What does the new government mean for green building?

04 November 2020

We’re nearly there. This time next month we’ll be in peak Christmas party season, the sun will be out (fingers crossed) and we’ll all be looking forward to a bit of respite after what has been one hell of a year. We’re yet to get into full reflection mode – that’ll come next month, but it’s safe to say 2020 has been huge, and 2021 is looking set to be even bigger as momentum builds and so does the urgency for action.

Last month we got a better idea of the direction our country will be going over the next few years with the Labour party returning to govern another term. We’ve now got a new Building and Construction minister – Hon Poto Williams, and we look forward to working with her as well as returning Minister of Housing and Minister of Energy Megan Woods. There’s a lot of work to do, and they’ve promised a lot - so what does this Government mean for us and our sector?

They’ve promised to expand the Healthy Homes initiative and work to tackle the unacceptably high rates of rheumatic fever. They intend to scrap consents for low-risk building work, and repeal the RMA - all important steps for our sector, particularly as we work to recover post-Covid, grow development and ensure people are safe and healthy in their homes.

Importantly, there appears to be real interest in boosting efforts to make our homes and buildings more energy efficient. They’ve promised to introduce mandatory energy efficiency information to help homebuyers – that will be through an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) ratings scheme, similar to one already used in the UK. This is something we’ve long called for and it will help embed transparency and energy performance literacy in Aotearoa. It will take a lot of work and we’re keen to ensure any such scheme is suitable for New Zealand and builds upon and learns from current systems.

 
The Building for Climate Change programme (BfCC) will continue – if you missed it you can check out our submission to the recent consultation here. Thank you to everyone who got in touch and engaged with that process.

It’s a huge opportunity and one we look forward to working with you all on. On top of that Labour committed to requiring Government-funded construction projects to meet Green Star 5 or 6. This is a big vote of confidence in the rating scheme and a real boost for getting our sector up to speed with sustainable construction.

Introducing EPCs and the BfCC programme are big longer term steps and will almost certainly require legislative change. However, we’ve already seen the Government’s commitment to NABERSNZ bear fruit.

The Government’s procurement agency has confirmed that from January 1 next year, NABERSNZ will be compulsory for all Government agencies who occupy single-tenant, co-tenanted or co-located government office accommodation. This is a huge step forward and sends a strong message to the rest of the sector that this is the direction we’re headed.

According to NABERS Australia and the NSW Dept of Planning, Industry and Environment, NABERS has saved building owners AUS$1 billion in energy bills since its introduction. If we want to see similar benefits we need this transparency and energy consideration embedded not just in our public assets but across all buildings.  A Carbon Buildings Disclosure is required in New Zealand.  Based on the Australian experience it's likely to deliver significant savings for kiwi businesses. 

 

So, we’re seeing progress continue as we round out the year, and with those election promises we’ll be expecting further moves in 2021. The shift we’re seeing wouldn’t happen without your support and hard work. A huge thank you for your support in making great building, energy performance, and healthy homes part of the national conversation. We have a way to go yet and we’ll need to work together to ensure these promises are kept and built upon.

For our members you have a chance to help shape our future direction by voting to appoint our board at the upcoming AGM on 26 November. Thanks to our friends at Bayleys for hosting us at Bayleys House in Auckland. It’s a great opportunity to celebrate the past year and I look forward to catching up with many of you there. Ballot forms have been sent to your organisation’s key membership contact and need to be returned by Friday 20 November.

As always, thank you for all you do to make our buildings healthier, greener places for New Zealanders. Do please get in touch with any feedback, questions or suggestions about our work.

Noho ora mai rā i roto i ngā manaakitanga katoa (Look after yourself, may you remain well)

Ngā mihi nui,

Andrew Eagles