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Green Rush: Foreign forestry companies NZ’s biggest landowners

Green Rush: Foreign forestry companies NZ’s biggest landowners

Despite a clampdown on some overseas investment, including a ban on residential sales to offshore buyers, the Labour-led government has actively encouraged further foreign purchases of land for forestry through a stream-lined ‘special forestry test’.

Since the government was formed, the Overseas Investment Office (OIO) has approved more than $2.3 billion of forestry-related land sales – about 31,000 hectares of it previously in New Zealand hands.

Of that, about half has been sold via a streamlined ‘special forestry test’ introduced by the government last October.

Overall, nearly $5b of sensitive land has changed hands through the OIO since the government was formed.

The information comes from an RNZ investigation into land ownership in New Zealand.

Using Land Information New Zealand data, Companies Office searches and other research, RNZ has compiled a list of what we believe are the 100 biggest private landowners in New Zealand by area, not including the Crown and public entities (which control at least 28 percent of the land) or iwi.

Together, these landowners have freehold ownership of 1.42m ha of land – more than 10 percent of all privately-owned land and about 5 percent of New Zealand’s total land area of 26.8m ha.

That comes close to the 6.7 percent of total land RNZ could conclusively identify as Māori-owned. Tūhoe, Ngāti Tūwharetoa, and the Central North Island grouping of eight iwi were the largest iwi landholders – although Tūhoe’s holdings include Te Urewera, which has special independent legal status.

The analysis found at least 3.3 percent of New Zealand’s land is foreign-owned.