New Zealand’s Peters Open to Relaxing Foreign Home Buyer Ban

(Bloomberg) -- New Zealand First leader Winston Peters said he’s open to allowing foreigners to buy expensive houses if they also invest in the country.

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Peters, who is Deputy Prime Minister in the new coalition government, was asked whether there are any circumstances in which he would support relaxing the current foreign buyer ban.

“Yes. Where the course of relaxation fits our economic interest,” he said in an interview with Bloomberg late Wednesday in Wellington. “What that is and where that is, I’m open to talking about it.”

Prime Minister Christopher Luxon’s National Party wanted to allow foreigners to buy houses worth more than NZ$2 million ($1.2 million) and planned to apply a levy on the purchases to help pay for income tax cuts. However, during coalition discussions with nationalist New Zealand First after the October election, Peters forced National to abandon the policy.

“When you make a statement like that and get it agreed in a coalition agreement, it doesn’t mean that you should not be open to a chance if you see an opportunity,” Peters said. “If someone says I’m in and I’m here for $50, $60 million, I’m not going to stand around arguing about whether he can get a home or not. But he will not want a $2 million home, of that I can be certain.”

Peters cited as an example the late billionaire Julian Robertson, who developed a deep affection for New Zealand after first visiting in the late 1970s and amassed substantial assets in the country, including luxury lodges and championship golf courses.

Peter Thiel

By contrast, Peters was critical of tech billionaire Peter Thiel, who was granted citizenship in 2011 despite visiting New Zealand only four times, allowing him to purchase houses and land without needing approval as a foreign investor.

“You’ve got people like Robertson who came over and put enormous investment into this country, and you’ve got a guy called Thiel who got citizenship within six days, and what has he done, tell me,” Peters said. “And yet I can show you other people who have come here and they poured hundreds of millions into this country, been great contributors. That person’s the one I’m looking for.”

The previous Labour government — in which Peters also served as deputy prime minister — introduced the ban on foreign buyers in 2018, saying that overseas speculators had driven up house prices and made property unattainable for many young Kiwis.

Asked if he would support allowing foreigners to buy homes if the entry point was set higher than NZ$2 million, Peters said: “I’m not saying that at the moment, but you are extracting what might be an inevitable conclusion.”

“I’m not giving it away,” he said. “I used to be the Treasurer myself once. You don’t do a budget outside the room.”

Finance Minister Nicola Willis, who will deliver her first budget on May 30, has said she will press ahead with tax cuts despite a weaker economic and fiscal outlook. She said yesterday she still has to hammer out details with coalition partners.

Earlier this month, the government announced plans to make it easier for overseas investors to invest in build-to-rent developments.

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