10 May 2012 – Australian Greens Leader  Christine Milne has jumped to support the sustainable property industry declaring she will challenge the federal government on its axing of the $1 billion Tax Breaks for Green Buildings program.

The sustainable and mainstream property industry and energy efficiency associations in unison have slammed the action as an about face on the federal government’s significant previous support and encouragement for building energy retrofits. In countless statements the government confirmed it understood that energy reduction in buildings was the cheapest source of carbon abatement

Senator Milne (pictured at the launch of Green Cities 2o12 with – left to right – Jane Henley, World Green Building Council, Nils Kok Maastricht University, Romilly Madew, Green Building Council of Australia)  said the budget move was “bad faith” with the industry which had agreed to defer the tax breaks measure in order to rework its structure and make it more effective.

“It is also bad faith with an industry who agreed to defer this measure because they wanted to get it right and are now being punished for doing due diligence.

“This is one of the aspects of the Budget that we are very unhappy with and we will continue to press the government to fix it.”

“It is quite wrong of the government to think that the carbon price will be enough to drive the greening of commercial buildings when evidence around the world highlights the array of non-price barriers to this action,” Senator Milne said.

“We need to provide better incentives.”

Quantity surveyors and tax consultants Napier & Blakeley said that while the tax breaks would not change behaviour given the long lead times before property owners could claim a benefit, the signal was a strong negative for the sustainable retrofit industry.

“This about-face is significant as it displays a lack of real commitment to the carbon reduction agenda,” the company said in a client note emailed on Thursday.

The company’s  NB Verdigris arm, set up to  project manage and procure funding for sustainable retrofits, had not seen any clients defer projects start in order to claim the benefits of the “phantom tax breaks”.

At the same time it was now possible that some projects would be deferred – and this  in an environment that would exacerbate the current construction slow down, the firm said.