While it is great to see the back of 2020, Property Council has achieved a number of key victories with the Government’s reinstatement of depreciation on commercial buildings and the abandonment of plans to introduce a compulsory arbitration system for commercial rent disputes.
The Property Council’s advocacy team has been busy with a multitude of policy and regulatory issues to influence on behalf of members. This involved writing 44 submissions and holding over 142 meetings with MPs, councillors, and officials to ensure property’s voice was heard.
Early on in the year, we submitted on the Urban Development Bill and the Infrastructure Funding and Financing Bill. All these policy changes Property Council had been advocating on for several years so it has been great to see them come to fruition. We also submitted on the Fire and Emergency New Zealand Funding Review with a number of other submitters who all agreed we need to move away from the insurance-based model towards a model that charges levies based on the expected risk and level of use of the services. Phase 2 of the funding review has been delayed due to COVID-19 and with a new Minister coming in, we hope to continue working with the Government on this issue in 2021.
Never waste a crisis
As COVID-19 began to make waves on a global scale our advocacy priorities had to adapt. For starters it was pleasing to see the Government’s announcement to reintroduce depreciation on commercial and industrial buildings as part of the COVID-19 economic support package – a change Property Council has been advocating for since the policy was first changed in 2010. The move will put over $2.1bn back into the pockets of property owners and therefore the economy.
During the level 4, 3 and 2 lockdowns the issue around commercial rent relief began to dominate the headlines and took up a lot of our time. One of the major fall-outs for the property industry from the COVID-19 pandemic was the issue of no access emergency clauses (or lack thereof), and the push back from both tenants and the Government that commercial property owners should shoulder the bulk of the financial burden caused by lockdown.
When this issue was initially raised, we proposed solutions to Government that would provide a resolution that would support both landlords and tenants. Unfortunately, this fell on deaf ears with the Government proposing changes to the Property Law Act which would intervene in commercial leases by forcing landlords and tenants into an arbitration system. Through our lobbying efforts and the wider sector, we were able to convince NZ First to oppose this law change which forced the Government announcing a voluntary arbitration system which didn’t require a law change. The success of this advocacy campaign showed the importance of building and maintaining enduring relationships with MPs across the political spectrum.
Local and central government wins
As Council’s budgets began to be hit by the COVID-19 pandemic they had to readjust their Annual Plans to reflect the economic situation. We submitted on a number of different Council’s Annual Plans imploring them to show some restraint with increasing rates. We were relieved that many of the Council’s listened to our submissions.
Also during the lockdown, the Government passed a couple of important pieces of legislation which we supported. The first was the Overseas Investment (Urgent Measures) Amendment Bill which fast-tracked reforms aimed at cutting unnecessary red tape (e.g. carve-outs for “sensitive adjoining land”, changes to the process for assessing “good character” and removing the need for some fundamentally New Zealand companies to seek the Overseas Investment Office’s consent). The second was the COVID-19 Recovery (Fast Track Consenting) Bill which aims to fast track consenting of ‘shovel ready’ projects outside of New Zealand’s current Resource Management Act system.
Resource management reform
For much of the first half of the year, we had been working with the Government to push for changes to the Resource Management Act. The Randerson Report was released in July, recommending a repeal of the RMA and suggesting it be replaced with two new pieces of legislation; the Natural and Built Environment Act and Strategic Planning Act. While there are still many elements yet to be addressed it was pleasing to see the Government make some progress given that Property Council has been collectively working with other industry bodies (through Resource Reform New Zealand) to push the Government on leading an overhaul of the RMA.
In July, the Government released the National Policy Statement on Urban Development (NPS-UD) which is a step in the right direction, adopting many of Property Council’s recommendations submitted during the consultation. The NPS provides a long-term planning framework for Councils to ensure we create well planned and functioning cities. The Councils are now tasked to develop these plans over the next few years.
With “improving sustainability and resilience” as a new advocacy priority for Property Council this year it was pleasing to see the Government release its Building for Climate Change Programme. In September MBIE released a consultation on two frameworks to reduce emissions in the built environment focusing on operational efficiency and whole-of-life embodied carbon emissions.
While we support the overall intent of the programme we believe more could be done on the guidance and incentives to encourage uptake.
Election Platform 2020
Leading up to the Election Property Council produced our Election Platform which outlined a clear policy agenda to lift growth, create more liveable cities, improve housing supply and choice and unlock innovation. The Platform has been crafted in partnership with members, proposing a range of policy initiatives that aim to shape thriving cities and communities.
In the later part of the year, we focussed our efforts on lobbying to remove the barriers to Build to Rent so that we can encourage investment in this growing asset class and help to increase the housing supply.
Leading into 2021, Property Council will be focusing on a number of issues outlined in our Election Platform. One area we hope to make some further progress on a number of our key advocacy priorities. In addition, we look forward to contributing to several key government policy programmes like building for climate change and reforming the RMA.
The Advocacy Team