While homes were flooding, government removed all mentions of green sustainable materials from response to key investigation

26 May 2023

Hours before the Budget was announced – always one of the biggest and busiest domestic news events of the year, which hoovers up journalists’ attention and the bandwidth of media outlets – the government released their response to the Commerce Commission’s investigation into the broken residential building supplies market.

The government would have been finalising and signing off this response while the impacts of climate change were being felt with homes flooded and families forced to flee. The very materials being investigated by ComCom are responsible for the carbon pollution which will turbo charge future storms, unless we act now.

With the built environment on the hook for 20% of New Zealand’s carbon emissions, and new homes built in Aotearoa emitting a whopping five times too much carbon, surely any government backed report into building materials, and the government response to it, should put these issues front and centre. Unfortunately, no.

The Commerce Commission findings published last year point to the Emissions Reduction Plan, and the government’s programme to tackle building emissions while half-heartedly mentioning “green” building materials. The green materials needed to avoid more homes being flooded aren’t presented as mainstream – they’re bundled up with new and innovative materials, as if we’re still living in the twentieth century.

But the government response hasn’t just sidelined the green building materials we need to reduce carbon pollution – it’s removed it all together, taking us back further to the nineteenth century.

Not once does the response mention “green”, “carbon”, “climate change”, or “sustainable”.

It is right to be challenging the competition and affordability of our building products, but what the whole investigation missed is a crucial overriding sustainability lens to ensure we’re also moving away from polluting materials and products.

Things like greener concrete, innovative insulated wall panels and mechanical heat recovery ventilation need to be encouraged to enter the market and compete fairly. And this investigation and the government response has missed this key point.