New Zealand is only experiencing the "beginning" of the Chinese interest in Kiwi property, with buyer demand expected to increase in the coming years, a property expert says.
Simon Henry, chief executive of international property website Juwai which helps Chinese buyers find property overseas, said New Zealand is seventh in the top 10 list of countries where wealthy Chinese buy houses abroad. Australia is second on the list.
Speaking to The Nation from Hong Kong, Mr Henry said it was "very much" the start of Chinese interest in the Kiwi housing market.
"We think we're at the very beginning of the Chinese outbound property cycle," he said. "We saw a rather large growth over the last three years. Three years ago it was probably $10 billion globally, last year it was approximately $52 billion globally. We're seeing a net increase of approximately 15-20 per cent per year expected for 2015-16."
Newly cashed-up Chinese buyers - rich from the mining, manufacturing and booming tech industries - had "really just started to look at the world as an emerging opportunity", he said.
The average Chinese foreign buyer will splash out $1.4 million for a property here, Mr Henry said, around double that of a first-time buyer or domestic buyer.
Juwai has 8500 New Zealand listings, and Mr Henry said Chinese buyers were attracted to New Zealand's proximity to their home country.
"It's a similar time zone, it's only eight or nine hours to travel from China down to Australia or New Zealand, and it's also, if you're sending your kids overseas to study, only a two or three hour time difference in terms of telephone calls and contact," he said.
"New Zealand's also got a fantastic reputation in terms of produce, education, lifestyle and tourism, and so New Zealand has a very good brand reputation."
There was "certainly a touch" of racism in the anxiety over Chinese buyers in New Zealand, Mr Henry said.
"If you look at the net foreign investors into New Zealand, Chinese make up roughly 25 per cent of it, Australians make up around 20 per cent and UK citizens about 11 per cent, so the Chinese are roughly a quarter of the foreign investment into real estate, which means you do have 75 per cent of other nations who are actively investing a lot more than the Chinese."
Former National MP Tau Henare was adamant that "it is racism".
"People don't want Chinese to buy their houses, that's what people are saying," he said.
A foreign investor register opened up the possibility of more racism and racist attacks, he said.
"I kid you not, the next thing you're going to have is a Chinese register, a Jewish register, and all sorts of things that are abhorrent."