US, Australia and Europe account for 70 per cent of all deals by value, KPMG report finds.
Widespread fears of a flood of Asian investment and a Chinese farm-buying spree are misplaced - Australia is the largest overseas investor in New Zealand.
A new KPMG analysis of foreign investment from July 2010 to December last year showed overseas buyers spent little on farms compared to consumer staples such as drinks, bread and manufactured food and other assets like energy and power.
Although the Crafar farm deals grabbed headlines, foreign investors were not mainly from China which represented only a third of investment from Asia into New Zealand.
"Despite much press about Chinese investment in the country and agribusiness deals seizing the headlines, research highlights that over the last two years, investment out of China and Asia is lower than you might expect and agribusiness is a small portion of the whole," said the 16-page report, Analysis of Foreign Direct Investment, released today and written by corporate finance partner Justin Ensor.
The largest foreign investment came from Australia (46pc), America (15pc) and Europe (10pc) which account for 70 per cent of all deals by value.
Japan, not China, is by far the largest foreign investor out of Asia. The Japanese want beverages and consumer brands, KMPG said, citing the sale of Independent Liquor and Charlie's. Japan accounts for 53 per cent of Asian deals, followed by China at 33 per cent, Singapore at 10 per cent and Malaysia at 4 per cent.
One of China's biggest buys here lately was manufacturer Fisher & Paykel Appliances by Haier.
South Korea and Indonesia were noticeable for their absence and KPMG said these countries "present a significant opportunity for New Zealand" for trade.
The primary sector or agribusiness accounts for 10 per cent of total investments by overseas parties although the dairy sector dominates, the report found.
Murray Horton of the Campaign Against Foreign Control of Aotearoa (Cafca) said Chinese buyers were attracting the same sort of attention that used to be devoted to Japanese buyers a few decades ago.
"Cafca's objection has never been to Chinese ownership in particular but overseas ownership in general, though some of the recent Chinese proposals raise all the problems of their control of the supply chain and leaving little for New Zealanders which the UK ownership of our meat-works raised last century. That's not necessarily unique to the Chinese investment."
KPMG partner Greg Knowles said retaining New Zealand sovereignty was a particularly touchy subject for many people. But the OECD had found we had more stringent foreign direct investment rules than other OECD members.
"The fact that New Zealand is a net importer of foreign direct investment is not because we are soft. It is because we don't have enough domestic savings. Without foreign direct investment, we can't maintain or improve our standard of living," Knowles said.