Americans were the biggest buyers of New Zealand land in the past five years, although buyers from China topped the list in 2014.

Buyers from more than 50 countries have purchased New Zealand land since 2010, according to Land Information New Zealand.

Of the 646,190ha sold during the five years, Americans bought the most at 168,154ha. UK residents, who headed the list in 2010, came in second during the five-year period, buying a total 66,932ha, followed by Israel on 52,325ha and Switzerland on 36,965ha.

Chinese buyers came in fifth at 34,908ha, although they headed the list with 10,989ha bought in 2014, a big jump from just 53ha in 2010.

The figures come at a time of concern about foreign buyers contributing to rising house prices, particularly in Auckland, and of farmland heading into offshore hands.

Chinese company Hunan Dakang Pastoral Farming, 55 per cent owned by Shanghai Pengxin, has applications in to the Overseas Investment Office to buy the Lochinver Station near Taupo for $70 million which, if approved, would be the second-biggest sale of New Zealand farmland to a foreign owner by value and one of the biggest by area.

It has also applied to buy Shanghai Pengxin’s existing New Zealand farm assets, including the former Crafar Farms, for $375m, and a dairy farm unit near Taupo for $22.75m.

The figures show forestry and logging was the chief use on the land bought during the period at 329,849ha, just under half the total sold.

Agriculture accounted for the next highest amount of 263,924ha while land used for sports and recreation activities was a distant third at 21,215ha.

The government has said it will wait and see how a planned register of foreign-owned buyers in Australia works out before committing to one here.

The Australian farmland register, which was to have been introduced by Christmas 2014, has since been delayed pending further refinement on how it will work and there have also been calls for one on foreign-owned house buyers.


By Fiona Rotherham