Overseas investors used the names of their New Zealand relatives to buy several forestry blocks illegally and have copped a $1.38 million fine. The penalty comes after a family paid $12.8 million for 3600 hectares across five blocks in Awakino, Ngāruawāhia, Awaroa, Paranui and Manganui. The land was bought in the names of three companies, and the investors used relatives based in New Zealand knowing that permission was required to buy the forestry blocks but ignoring it, a breach of the Overseas Investment Act. High Court Judge Justice Downs found that the family’s lawyer provided poor legal advice, but the investors’ breaches were negligent and because the properties were large and bought for commercial gain, making the charges serious. OIO group manager Anna Wilson-Farrell says investors in New Zealand need to be careful when acting jointly with an overseas buyer. She says breaches of the act are serious and penalties include being required to sell property and/or pay civil penalties.
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