Trinity Green Estate Partnership, formerly controlled and funded by an overseas person, has been ordered to pay $97,500 in civil penalties by the High Court for buying 8.5 hectares of sensitive land (being non-urban land greater than 5ha) in Cambridge without consent under the Overseas Investment Act. Trinity Green had previously paid $15,000 towards the costs incurred by Toitū Te Whenua Land Information New Zealand (LINZ) in relation to the breach.
In March 2016, Trinity Green acquired 80 Laurent Road, Cambridge for the purpose of developing a residential subdivision.
Trinity Green was an ‘overseas person’ under the Act, and required consent before acquiring the property, as one of the two trusts making up the partnership was controlled and funded from overseas. The trust structure was adopted on advice from New Zealand-based lawyers.
Trinity Green became aware of the breach when it sold part of the land to another overseas person. Trinity Green, through its new lawyers, self-reported the breach to LINZ and co-operated with the investigation.
The trust, and Trinity Green, ceased to be an overseas person in 2019.
Simon Pope, Manager Enforcement at LINZ said: “This judgment serves once again to reinforce the importance of overseas persons seeking independent and suitably qualified legal advice when involved with the purchase of sensitive land.”
“A lack of knowledge of the Overseas Investment rules by overseas persons, or their legal advisors, does not excuse breaches of the rules. We expect better, particularly when the land is being developed for commercial purposes.”