Leonie Freeman: Deaf ears and broken trust

Anyone who has met me, read something I’ve written, or heard me speak will know that I am a huge advocate for industry and government working together to solve problems. It is the basis for so much that we do at Property Council, and in my mind is the only constructive way to tackle big issues without triggering a ripple effect of unintended consequences.

The past few weeks have shaken my faith in this belief.

Last week’s announcement that the Government will be proceeding with the planned changes to the Property Law Act – a move that completely undermines the sanctity of commercial contracts by inserting a clause into every commercial lease in the country that neither tenant nor landlord has agreed to – is simply staggering.

Speaking to our lawyer members, I am told that no one will benefit from this decision, with one commercial lawyer saying they have had very little if any, requests for assistance with lease contracts since last year’s lockdown. I believe his exact words were “they’re solving a problem that no longer exists”.

Meanwhile, many of our property owner members are reporting instances of large, Australian-based tenants saying they will not be paying any rent at all over these trying months. Some of these tenants have a significant online presence, are still able to operate and have reported good profits over the past year.

It is difficult not to be moved by the stories of property owners in strife, and while we certainly knocked on every door, pulled every lever and outlined the issues clearly and succinctly, it appears our appeals for clarity and consideration fell on deaf ears.

We know this is disappointing, and we certainly share your disbelief and frustration.

For now, we trudge on. We look ahead to the next issue and monitor the fallout of this ill-conceived idea. There is plenty on the horizon for us to do, to partner with, to promote. Our experience this time gives us an increased ability to be aware and speak up when things don’t stack up. As always, we will be sharp and ready with proactive solutions and with the backing of our members’ collective expertise.

I ore ate tuatara ka patu ki waho

A problem is solved by continuing to find solutions.

Ngā mihi nui.

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