New Zealand is on the verge of a sustainability bonanza, according to newly arrived Lisa Hinde who’s taken up a lead role at Precinct Properties.
Lisa Hinde didn’t mean to be a climate refugee when she moved to New Zealand last month. Quite frankly, she was attracted by the clear commitment to sustainability she could see in the company she joined – and in much of the industry as she saw it.
Only later did she realise New Zealand’s mild climate could be a bonus as the fierce northern summer unleashed newspaper headlines such as “global boiling”.
And it was only later she came to understand that in land of the long white cloud doesn’t just mouth pleasantries about its Indigenous people, it makes positive things happen.
According to Hinde, the Maori culture is embraced in business throughout the country, and locals are shocked that Australia doesn’t recognise Indigenous people in its constitution.
Executives at her new employers, Precinct Properties, speak the local Indigenous language and pay for staff to learn it.
That commitment to a sense of a greater good extends to sustainability– alongside much of the property industry, it seems – if Hinde is any guide.
The publicly listed company she’s joined is one of New Zealand’s biggest developers with a portfolio of around $NZ3.3 billion and a portfolio of commercial, office and retail property including a co-working space called Generator.
So how did the job materialise?
Quite simply, says Hinde, she was impressed by the commitment to sustainability demonstrated in the property industry when she visited.
“I’d been working on a number of different projects with Colliers previously and one of those projects led to NZ.
“With industry over here, it seemed like everyone was really excited about the next phase of sustainability and ESG (environment, social governance) …because there are so many great initiatives taking off.”
Specifically, there was an appetite to find the “missing link” between what investors and occupiers wanted to see – and the policies that could achieve this.
Clearly, a bit of help was in order, and Hinde was up for it. All around, she could see momentum, engagement and interest.
It was the floods that did it
What nailed her decision was that on her last trip to New Zealand, it was a time of massive floods – a state of emergency.
She was due to attend a major green building conference organised by the Green Building and Property councils and expected that – as in Australia, Sydney in particular – the weather would decimate attendance.
Instead, the audience was packed to overflowing. “Even though there was flooding, even though it was like, a kind of like Armageddon. And that really impressed me.”
She could see people keen to engage, to hear best practice. Among the initiatives was the plan for mandatory disclosure of NABERS energy ratings for commercial property, making its way through parliament.
There’s a national election due in October, but according to Hinde, both the Green Building and Property councils are confident the bill will pass.
A great time to be in New Zealand
“And if it does pass, it’ll be a really exciting time for decarbonisation over here.”
In Australia, the Commercial Building Disclosure regime “absolutely moved the needle when it comes to building performance,” Hinds says.
“I know, I’m very biased because I’m over here, but there’s huge momentum and a growing market for best practice consulting, particularly when it comes to the systems that will support mass adoption of NABERS ratings.”
In part, this is due to the new legislation, but also because of investor appetite for transparent performance of existing assets.
And here’s a hint: right now, there’s only handful of NABERS assessors in the country.
It’s such a tough sell, she says facetiously. “…one of the most beautiful places on earth…being able to go on hikes and, you know, walk in beautiful parks every day. And did I mention the wines pretty good here too?”
But with any industry, there are challenges. Waste reporting is one, and the need for more openness around tenants with environmental targets is another.
Not that the tenant-owner relationship is unusually bad in NZ, it’s just the lack of a good blueprint for how that’s done successfully, she says.
Australia had the Better Buildings Partnership, which was a great piece of infrastructure to get waste reporting established. So too, the funding arrangements and local councils who came on board to promote the concept and provide grants and opportunities for collaboration.
“That’s just kicking off here. Which is, that’s what makes it really exciting for me because it’s all everyone’s really engaged.”
In her past experience, Hinde, who hails from the Sunshine Coast, worked at JLL for seven years before joining Colliers in 2021.
Social value is important and unique to every company
In her new gig for what she describes as one of New Zealand’s biggest developers, Hinde will be looki to focus on driving change in the supply chain and how social value works.
Key to this is that social value needs to align with the individual organisation – it’s not a cooker cutter idea that can be applied to the entire industry, she says.
On this, Australia’s got sadly a lot to learn – especially regarding Indigenous engagement and supporting Indigenous organisations and businesses in the way it’s done in NZ.
In NZ, it’s an inherent part of procurement, “to the point where it’s actually embarrassing to talk about how terrible we are when it comes to Indigenous engagement in Australia. “
In her new home, Hinde finds an open embrace of the Maori language.
“It’s very common for all executives to speak the Maori language.” And there’s support provided for staff to learn the language. There are also frequent blessings and ceremonies that enhance connections.
Hinde is particularly concerned about the referendum on the Indigenous Voice to Parliament that will be held in Australia soon.
She says that speaking to Kiwis about the issues is painful – New Zealanders find it hard to comprehend Australia does not have Indigenous recognition in its constitution.
“I think that if you really wanted to do something, if you really wanted to embed it in the culture of your organisation to appreciate First Nations people, New Zealand is an exceptional example of how it can be done.”