An overseas-owned company behind a subdivision for 117 homes in Auckland has been fined and ordered to sell up after buying the land without permission.
The Overseas Investment Office has forced BCH Investments Ltd to sell up illegally bought land in Auckland following an investigation.
The High Court ordered BCH pay the maximum civil penalty of $300,000, along with costs totalling $288,000.
The company has also been instructed to sell the Albany properties within two years after they bought five hectares of land without OIO approval.
Land Information New Zealand group manager Vanessa Horne said the OIO makes sure overseas businesses meet the rules for investment in New Zealand.
"This case shows the importance for investors to seek the right advice when making overseas investments," she said.
"This includes choosing a suitably qualified lawyer and asking the right questions.
"The OIO has an important role in protecting our sensitive land, and we will continue to pursue cases where people have bought land illegally."
BCH bought properties at 79-95 Gills Rd in Albany for $12.95 million in 2013.
BCH bought the properties at 79-95 Gills Rd in Albany. Photo / Google
It planned to develop the land into 117 residential sections for sale and work was already underway when the OIO discovered breaches in 2014.
OIO allowed BCH to complete the subdivision and sell the lots in an orderly way to protect the interests of contractors and people who bought the subdivided lots.
The Court heard BCH will not make a profit on the sale of the properties, therefore a penalty based on gain could not be imposed.
Instead, the Court ordered the maximum statutory penalty of $300,000 to be paid.
Justice Grant Powell said, "given the size, scope and nature of the development proposed BCH should have undertaken explicit enquiries as to its obligations under the Act."
The land purchased by BCH is sensitive under the OIO Act because it is located next to a reserve.
Meanwhile, the owners of two Warkworth properties were fined $2.95 million after an OIO investigation found they too were bought illegally.
The two properties, 185 Sandspit Rd and Kourawhero Lodge at 471 Wyllie Rd, were purchased in 2014 and 2012 respectively.
Because both properties are rural land of more than five hectares, the owners should have applied to the OIO for consent to purchase them.