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LINZ survey `an exercise in manipulation'

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 2/08/2016

Labour is claiming Land Information NZ's survey of foreign property buyers was delayed while ministers "interfered" with the way questions were framed.

LINZ reported on Monday foreign tax residents brought three per cent of all properties sold between April and June this year.

The figures were similar to the previous quarter.

Labour disputes the survey's findings and housing spokesman Phil Twyford says it's "an exercise in spin and manipulation".

Citing "well-placed government sources" he says he's been told the survey was delayed while ministers - including senior minister Steven Joyce - interfered with the way the questions were framed.

A spokeswoman for Mr Joyce told NZ Newswire the minister wasn't going to respond to Labour's claims.

Mr Twyford says it would have been easy to simply ask home buyers if they were citizens or residents.

"But instead the government produced a convoluted set of questions."

He says the survey was deliberately designed to muddy the waters and confuse public debate about the impact of foreign buyers in the property market.

Labour and NZ First believe the number of foreign property buyers is much higher than the survey shows, and say they're a key factor in the overheated housing market.

They blame the government for refusing to take action against them.

LINZ has been collecting data based on the tax residency of property buyers and sellers since October last year when the government made changes to ensure people meet their tax obligations.

But tax residency isn't the same as nationality.

For example, a foreign national could use a New Zealand-registered company or trust to purchase a residential property and that would show up as New Zealand tax residency.

There's also confusion around a question buyers are asked about whether they hold a work or student visa and are intending to occupy a home on a property.

LINZ says it knows it has to improve the guidance it offers on how to answer the question.

It also says the survey isn't intended to be a register of foreign ownership.

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