High-profile business organisations are calling for investor migrants to be required to channel more cash into productive, growth-focused New Zealand investments rather than safer options such as bonds.
Almost 80 per cent of investor visa recipients' funds currently ends up in government and corporate bonds, according a paper published by professional services firm KPMG.
"Whilst these [bond investments] are still beneficial to New Zealand, some simple changes to our immigration policies can bring diversity and may help better leverage these migrants' funds and valuable networks to help New Zealand business grow and expand," KPMG said.
Business incubator The Icehouse, which is also calling for a policy overhaul, describes passive investments such as bonds as "lazy money" that does nothing to address capital constraints facing companies.
"Changing the rules on entry and for allocation could better align investment with the need to grow New Zealand's economy and to increase its productivity, while aligning a stream of investment from the private sector, rather than relying on the Government to step in."
KPMG said Kiwi businesses would require more than $420 billion in capital by 2025 to support the export growth required to achieve the Government's Growth Agenda.
Its analysis suggested a $115 billion shortfall that would need to be funded by foreign investment.
"KPMG believes the best way to grow the economy is for investor migrants' capital to be deployed in funding New Zealand businesses, particularly start-ups and early-stage businesses."
Canada and Australia already require a portion of investor migrants' funds to go into "at risk" investments.
New Zealand's current investor immigration policy, which came into force in 2009, has attracted over 1600 applicants with over $3.7 billion to be invested into this country, according to KPMG.
There are two visa categories - Investor Plus and Investor - for migrants who want to use their capital to gain residence in New Zealand.
The latter requires a minimum of $1.5 million to be invested for four years, but applicants must be 65 or younger, meet English language requirements and spend at least 146 days in New Zealand in each of the last three years of the four-year investment period. They must also provide $1 million in settlement funds.
Investor Plus migrants must invest at least $10 million for three years but face no language or age requirements and have to spend only 44 days in New Zealand in each of the final two years of the investment period.
The Icehouse suggests some policy changes that could help channel migrant funds into more productive investments, including:
• Introducing a third investor visa category requiring $5 million to be invested, 10 to 20 per cent of which would have to go into growth investments such as angel, venture capital or small cap private equity funds. In return, other requirements would be reduced or eliminated.
• Amending the Investor Plus category to require a 10 per cent (or higher) investment in growth capital funds or direct investments.
Icehouse chief executive Andy Hamilton said migrant capital could also be deployed in other areas, such as creating new residential housing stock or regional economic development. KPMG said a portion of migrant investor funds - possibly 20 per cent - should be invested into angel or venture capital.
"This could be through a designated fund which has the same investment profile as the [government-backed] New Zealand Venture Investment Fund (VIF).
"This would offer some comfort to migrant investors that the portion of their investment capital at risk is being invested in early-stage companies that the New Zealand Government is happy to support through VIF."
Yue Wang, KPMG's director of immigration services, said most investor migrants would welcome such changes if they came with benefits such as faster visa processing or reduced requirements. "I don't think it's going to necessarily put them off."
Angel Association executive director Suse Reynolds said changing investor migrant rules to direct a portion into growth investments would provide a "terrific boost" for early-stage companies.
"If wealthy migrants were required to invest into the growth areas of our economy, it will bring the New Zealand rules into line with what is happening in other developed countries."
She said early stage investment would also help migrants integrate into New Zealand society as it was "a very collaborative affair".
"It's not just the capital but the networks and skills the providers of that capital bring to the table."