Spark New Zealand says the Government's planned foreign property buyer ban will "significantly impact" its expansion and development plans.
Spark, with more than 3 million customers, told Parliament's Finance and Expenditure Select Committee that 25 per cent or more of its shares are owned by overseas entities.
So it would be captured by the Overseas Investment Amendment Bill which American billionaire and Tara Iti links course developer Ric Kayne of Kayne Anderson Capital Advisors says might change his expansion plans in New Zealand.
Spark told the committee it was a proud New Zealand organisation but it would be classified as an "overseas person" by the law if the law changes were enacted to ban foreigners getting residential and lifestyle land.
Yet Spark needs more of those properties to carry out its business here, it says.
"For example, in its current form the bill would require Spark to obtain Overseas Investment Office consent every time we acquire an interest in land, whether purchasing or leasing, for the purposes of providing telecommunications services, in order to install a new cell site or negotiate a new leasing arrangement on a current cell site, if that cell site is on land that is classed as residential land.
"This will significantly impact our ability to efficiently manage and expand our networks so that they reach the areas customers expect and require them to.
"This is not a trivial matter: right now our mobile sector is preparing for the advent of 5G technology, which will fundamentally revolutionise multiple sectors within New Zealand's economy, through the use of artificial intelligence, robotics and automation. 5G will be a key enabler of more effective and efficient utility network management, transport network and vehicle management and will open up new frontiers in agri-business, industrial traceability and sustainability management.
"But in order for us to be able to deliver the real-time, low-latency, network coverage required by 5G, we will require many more cell sites than exist in New Zealand today – any many of those new sites will likely be in residential or lifestyle areas," Spark's submission said.
David Parker, associate finance minister, said the bill "reaffirms that it is not a right for an overseas buyer to purchase a house here. Our objective is to ensure that the New Zealand housing market is shaped by New Zealanders."
The committee got 226 submissions, many strongly opposed, telling of damage to New Zealand and its international reputation.
Spark complained that its rural plans could be hurt too.
"The second area we and other mobile networks are expanding our networks is rural New Zealand. Mobile coverage in rural New Zealand lags urban coverage, and as a sector we are doing all we can to address this gap. And the Government is playing its part as well, subsidising the deployment of a further 400-500 rural cell sites by the Rural Connectivity Group of which Spark is a shareholder. Again, we expect many of these sites will be located on residential or lifestyle land given the nature of the deployment."
Spark called for network operators providing telecommunication services to be exempted from the law change.
"The interests we are acquiring in order to provide telecommunications services are usually just for a very small part of the land and on a leasehold basis. Our interests do not typically prevent the land continuing to be used for residential purposes," the submission said.