If you’re buying a house or land in New Zealand, you may need consent from the Overseas Investment Office (the OIO).

In a nutshell, you won’t need OIO consent to purchase property if you’re a New Zealand citizen, whereas you may need it if you’re a permanent resident of New Zealand, Australia or Singapore.

However, the rules are complex and it’s important not to make assumptions about whether you need OIO consent, as failure to comply can lead to serious consequences.

In this article, Debbie Nelson explains who needs OIO consent when buying property and how the consent process works.

What does ‘OIO consent’ actually mean?

The Overseas Investment Act 2005, designed to ensure responsible foreign investment in New Zealand, came into force in August 2005.

The Overseas Investment Office (OIO) is the regulator of the act.

According to the rules spelt out under the act, some buyers need consent from the OIO when purchasing certain types of property in New Zealand.

OIO consent nz

How can I confirm if I need OIO consent?

First of all, it’s important to understand that there are three eligibility categories used by the OIO:

  1. People who can buy property without any restrictions
  2. People who can buy certain types of property if they have OIO consent 
  3. People who can’t buy property in New Zealand

How do you know which of these categories you fall into? We’ve detailed the eligibility criteria below.

People who can buy property without any restrictions

You can buy a house or land in New Zealand without OIO consent or restrictions if you, your spouse or your de facto partner:

  • Are a New Zealand, Australian or Singaporean citizen (regardless of whether you live here)
  • Have a New Zealand residence class visa and are ‘ordinarily resident’ in New Zealand
  • Are an Australian or Singaporean permanent resident and are ‘ordinarily resident’ in New Zealand

Note: if the property you’re looking to buy is categorised as ‘otherwise sensitive’ land (as detailed later in this article), you may still need OIO consent for the purchase.

People who can buy certain types of property if they have OIO consent

If you’re not ‘ordinarily resident’ in New Zealand but you have a New Zealand residence class visa or you’re an Australian or Singaporean citizen or permanent resident, you can obtain OIO consent to buy or build a home to live in.

If you’re given OIO consent, there may be conditions on the purchase. For example, you might be required to live in the property as your main home and be present in New Zealand for a certain number of days per year.

If you don’t meet the conditions imposed, you might have to sell the property and could face penalties.

People who can’t buy property in New Zealand

You won’t be able to buy a house or land in New Zealand if you’re:

  • An overseas person with a temporary, limited, interim or transit visa (e.g. a student, work or visitor visa)
  • An overseas person without a visa

What does ‘ordinarily resident’ mean?

To be deemed ordinarily resident, you must meet all of the following criteria:

  • You have a residence class visa
  • You’ve lived in New Zealand for at least the last 12 months
  • You’ve been physically present in New Zealand for at least 183 days during the last 12 months
  • You’re a tax resident of New Zealand

What type of property requires OIO consent?

If the house or land you’re looking to buy is categorised as ‘residential’ or ‘lifestyle,’ it’s considered sensitive. Therefore, you may need OIO consent to purchase the property (depending on which eligibility category you fall into).

You can check whether a property is categorised as residential or lifestyle on the QV website by looking for an ‘R’ or ‘L’ as the first letter of the category code.

However, just because a property isn’t categorised as residential or lifestyle, that doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t need OIO consent to buy it.

Some properties are categorised as ‘otherwise sensitive’ land, which you may also need OIO consent to purchase.

Typically, a property would be considered ‘otherwise sensitive’ because of its size, type, location or what it’s next to.

For example, sensitive land includes:

  • Rural land that’s over 5 hectares
  • Foreshore and seabed land
  • Land over 0.4 hectares that’s held for conservation purposes under the Conservation Act 1987
  • Land over 0.2 hectares that adjoins the foreshore
  • Land over 0.4 hectares that adjoins a lake, park or certain reserves
  • Land on some islands (e.g. Great Barrier Island)

A more extensive explanation of sensitive land can be found here.

The bottom line? If you’re buying land that’s residential, lifestyle or otherwise sensitive, you may need OIO consent.

So if I’m a New Zealand citizen but my partner isn’t, we don’t need OIO consent?

The rules around couples buying property together are often a source of confusion.

If you’re married, in a civil union or in a de facto relationship, only one of you needs to meet the eligibility criteria, as long as you’re buying the property as relationship property (i.e. buying it as your main home to live in together).

If either you or your spouse/partner is eligible to buy property in New Zealand without consent or restrictions, you won’t need OIO consent to buy a house or land together – regardless of the other person’s status.

However, if you’re buying property with your de facto partner and one of you isn’t a New Zealand citizen or permanent resident, it’s important to confirm that your relationship is officially deemed a de facto relationship (as per the criteria under the Property (Relationships) Act 1976).

oio consent when buying residential property

What if I’m buying property through a trust or company?

If you’re purchasing property through a family trust or company, you may be wondering whether you need OIO consent.

Essentially, it depends on the eligibility status of each trustee or company owner.

If all of the trustees or company owners are New Zealand citizens or permanent residents, the trust or company would generally be able to buy property in New Zealand without OIO consent.

In saying this, there are some exceptions to this rule. For example, if an overseas person has a beneficial interest in or entitlement to more than 25% of a trust’s property (e.g. if one of the trust’s beneficiaries currently lives overseas), the trust would likely need OIO consent.

If you’re thinking about buying property through your trust or company and have any concerns as to whether OIO consent is required, we’d strongly advise that you contact your solicitor before signing an agreement for sale and purchase or bidding at auction.

If I need OIO consent, when should I apply?

If you need OIO consent to buy a house or land, you should apply as soon as possible. Your lawyer won’t be able to complete the purchase on your behalf until they have your OIO consent number.

The consent application process typically takes:

  • Up to 10 working days for residential or lifestyle properties
  • Up to 30 working days for ‘otherwise sensitive’ land

We’d suggest that you apply for pre-approval before you start looking at properties – pre-approved consent is valid for one year.

Alternatively, if you’ve found a property you’d like to buy and you don’t have OIO consent yet, you can still apply at this point (as long as the consent can be processed in time). If you end up not moving forward with the purchase, the consent will remain valid for one year, allowing you to buy another property instead.

Does it matter whether I’m buying at auction or by negotiation?

If you need OIO consent, you should be aware that you can’t buy property at auction unless you have pre-approved consent. If you were to buy at auction without OIO consent, you may face significant penalties and could be forced to sell the property.

If you’re buying a property by negotiation, you can sign a sale and purchase agreement before you get OIO consent, but the agreement needs to be conditional on obtaining consent under the Overseas Investment Act 2005. If you sign an agreement that doesn’t contain this condition and consent is required, you may face significant penalties and might not be able to settle the purchase.

How we can help

The rules around OIO consent are quite complex, so it’s always best to check with your solicitor if you’re not sure how they apply to you.

If you’d like to speak with us about whether you need OIO consent, please get in touch on enquiries@armstrongmurray.co.nz or 09 489 9102.


This article is brief and general in nature. You should not treat it as legal advice and should seek professional advice before taking any action in relation to the matters dealt with in this post. Armstrong Murray accepts no liability for losses suffered by any person or organisation who may rely directly or indirectly on this post.