Bill bags ban on foreigners buying Queenstown property

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Labour’s proposed restrictions on foreign home buyers would affect Queenstown very badly, local MP and Finance Minister Bill English says.

Labour leader David Shearer last month announced that, if elected next year, his party would stop foreigners – apart from Australians – buying existing houses, flats or apartments. Non-residents would be allowed to build new homes.

The policy’s aimed at stopping overseas speculators pushing up property prices.

English, deputy leader of the National-led Government, says: “Queenstown’s probably proportionately got more foreigners buying property than anywhere, but that’s a feature of the market. I don’t think anyone in Queenstown would say you should boot foreigners out, it’d be against the DNA of the town.”

A ban, English says, “would have a big impact on the values of Queenstown, cut out a big number of the buyers and fundamentally alter the nature of the town”.

On the argument foreign buyers keep property prices up, deterring Kiwis, he says: “They do come in and help keep values up but, equally, so do people from Southland who sold their farms [and bought here].”

Labour’s policy isn’t good for NZ, English says: “We need capital, need more people coming in helping us with our jobs and incomes, and we don’t want to advertise ourselves as closed for business. The majority of buyers here are actually locals, NZers.

“Even if there were quite a lot of foreign buyers, the best way to deal with it is to get more supply quicker and then they’re less likely to be speculating.”

Local Real Estate Institute of NZ spokesman Kelvin Collins esti-mates 10 per cent of Queenstown property owners are Aussies and only five per cent are other foreign nationals.

That latter figure had been almost 15 per cent in the early 2000s when NZ had a very low exchange rate, Collins says.

Foreign buyers don’t compete with first-home buyers, he says: “They’re buying high-end lifestyle properties and that creates a lot of employment opportunities, or they’re buying up ski apartments – the local people don’t want that anyway.”