Hundreds of foreign investors are expected to arrive New Zealand in coming months as a result of new border exemptions allowing wealthy investors linked to two government programmes to visit.
The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) expects 220 wealthy individuals will arrive over the next year, bringing hundreds of millions in direct investment, job creation and skills.
MBIE said it has not publicised the border changes widely because it only applies to those shoulder-tapped by state agencies.
The two new border exemptions get the briefest of descriptions on the Immigration NZ website – just the names of the government programmes they are linked to.
Association for Migration and Investment chair June Ranson said she would like to know more.
“New Zealand needs the investment money, there’s no getting away from it, but it would have been very, very good if they had made the industry and the public aware of what their plans were.”
The new exemptions come under the ministry’s Innovative Partnerships programme and New Zealand Trade and Enterprise’s (NZTE) Investment Attractions, which both had to press pause on inviting potential investors to the country when the borders closed last year.
Under both programmes, officials are able to identify and invite key people from companies to visit here in order to facilitate high-value international investment and technology expertise into the country.
MBIE said high-value international investment will play an important role in supporting New Zealand’s economic recovery.
NZTE general manager of investment Dylan Lawrence said the agency does plan to publicise the exemption once it has worked through the detail.
Investor interest in New Zealand had never been higher, he said.
“It’s been pretty difficult to be able to turn that interest and profile into getting investors and companies to transact. The key constraint has been this inability for them to be able to bring their people into the country to conduct due diligence.”
He said those interested in investing want to be here to make decisions.
“We’ve tried these various ways to conduct due diligence virtually.
We’ve tried GoPros and drones to do site visits and we’ve tried introducing them to people in New Zealand who can act as their trusted partners on the ground but ultimately we got minimal take up and a number of investment projects were paused.
“I think it’s been really important for New Zealand to get this exemption up and running.”
Lawrence said NZTE was already fielding interest from people wanting to resume projects now they can apply to come here under the new border exemption.
Investors who visit as part of the Investment Attractions programme will be able to conduct due diligence, such as meeting potential partners, viewing plants and sites, and understanding their potential investment on the ground.
The new Innovative Partnerships exception allows MBIE to invite key people from companies “that are pushing the boundaries of technology and solving the world’s big problems” to help them find investment opportunities here.
MBIE general manager, science, innovation and international Dr Peter Crabtree oversees the Partnership programme.
“We’ve been as creative as we can be in terms of maintaining relationships and so have the companies themselves in terms of keeping their operations running,” he said.
“It’s really the opportunity cost we don’t want to miss out at this point.”
Dr Crabtree said interest in New Zealand as a research and development destination had surged due to the country’s response to the pandemic.
“It’s almost bottomless at the moment in some ways, there are so many people who are interested. New Zealand’s brand is a very strong one, it was already strong in terms of our niche areas of innovation and people are really drawn to the idea of actually basing operations here.”
He said they were looking at bringing in expertise that supports the New Zealand Space Agency and were working through the criteria to prioritise investors.
The first could arrive here within weeks.
MBIE general manager employment, skills and immigration policy Ruth Isaac said the border exemptions for investors were the next steps to ramp up connectivity with the world and support the country’s economic recovery.
She said it was important to now reconnect New Zealand businesses to international investment.
“The immediate pipeline of opportunity made possible by these border exceptions could be in the hundreds of millions of dollars worth of benefits to the New Zealand economy.”
Any investors arriving from outside Australia will need to apply for a room in managed isolation.