RESET24 Recap: Everything is a trade-off

The Property Council team were delighted to host an incredible lineup of speakers and close to 200 delegates at last week’s RESET24 conference.

Born out of a call from the industry to upskill the New Zealand property sector in increasing ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) compliance, RESET24 is now an annual event. This year, the conference theme was Exploring ESG in property, with a focus on moving beyond the traditional sustainability lens and into the importance of measuring and addressing both social and governance factors.

The first part of the day introduced new concepts and delivered a clear call for certainty, with Hon Chris Penk discussing the importance of finding a method of measurement that is uniform and heeding a warning that “if we don’t get this right [the environmental, social and governance balance], it will result in homelessness”.

The Minister also discussed the recent acceleration of the NBS rating review (originally scheduled for 2027) and clarified that the terms of reference for depreciation are being discussed as we speak, with terms of reference due within the month.

The time is up for catastrophic rhetoric

Next up, Hon Tim Groser, former Minister for Climate Change delivered a humorous and enlightening presentation on why the property sector needs to completely rethink the construction of buildings, stating, “don’t underestimate the power of change and momentum”

Tim also emphasised the need to move on from doom and gloom and start getting practical in our approach to climate change, quoting Jim Skea who said;

“We should not despair and fall into a state of shock” if global temperatures were to increase by this amount [1.5 degrees]. If you constantly communicate the message that we are all doomed to extinction, then that paralyzes people and prevents them from taking the necessary steps to get a grip on climate change. The world won’t end if it warms by more than 1.5 degrees, it will however be a more dangerous world.”

Tim introduced the audience to Super-Critical Geothermal Energy – an initiative he believes could potentially be a silver bullet to address emissions – with one Kiwi geothermal power plant using silica to extract lithium.

He also clarified that there was no perfect solution:

“There is no question that there are downsides to the use of EVs and solar technologies. But in life, whether in politics or personal life, there are no solutions. Everything is a trade-off. Yes, there are downsides, but we have to use these transitional technologies in order to transform.”

The 2am Zoom call from Debbie O’Bryne

Despite the early wake up call, Debbie O’Bryne delivered an engaging virtual session on the circular economy, introducing us to the concept of Earth Overshoot Day – the date when human demands for ecological resources and services in a given year exceeds what Earth can regenerate that year. In 2024, the New Zealand Earth Overshoot Date was 11 April.

Debbie provided some serious food for thought, citing concrete as the second most used substance in the world after water, explaining the required shift from a linear to a circular economy and calling for buildings to be reconsidered and seen as “future material banks” with digital materials passports that track reusable materials in the design phase for future use.

She quoted former EU Commissioner, Janez Potocnik, who said:

The future will be circular, the future will be green, or there will be no future.

So enlightening was Debbie’s session that it provoked some excellent audience questions, including:

How do we prioritise alternative products in industrial builds that are more circular?
“We historically over-engineer, which in turn creates a high-carbon problem. This needs to be better balanced.”

How do we deliver a circular economy in a way that’s financially viable?
Debbie recently attended the World Circular Economy Forum, where 25-30% of attendees were from the banking sector. “The financial models weren’t stacking up for the way we currently design buildings and infrastructure. We need to be more collaborative – we’re going to have to work with the guy next door and take a precinct approach.”

Accessibility is everything

Switching tracks to the “S” part of the ESG equation, Lauren Wetini from Be.Lab gave an insightful presentation that unpacked the concept of “The Access Citizen”. The idea refers to those who have a disability, but also people who do not tick the disability box.

Lauren explained that at some stage, we will all have an access need. Currently, one in four New Zealanders have a disability, so if you are not designing access in, you are designing customers, talent and profit out.

“Accessibility doesn’t just happen; we have to actively design it into every project and building.”

Perhaps the key call to action for the day came from our final keynote, Tim Loftus of Christchurch firm Better Outside, who said:

“The better the idea, the more naysayers you’ll come across”, and;

“What can you do? Ultimately, you can lead.”

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