Concern over OIA Bill submission

Alexa Forbes
Alexa Forbes
A Queenstown Lakes district councillor has raised concerns over the council’s submission on the proposed Overseas Investment Amendment Bill, labelling one aspect of it as "fearmongering".

The Bill,  which is aimed at banning overseas buyers from purchasing houses in New Zealand, was introduced in Parliament on December 14 and received its first reading five days later.

Submissions closed  on January 23.

In her report to councillors on the council’s submission, corporate manager Michelle Morss said the council contended the timing and duration of the submissions period over Christmas did not represent "a fair and reasonable process".

"This has limited the ability of all parties to obtain an appropriate level of expert advice and minimised the opportunity to research and prepare submissions."

The submission deadlines were officially extended by the Government late last month, and now closed on February 16, after it recommended that the select committee allow more time for consideration.

The council’s nine-page submission to the Government — filed before the initial closing date — sought for the Bill to be returned to officials to develop a "comprehensive understanding of the potential impacts across a range of markets" to ensure it was subject to less risk.

It raised several concerns including a lack of evidence to suggest overseas buyers were pushing house prices up; that it did not recognise the distinction between overseas buyers in the luxury market and the regular market; it would cut off the significant benefits, investments and philanthropic donations received from overseas buyers in the luxury market; and it would detrimentally impact a thriving industry that supported that market.

The council also said the Bill could damage New Zealand’s international reputation.

However, at Thursday’s full council meeting in Queenstown, Cr Alexa Forbes labelled that statement as "fearmongering".

Cr Forbes agreed there were examples of "very wealthy people" who had purchased properties in the district and had benefited it, but felt the council lacked evidence to substantiate claims in its submission if it were to be challenged in front of a Select Committee.

"I just don’t think we have the evidence to back up anything we say here."

However, Mayor Jim Boult took issue with that.

The council had "plenty of evidence" from around the district proving overseas investors were advantageous to the community and locking them out would have a detrimental effect.

Examples included a local employer of "60 quality tradesmen" and engineering companies who were hired by overseas buyers spending "an enormous amount of money" on their properties in the district.

Overseas buyers were also "our most generous" residents when it came to philanthropic investment, he said.

Council chief executive Mike Theelen said it was important for the councillors to understand what its submission asked for.

"It holds the Government to task.

"We acknowledge where the Government wants to go [but] there is a lack of evidence and empirical evidence.

"We have asked for the Government to go back and take some greater time to look at this and make sure in trying to achieve [its goals] ...  that they’re not achieving some quite unintended outcomes as well."

The report on the Bill is due on May 31.

tracey.roxburgh@odt.co.nz

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