Political manias and meltdowns

The election campaign has already brought up its share of extraordinary events: the self-mutilation of the Green Party leadership and the rise of Jacindamania. With those two events the campaign has been transformed as support shifts from NZ First and the Greens to Labour – although based on the latest polling it looks like NZ First will continue to hold the trump card come election night.

In amongst the manias and melt-downs there have been some policy announcements. Prior to the election I will summarise the party policies that particularly affect property investors, but one that is particularly eye-brow raising  is the announcement by the Opportunities (Gareth Morgan) Party (TOP) to reform the Residential Tenancy Act. This is what they are proposing:

• “We will [make] it far easier for a tenant to remain in the premises long-term. This will be achieved by restricting the conditions under which a landlord can evict a tenant to those of non-payment of rent or property damage. Sale of a property is not necessarily a legitimate reason for eviction.”

• Introducing warrant of fitness requirements for all rental accommodation.

• Putting a hand-brake on a landlord’s ability to increase rental payments, to “give tenants time to adjust” to the increase. They point out this would not prevent landlords from obtaining market rent; their policy would limit the rate of increase.

The effect of this policy would be seismic for property investors. Once a property was rented, it would be locked-in as a rental for as long as the tenant wished to remain. Imagine wanting to sell a rental property where the only prospective buyers are other landlords! Eliminating everyone but landlords as a potential buyer would have a significant impact on price, and it would prevent anyone from renting a property with the intention of one-day living in the property themselves.

Gareth Morgan’s policy would trigger the decline of individual landlords, who are typically industrious individuals wanting to do well for themselves, to be replaced by the rise of social housing organisations with large long-term portfolios.

Still with news items, it is interesting to read that Bob Jones is building a 12-storey office block in Wellington made from laminated timber. At 52 metres, the building will be the tallest wooden office building in the world, although there are taller ones used for other purposes. Essentially the structural elements (the column and cross beams) would be of laminated timber not concrete and steel.

Sir Bob was on National Radio last week extolling the virtues of wood framing over steel and concrete, pointing out that laminated wooden timber is stronger and more earthquake resistant.

The wood processing industry is, of course, excited about having such a high profile project promoting their product, and they are encouraging designers and engineers to look at it as a building option. While Sir Bob was unsure of the construction cost savings, he pointed to developers overseas using the product and assumed they would not do so unless it was economic.
Putting that issue aside, laminated timber construction is a massive opportunity for New Zealand, and particularly for timber growing regions like Northland and the East Coast. Sending raw logs overseas does not make a lot of sense, when the logs could be processed here and exported as laminated beams.

New Zealand has the potential to become a premium producer of laminated timber products for use in construction and furniture making. Perhaps leadership in this area is something our politicians could think about and just maybe this is the sort of opportunity that Mr Morgan and his Opportunities Party could seize.

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