Top of the south rural land preferred

Rural land is the most popular land at the top of the South Island bought by foreigners in the past seven years, figures from Terralink International show.

Figures show that 9000 hectares of land was sold to foreigners between August 2005 and March this year. That worked out at 0.55 per cent of the 1,650,000 hectares of total land area of Marlborough, Tasman, and Nelson.

During that time, 400 hectares of lifestyle area land, 400 hectares of "other land", and 8200 hectares of rural land was sold to foreigners - about 0.42 per cent of the total area available.

Of the rural land sales, the biggest amount of land sold to foreign buyers was in pastoral and horticultural activity - 5000 hectares and 2200 hectares respectively. The biggest proportion of land sold was in horticultural activities (4.94 per cent of available land) and specialist livestock (1.32 per cent of available land). Horticultural activity includes grape growing for wine.

Terralink said that nationally, at least 312,600 hectares of land has been consented for sale to foreign owners since August 2005, while 280,000 hectares of rural land has been consented for sale in that time.

Terralink managing director Mike Donald said that was an area roughly 4 times the size of Lake Taupo, with the majority of the land consented for sale classified as either pastoral or forestry. The region with the largest amount of rural land consented for sale was Canterbury, at 2.8 per cent.

"That's less than one and a half per cent of New Zealand's total rural land area. It dispels the myth that we're becoming tenants in our own land."

However, Mr Donald said that if consents were to continue at the same rate they have been over the past seven years, then within one generation large parts of productive New Zealand could potentially be in foreign ownership, which would be "concerning".

Mr Donald said Terralink analysed and mapped the consents to give the New Zealand public a "reality check" about foreign land ownership.

"New Zealanders have no easy way of knowing how much of their land is currently foreign owned, so there is a lot of speculation and uncertainty.

"This is one more example where location-based data and its applications can put things in perspective and provide meaningful intelligence around a sensitive and important national issue."

Mr Donald says proportionally more of New Zealand's industrial and commercial land has been consented for sale to foreign owners than any other land category over the past seven years, although no residential, commercial or industrial land in the top of the south had been sold to foreign buyers in the past seven years, according to Terralink.

Since 2005, nearly 5 per cent of all industrial land in New Zealand has been consented for sale to overseas people or entities, with Southland (26 per cent), Gisborne (19.9 per cent), the West Coast (13.2 per cent), and Taranaki (11.9 per cent) featuring prominently.

In other parts of New Zealand, commercial land makes up the bulk of consents, most notably in Auckland, where 17.7 per cent has been consented for overseas sale since 2005.

The figures stated are for consents granted under the Overseas Investment Act 2005 involving sensitive land, decided between 25 August 2005 and 13 March 2012. It excludes confidential consents and consents not matched to a spatial parcel.

Consents do not necessarily mean the acquisition has proceeded and foreign owned land could have subsequently been resold to a New Zealand citizen or entity.

The Marlborough Express