Anne Gibson

Anne Gibson is the Property editor of the NZ Herald

Conflict over move into real estate

Special report: The Business Herald this week examines the investment relationship with China.

China has its eye on all types of real estate, not just farmland. Photo / APN
China has its eye on all types of real estate, not just farmland. Photo / APN

Chinese investors are making their presence felt in all aspects of New Zealand real estate - in development, investment, trades, services, infrastructure, funding and the residential market.

PwC partner and China sector spokesman Colum Rice said that as the global economic centre of gravity moved East, China was changing the world, creating new opportunities for New Zealand businesses to tap into the world's fastest growing market.

China was now the world's second largest economy, having overtaken Japan in 2010, and it was estimated China's economic output would match the United States by 2027, he said.

Murray Horton of the Campaign Against Foreign Control of Aotearoa (Cafca) said the independence of most countries was being eroded because most of the world's economy was owned and controlled by a small number of huge international corporations.

He opposes foreign investment here and promotes the concept of an independent New Zealand, free from global control.

Cafca's website mentions China 221 times, indicating many deals in many sectors.

Under 1.5 per cent of our total rural land area is in foreign hands, according to information company Terralink which has dispelled the myth that Kiwis are becoming tenants in their own country.

Using Overseas Investment Office data, it showed Crafar farms accounted for more than 50 per cent of dairying land consented for foreign ownership since 2005 and more of the country's industrial and commercial land was being sold to foreigners than any other land category.

Farm sales get all the public attention, Terralink said, but office blocks and factories were more likely to be foreign-owned.

On the housing front, Chinese buyers that come to Auckland are said to be paying top dollar, fuelling fears they are contributing to skyrocketing property prices around the country, although agents say only New Zealand residents can buy so the idea of absentee Chinese landlords can be discounted.

Real estate agent Graham Wall had two deals to sell Mission Bay houses to Chinese buyers and he went to Shanghai in the winter to drum up further interest.

"Why we are getting record prices for Auckland, Hawkes Bay and Queenstown houses is that people outside New Zealand can see its worth," he said.

Chinese buyers wanted luxury properties, could afford them and appreciated Auckland's best suburbs with big waterfront views and proximity to the city, he said.

Diana Buczkowski, of Barfoot & Thompson, said Chinese buyers were extremely active in her area and willing to pay good prices.

But the buying is not all one way.

Fletcher Building's laminates business is expanding in China, building a new factory of about 5ha as part of its $200 million push into Asia.

Wealthy Chinese mainlanders' level of involvement dwarfs the Crafar farm sale. Some of the most active and high profile are:

Zhaobai Jiang
In August, it was revealed that Shanghai Pengxin owner Zhaobai Jiang was behind a $550 million, eight-year plan to continue developing Gulf Harbour, on the Whangaparaoa Peninsula, after his company got government approval to buy the Crafar farms.

Furu Ding
Multimillionaire Shanghai businessman Furu Ding of the wealthy New Development Group paid $53 million for a long-vacant site in Auckland's CBD and is planning a five-star hotel tower on the site at 106 Albert St.
Ding also owns a big slice of land north of Auckland.

Mainzeal
New Zealand's third biggest builder is Chinese-owned Mainzeal Property & Construction, ranked behind Fletcher Construction and Hawkins Construction, builder of some of the country's largest structures including Auckland's Vector Arena.

China Road and Bridge Corp
One of the world's biggest contractors, the China Road and Bridge Corporation, eyed up several major New Zealand roading contracts, yet failed to score, after forging an alliance with Orewa's locally owned Hopper Developments. Hopper's Evans Young said he believes Chinese will increasingly show an interest in New Zealand, a step which we should welcome for the wealth they will bring.

China Development Bank
Signed an agreement with PwC which says the two will co-operate on major development projects, particularly on reconstruction and investment in Canterbury after the earthquakes but the bank could also invest in and lend money for many different infrastructure projects. The bank is also a big Australian investor.

China Vanke
Three years ago, Wang Shi - an ex-People's Liberation Army soldier leading China's biggest house builder China Vanke - visited Auckland to find out more about eco-friendly residential construction, indicating an interest in this country and particularly it's building practices.


Biggest overseas NZ land purchase applications

2011

*Switzerland: Corisol NZ's purchase of 18,251ha of Canterbury land.

*United States (35 per cent) and others: Te Waihou Plantations acquisition of 17,289ha of central North Island land area.

*Australia/US: Matariki Forests' acquisition of 4795.5ha of Canterbury land.

2012

*China: Milk NZ Holdings' 7892.5ha purchase of North Island farmland.

*British, US and NZ: Craigmore's purchase of 8688ha of North Island forestry land.

*United States: Calvin Pardee Erdman's purchase of 2687.9ha of Canterbury land.

Source: Overseas Investment Office

- NZ Herald

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_n1 at 21 Apr 2014 11:58:36 Processing Time: 773ms