Leonie Freeman: Setting the agenda

Last week, Property Council’s National Board finalised our advocacy priorities for the coming year, setting the agenda for our workstreams for the months ahead. While the past couple of years have taught us not to get too comfortable when it comes to setting plans, this is an important exercise for us as we collaborate with Regional Committees, our Advisory Group and our Board to take the temperature of our membership, allowing us to rank and order the lengthy list of ‘to-do’s’ that are requested of us. 

Being a pre-general election year, the list seems particularly long as the government seeks to progress huge reforms that will undoubtedly alter the landscape for property owners, developers and those associated with the industry.  

Will the change be positive?  

I am optimistic they can be, but we need to ensure that the end outcomes will work from an implementation perspective and that the different pieces of legislation are coordinated. 

As an industry, we want change, but it must come with careful consideration and consultation to avoid any potential pitfalls and contradictions. 

An example of this has been playing out in Wellington this week, with Wellington City Council announcing a proposed increase to business rating differentials from 3.2 to 3.7. This will be the highest differential in the country, with businesses paying 44% of the rates. 

To put this in perspective, Auckland’s business rates differential is currently 2.7, a differential they are proposing to reduce to 2.5 so that only 25% of rates are paid by businesses. In Christchurch, business rates represent 32.35% of total rates revenue.   

What the heck is a rates differential and why should I care, you ask? Good question.  

Council rates are gathered from two key stakeholders: residential property owners and businesses. A rate differential is the difference between the two rates types, so in the example above where Wellington residential property owners pay one part of the total rates, a business would pay 3.7 times as much. 

A rating differential is an actual dollar amount. When the differential increases, so does the amount businesses pay. Something has been lost in translation if councillors believe increasing the differential won’t increase the amount businesses pay. All of a sudden, we have an unintended consequence, where businesses who have struggled through two years of a pandemic, weathered increasing minimum wage requirements and even a not-so-friendly protest are suddenly saddled with more unexpected costs with the flick of an official’s pen. 

We care because these businesses are our tenants and our members. They are key stakeholders in our community, who we don’t want to see suffer just because of a miscommunication. 

The Property Council advocacy team has already written to Council to explain the issue and will be submitting on this proposal as part of their Annual Plan submission later this month. For further information, please contact Katherine Wilson.

On a lighter note, I was heartened to see the outpouring of support for women in our industry yesterday on International Women’s Day. While there is a long way to go, we should all take a moment to recognise just how far the industry has come. 

I was also lucky enough to MC our International Women’s Day webinar with Lizzi Whaley, Jonathan Manns and Denise Lee. It was an incredible conversation and a reminder that everyone has a story and a part to play in leading change. Members can watch the recording here

As always, we welcome your feedback, engagement and ideas. 

Stay safe and look after your team, yourself and your families as we ride out the next few weeks. 

Ngā mihi nui. 

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