Foreign buyers are flocking to Oamaru, sending prices skywards in the formerly sleepy South Island town.

Figures from Juwai, China's largest international property website, show Oamaru jumped to fourth place on the 2016 Top 10 New Zealand Cities Viewed By Chinese Buyers.

Juwai said a looser government visa policy had allowed more visitors into New Zealand, which led to more Chinese interest in the property market.

Chinese inquiries for New Zealand property grew 50% on Juwai.com, in the year to September 2016.

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Alan McLay, a former mayor and an agent with Ray White, there was a "spectacular difference" in foreign buyer interest in Oamaru.

"Who knew where Oamaru was before?

"But now we get quite a few Chinese travellers coming through, and saying 'wow, this ticks all of our boxes'."

McLay said he'd had buyers from Australia, China, Vietnam, and South Korea.

"In the last nine months I'd say we've had a 15% increase on rateable value.

"Within the last week I've had two couples, couldn't speak a word of English but had an app on their phone that translated.

"They were interested in all sorts, because it was a good investment for them."

Auckland still holds the top spot for interest from Juwai buyers.

Oamaru and Hamilton saw the biggest increase in interest, while Dunedin and Nelson fell off the top ten entirely.