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Peter Lewis: VP²

Monday, December 17, 2018



At its latest Executive Meeting, the New Zealand Property Investors' Federation ("the NZPIF" or "the Federation") appointed our very own Peter Lewis as its Vice President. Being both the Vice President of the APIA as well as the NZPIF puts Peter in a unique perspective of issues facing investors both locally and nationwide. We managed to grab a few minutes from Peter's busy schedule to talk about his new role and the vision he has for the future of the investor community. 

Q: What are your roles with the NZPIF?

A: The primary responsibility of the vice president of any club or organisation is to be prepared to assume the powers and duties of the office of the president in the case of an absence or a vacancy in that office. In short – to act as a backstop. In larger organisations, the vice president tends to wander around in the background with nothing much to do, playing golf and waiting for the crisis to occur. Hopefully, this will not be the case with the NZPIF!

Like any partnership, the best work is done where the two people at the top offer complementary rather than conflicting abilities. I anticipate being able to work with NZPIF President Sharon Cullwick to further the aims of the Federation.

The Vice-President is elected by the members of the NZPIF Board at the first executive meeting following the Annual General Meeting. The role comes up for re-election each year.

As well as holding the office of Vice President, I also continue to act as the Northern Area Representative for the Federation. This means I am the conduit between the five northern area PIAs (Northland, Auckland, Tauranga, Hamilton and Rotorua). Thus my responsibilities to the members of those Associations remain unchanged.

Q: There is a duality to your position in this investor community. As well as the NZPIF, you also serve on the board of the APIA as our Vice President. How does that inform your understanding of issues facing investors individually and the community as a whole?

A: Sometimes I have to tread carefully and make it clear on whose behalf I am speaking or acting – for the Federation, for APIA or (in a few cases) on my own behalf as an active self-managing residential landlord. As I garner information and feedback from each of these roles, I am often able to add depth to any discussion within each organisation.

Q: Turning to national issues, there have been many unfavourable policies in recent years that almost come across a full-on assault on landlords. What is the NZPIF going to do to tackle this trend as a whole and re-equilibrate?

A: The Federation has, over the years, formed relationships within both the Parliamentary and the Legislative branches of national and local government. Our approach is to try and use those relationships to provide feedback on proposed changes and influence their implementation. While there is a place for the direct confrontational attack, we feel that using our contacts is the better way. In many cases, we are able to point out the unintended consequences of proposed changes, and thus modify or even discourage their implementation. A good example of this is where our participation in the Meth contamination study group defeated the initial proposal to only allow independent companies to carry out acceptable contamination tests. This would have imposed quite high costs on landlords. Now, as a result of our participation, given appropriate training and resources, landlords can provide a Tribunal-acceptable test on their own properties.

Q: What do you say to those investors who have their confidence in their local PIAs, and their property portfolio, shaken because of this wave of anti-landlord policies?

A: By virtue of the way we operate on behalf of Property Investors, a lot of our work is both subtle and long-term. This work is funded by part of the subscription fee each member pays to their local PIA. As I mentioned above, a lot of the work is preventative. There is not a lot of rah-rah PR about what is now not going to happen, but believe me, the work is both intensive and time-consuming.

None of the NZPIF Board members is paid, and we all make considerable sacrifices to do what we do. Fortunately, we do seem to have a goodly number of people coming forward over the years to replace those who become worn down by the time and effort required and so step down. However, those APIA members who feel strongly about particular issues should always be prepared to front up and do something practical and constructive.

A lot of the problems that we face can be traced back to the ‘hobby’ mentality of a lot of Ma-and-Pa landlords. They do not consider themselves to be in business – the accommodation business. If they do not think that they are running a business why should the Government think so?

We also have to be mindful that many tenants are no longer short term. They are renting for longer and renting later in life, so their political power is increasing and the political establishment is sensing this change. In order to put our side across, we must band together and point out that we too are an established political force that needs to be recognised and acknowledged. It is real pity that such a minority of landlords are willing to participate.

Q: Personally, what are the top five issues you would like to see the NZPIF tackle in 2019?
A: - In the economic environment, the financial world has become adverse to investment property.
- In the political environment, we are seen as unfairly benefitting from the current tax system.
- In the legislative environment, we are seen as being largely uncontrolled.
- In the public mind, we are seen as ripping off the disadvantaged.
- In the environmental sphere, we are seen as uncaring and resource-greedy.

None of these is acceptable. Every one of these issues is worth tackling.  

Q: Looking back at 2018, what has been some of the success stories of the NZPIF?

A: - Getting the meth contamination level raised from 0.5 to 1.5, and then helping deflate the meth panic.
- Funding an economic study showing that residential investment property is (despite claims) not under-taxed, and having that study accepted by the Tax Working Group.
- Contributing to the Inglis v Parry non-compliant housing retrial, which overturned that previous punitive Tenancy Tribunal ruling.
- Submitting to the TGG, the RTA Amendment bill, and the Healthy Homes proposals in order to get some of the more utopian ideas bought back to reality.
It may seem like a lot of boring stuff but we've made a great deal of difference in the world that investors inhabit.

Q: Have you identified any areas of improvement to address in 2019?

A: We have set up programs to upgrade our internet social presence, promote our Associate Membership program, and establish an education course for Self-Managing Landlords.

Q: How can landlords support the NZPIF effort?

A: At the most basic level, joining APIA so that your membership can add weight to our proposals and your subscription can fund our ongoing work to benefit all of us. No money = no results, I’m afraid.

Q: Fast forward to December 2019, what are your visions for the NZPIF?

A: I would like to see the majority of property investors join and support one of our 19 Associations. Complacency and apathy are the reasons people get steamrolled. We may all differ in ideas, ambitions and the way we work but strength can only come from numbers. They are coming to get you, and we need to band together. It has happened overseas; it can happen here.

Thank you very much for your hard work Peter and many congratulations on your new appointment! 



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