd McClay doubted the new TPP would get over the line and said there was no need to rush and rob people of the chance to have their say.

"I don't think that TPP is going to be signed, because I think Canada has decided they don't want to do it. So we're rushing for something that doesn't happen."

National's Nikki Kaye said it was a sham that the foreign buyer ban was being rushed through on account of the long-hiccuping TPP.

She said there was no date for the countries to meet to resolve differences, let alone for the deal to be signed.

"Even if the honourable David Parker was some kind of international power-house and managed to power through all of these issues in January, even if it was signed, the reality is often with these types of agreements it takes months - sometimes years for countries to ratify."

The government has indicated it may extend the select committee process if it becomes clear the TPP won't be signed early next year.

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