$110,000 fine for breaching sensitive land rules

In September 2015 Ms Cong Zhang bought two properties in Mellons Bay. As an overseas person, she needed consent because the land is next to the foreshore and a Heritage New Zealand listed site. Times photo Wayne Martin

The Auckland High Court has ordered defendant Cong Zhang to pay a civil penalty of $110,000 and $15,000 in costs for failing to get consent under the Overseas Investment Act to buy sensitive land.

In September 2015 Ms Zhang bought two properties in Mellons Bay. As an overseas person, she needed consent because the land is next to the foreshore and a Heritage New Zealand listed site.

In 2013 Ms Zhang made two unsuccessful applications to the Overseas Investment Office (OIO) for consent to buy the two properties.

Justice Van Bohemen said “at the time Ms Zhang acquired the properties, she believed she was ordinarily resident in New Zealand under s 6(2)(a) of the Act because Immigration New Zealand had approved her application for a residence class visa in principle”.

She gained a residence class visa in May 2017, and became ordinarily resident in New Zealand in March 2018, well after the 2015 property purchase.

People applying for New Zealand residency should not make assumptions about their residency status before buying property, says OIO group manager Anna Wilson-Farrell.

“It is important for overseas people to get specialist advice about when they can legally buy property and when to apply for consent,” says Wilson-Farrell.

“We will continue to take action when people fail to follow the rules.”