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An open letter to APIA members

Thursday, March 04, 2021

Kristin Sutherland gave her maiden speech as APIA President to our members on 9th of February 2020. Below is an excerpt of her speech reformatted as an open letter to all members.

Dear members, 

I would like to introduce myself to those of you who don’t know me – I am Kristin Sutherland the newly elected President of APIA. I am thrilled to be able to represent APIA and you, its members, for the next 2 years and look forward to meeting as many of you as possible during that time to hear your story and investing journey.

I would like to share with you my goals for this role and APIA for the next 2 years. As President, with the help of the APIA board and yourselves, I would like to help change the perceived image of property investors in NZ. I realised how bad it had got when an article in the Herald this month put us in the same category as terrorists for tax treatment. I want to humanise us and tell a little bit of our story and why we are landlords, we certainly didn’t choose it because it was easy. Members are telling us that they aren’t proud to say they are landlords, and there has been a lot of change that has made people nervous, and that is understandable. But I want us to be proud of what we are doing. I know our members are doing this for the right reasons, otherwise, you wouldn’t be here on a Tuesday night listening to me.

One thing that I learnt during 2020 was that being kind and compassionate prevails. If you think it a cliché or not our team of 5 million prevailed. NZ has come out of this pandemic so far with a rock star economy, record low unemployment and for us as landlords continuing growth in our property market, not a position any of us foresaw in March 2020. So when thinking about my goals for this year as president I want to apply some of these learnings. I want us to be part of a team, we are part of the team that provides housing, we are part of the team that is the solution to the housing crisis. We know, as landlords that we are not causing this housing crisis or the current deep divide between tenants and landlords, but others don’t seem to. Public sentiment feels like it is quite anti-landlord, as does political sentiment. I want to change this sentiment or at least start to.

I think we need to change tack with both the media and the government. Henry ford’s saying speaks to me here,“If you always do what you’ve always done you will always get what you’ve always got”. I would like to develop a strategic approach with the media, to reinforce that we are part of the solution, not the problem. We can’t just keep responding to bad landlord stories with bad tenant stories. I think that we need to engage with tenant groups, and find the middle ground on issues and come out in support of these together, if you read their websites and what they stand for, we have very similar goals, it just seems that the divide in happening on the media. We know that without tenants our businesses don’t work, and that most landlords and tenants have very workable relationships. The media and tenancy groups are picking the small number of cases that paint landlords in a bad light, and often rightly so. But us throwing mud back does nothing to forward our image or relationship with the public.That to me fits into the doing what we have always done and getting the same result.

I want to change the story to us been part of the team and working together with tenants – as neither of us exists without the other. Please don’t take this as saying that tenants can break rules, but lets be kind and compassionate when they do and work within the avenues available to us to solve the problem. I know the frustration, having been to the Tenancy Tribunal 25 times, but that doesn’t mean I can’t be part of the solution. Maybe being kind by us looks like taking 5 minutes to calm down, after a tenant emails us to say they can’t pay their rent again. In those 5 mins can we try and put ourselves in their shoes and come up with a solution that is compassionate to them and still achieves the end goal of us paying the mortgage. Then respond, after taking just a few minutes to think about what and how we say it.

I would like to showcase landlords in NZ, I would like our organisation to portray a united one body one voice image, where we educate the general public about what we do and why, and not just respond to mud throwing from either the tenant groups or government. We need to take the high road and be kind and part of the team working on a solution. I ask that to support me in this effort, if you are contacted by the media , think about the image you portray when you comment,as you represent all of us, or give me the opportunity to represent us.Helen Keller said it well “Alone we can do little, together we can do much”

Please take the opportunities through APIA to educate yourself about the changes, knowledge is power, you need to know the rules to play the game. APIA has, and will continue to provide you with information about all the changes to legislation, but you have to read it or attend the meetings to learn it – take the time to do this.Take the opportunity to network with fellow members, when change and uncertainty is plentiful, it is others in the same boat that can help the most, or just be a friendly face to listen. Remember these changes do not change the fundamentals of property investment, it is still a great investment tool to build wealth and cashflow. It may be annoying to put in the $7000 heat pump to meet the new legislation but remember the average growth of 17.4% on the median house price in Auckland, was $154,000, don’t lose sight of the bigger picture and learn the new rules, the game is still worth playing. So this year lets be kind, be part of the solution, get educated , connect with and support each other in 2021, and focus on this final quote - life is like underwear, change is good.

Kristin Sutherland


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