11 Aug 2014

Labour clarifies new land sales policy

3:19 pm on 11 August 2014

The Labour Party says foreigners who intend to live in New Zealand would still be able to buy farms here under its Overseas Purchases policy.

The party had indicated only New Zealand citizens and permanent residents had the right to buy farmland and that under a Labour government - in all but the rarest of cases - sales of farmland to foreigners would be banned.

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But Labour's finance spokesperson David Parker said on Monday that those strict rules would not be applied apply to foreigners intending to live in the country.

"Our policy is you've got the right to live here, you've got the right to buy land here. So if you're a permanent residency or you're someone who has a right to live in New Zealand and applying for permanent residency you can buy here," Mr Parker said.

One of the examples that had been used was movie mogul James Cameron - Mr Parker said Mr Cameron had moved to New Zealand, his kids were in school here, he had applied for residency, and he was entitled to buy land here."

But Mr Parker said land-owners such as Swiss-based Mutt Lange - who recently placed 53,000 hectares of South Island high country land under QEII covenant - wouldn't qualify.

Mr Parker said the National Government had sold nearly a million hectares of farmland to foreigners - and estimated that to be the equivalent of nearly 500 rugby fields of land sold-off daily.

He said when Labour was last in power, it sold off a lot farmland to overseas investors too - but now the party though that was wrong.

"We sold a lot of land. I was the Minister of Land at the end of that period - we thought we got it wrong. We were applying the law as it currently is but we think the law needs to be changed because we don't see there's economic upside."