The Government wants to pass a new law banning foreigners from buying our residential and lifestyle properties but a top Queenstown businessman has given four examples of how rich overseas people have enhanced New Zealand to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars.

Sir Eion Edgar told Parliament's Finance and Expenditure Select Committee that the foreign buyer ban would "be detrimental to New Zealand's international reputation and greatly restrict overseas parties contributing to the benefit of New Zealand".

Governor General Sir Anand Satayanand knights Eion Edgar in 2009. Photo / Ross Setford
Governor General Sir Anand Satayanand knights Eion Edgar in 2009. Photo / Ross Setford

The investment specialist and his family appeared on last year's NBR rich list, with a fortune of $135m.

He argued that we all gain as a country from the rich spending their millions in New Zealand.

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Edgar is chairman of Hawaiki, the fibre-optic cable business connecting New Zealand to Australia and the United States to almost double our internet capacity.

The Otago Daily Times today reported how the Forsyth Barr chairman had retired from the board after 20 years. Independent director David Kirk will become chairman after serving on the board for eight years. Edgar told the OTD that the past 20 years had been "fantastic", with considerable growth across all parts of the business.

Sir Eion Edgar is opposing the proposed new law. Photo / John Stone
Sir Eion Edgar is opposing the proposed new law. Photo / John Stone

Edgar's four case studies in his submission are:

1. Public access to iconic South Island high-country stations

Robert "Mutt" Lang bought five farming stations between Wanaka and Queenstown for about $60m, Edgar said. He then spent a further $50m restoring these properties to their original state.

Russell Hamilton, manager of Soho Property, owned by Robert 'Mutt' Lange near the Shotover River. Photo / Alan Gibson
Russell Hamilton, manager of Soho Property, owned by Robert 'Mutt' Lange near the Shotover River. Photo / Alan Gibson

"He has now gifted over 90 per cent of them to the Queen Elizabeth Trust for the benefit and use by all New Zealanders. In addition he continues to maintain these properties at a cost of $3m to $5m per annum - a gift to New Zealand of over $100m," Edgar's submission said.

2. Expansion and investment in Millbrook Resort near Arrowtown

Eiichi Ishii, the Japanese businessman who owns Millbrook Resort, was "continuing to pour money into it. We now have a world-class golf and accommodation facility all New Zealanders can benefit from. To date they would have spent several $100m," Edgar said.

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3. $40m restoration of Glenorchy camp ground

"Paul and Debbi Brainerd purchased the run-down Glenorchy camp ground. At a cost of approximately $40m, they are restoring it to an eco-friendly facility, which will cater for all types of visitors. Once completed and proven to be cash-flow positive, it will be gifted in a trust for the benefit of the residents of Glenorchy," Edgar said.

4. Generous community organisation donations

"In raising money for community projects like the Winter Games, Queenstown Trails Trust and the Wakatipu Wilding Conifer Control Group, I always find the most generous supporters are overseas people who have a residence in the area," he said.

Edgar concluded that the proposed law could damage New Zealand and he said his four examples showed "substantial contributions made by overseas parties".

More than 200 submissions have been made on the bill, which is now with the select committee. Many are against it.
Housing Minister Phil Twyford told a conference in Auckland last month that he expected changes to the proposed law.