Twyford's 'racist', 'cynical' Chinese property buyer statistics de-bunked

Statistics quoted by Labour's Phil Twyford showing Chinese foreign property buyers are over-represented in Auckland have been shown to be largely inaccurate.

The government has hit back at the opposition over claims large numbers of Asians are buying up Auckland houses Source: 1 NEWS

Details provided to Mr Twyford covering about 4000 house purchases at a single Auckland real estate firm between February and April showed 39.5 per cent came from people whose last name appeared to be of Chinese descent, where as the proportion of the Auckland population was 9 per cent.

Mr Twyford asserted the figures, quoted in the NZ Herald, showed that Chinese offshore buyers were over-represented in the Auckland market and said foreign Chinese buyers accounted for just over 50 per cent of Auckland houses priced over $1m.

"It's staggering evidence that strongly suggests there's a significant offshore Chinese presence in the Auckland real estate market. It could not possibly be all Chinese New Zealanders buying; that's implausible."

Mr Twyford wants the Government’s new register of foreign buyers made open to the public and wants new rules around foreign ownership of Auckland housing, similar to laws introduced in Australia.

However, data journalist Keith Ng, writing on the Public Adress blog, responded to the claims and tore down the statistics point-by-point, exposing clear holes in the methodology used to determine them.

"You can’t magically MATH your way from a last name to a residency status," he wrote.

"They have one piece of real data: "39.5% of last names in a list of house sales sound Chinese.

"The subtext of this story is that people with Chinese-sounding names are foreigners full of cash who are buying all our houses and chasing hardworking Kiwis out of their homes.

"This is straight-up scapegoating, placing the blame for a complex, emotive problem at the feet of an ethnic group.

"You are saying that people with "Chinese-sounding names" are dangerous foreigners who will destroy the Kiwi way of life with real estate purchases.

Government Housing Minister Nick Smith has also refuted the figures.

"The data is unreliable as it comes from an unidentified source, covers only one of many real estate agencies and the data analysis is based on surnames rather than whether the buyers are residents or citizens," he said.

Barfoot & Thompson boss Peter Thompson agreed the data was unreliable.

"We know there's been a large portion of Asians buying property but there's no way to tell if they're one of three categories: NZ born, foreign-born NZ citizens or foreign-born foreign citizens. If you asked me about Asian non-residents, I'd probably say between 5 and 8 per cent."

Rob Salmond, who did the analysis for Labour, responded to critics, saying that while the statistics were in no way 100 per cent accurate, they were indicative.

"Can Labour prove that any individual buyer is foreign? No. All we have is their last name," he wrote.

"But can Labour conclude on the preponderance of all available evidence from the aggregate data that there is likely a large impact of offshore investment from China in Auckland’s real estate market? Yes."

Commenters on Twitter had also criticised the statistics.