The Government says it has so far received no negative feedback from China over Labour’s release of Auckland housing data showing 40% of buyers were Chinese.
The Race Relations Conciliator, Dame Susan Devoy, has accused Labour of racism in singling out people with Chinese sounding names.
At the same time it is not clear that Labour could actually implement its policy to stop overseas buyers other than Australians from buying existing houses.
Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce told POLITIK that his Trade and Enterprise offices in China had not received any negative feedback from Chinese citizens about the Labour proposal.
And he said there had been no complaint from the Chinese Embassy in Wellington.
But Mr Joyce is questioning the timing of Labour’s release of the sales data.
He says that on October 1, the introduction of the requirement that offshore buyers provide a home country tax number plus a New Zealand tax number will mean that the Government will actually have accurate data on the extent of overseas house purchases.
He described the data released by Labour last weekend as “shonky”.
“Why did they chose to pick on a particular ethnic group when they know that on October 1, the real data will be available,” he said.
And he said the Government was willing to debate the extent of overseas house buying in New Zealand but without “bagging” a particular ethnic community.
Meanwhile it appears there may be legal obstacles to Labour’s plan to require all overseas buyers except Australians to purchase only new houses.
Wellington lawyer and former MPO Stephen Franks says the New Zealand China Free Trade Agreement provides that Chinese investors may not be treated less favourably than investors from any third country.
But Labour has already said that Australians will be exempt from any requirements to purchase only new houses.
“I would prefer that Labour was not handicapped in this way,” he said.
“I rather hope that I’ve missed something, and the new policy can be defended better than the man ban fizzer.
“Unfortunately it may be just as much an own goal.”