Leonie Freeman is chief executive of the NZ Property Council, whose members are some of the country's top landlords, managers and real estate professionals. Here, she discusses the election year, plastic bags and honey.
Q: How would you describe 2019 for your business?
A: It has been a positive year for the Property Council as the organisation has embarked on a journey of transformational change. It has been an opportunity to reset our purpose and better reflect the contribution our members make to our cities and communities.
• The interview: New Property Council boss Leonie Freeman out to solve real estate issues
• Leonie Freeman appointed new Property Council New Zealand CEO
• Leading questions: Property Council CEO Leonie Freeman
• Year of Transformation for JLL and NZ
We've reached some huge milestones; launching our new strategy, hosting more than 10,000 event attendees, advocating against a capital gains tax and for a review of the resource management system, the fire levies funding model and for regional development contributions that are fair and consistent.
Small wins like these add up, and it's thanks to the support of our members, who willingly share their real-life examples and provide evidence to back our position that we are able to make such an impact.
Q: What do you think 2020 will bring?
A: It will be an interesting year, as only an election year can be. There's bound to be a few unexpected twists and turns, hopefully for the betterment of New Zealanders in the long run. Overall, I look forward to a year when we continue to grow in our inclusiveness as a community, culture and country.
Q: Going into an election year, what are the three biggest issues the Government needs to solve?
A: The biggest focus for the Government needs to be on delivery and achieving outcomes across a wide range of initiatives, such as housing, infrastructure and transport.
Q: What was your favourite corporate stoush of the year?
A: We held our annual conference in Sydney this year and it was at the time when Australian honey producers were up in arms over an attempted trademarking of the term "mānuka honey". The headlines in Australia were riddled with indignant Aussie's who were outraged that New Zealanders, supported by the New Zealand Government to the tune of $6 million, should seek to have sole benefit to the term. It struck me as interesting that Australia would be so keen to tie themselves to a uniquely New Zealand name for a plant that is actually called Broom Tea Tree in Australia. To me, it underscored the power of good branding, and of just how good Kiwis are at telling our story.
Q: What should be uninvented in 2020?
A: I think we're already well on the way to uninventing this; plastic bags.
Q: What do you want to fix in 2020?
A: In a word, disconnection. I would fix the disconnect between politicians, a property sector that wants to "get stuff done" and the communities that so desperately need good quality affordable housing, robust infrastructure and a sense of place.
If I could wave a magic wand, I'd solve the systemic issues that are holding back progress; creating opportunities for sustainable growth in our cities, providing options for people to own their own homes, ending homelessness and improving the nation's housing stock. Having a warm, safe roof over your head should be the right of every New Zealander.
Q: What was your first job?
A: I had a newspaper run delivering papers after school when I was 12.
Q: What was your worst job?
A: Delivering papers after school because I got bitten by a dog. Not much health and safety in those days.
Q; If you could change one thing about the workplace what would it be?
A: While this isn't necessarily an issue in our workplace per se, for the wider property industry I'd like to see more diversity in leadership roles and the growth of a more inclusive culture that attracts and retains talent. I'd like to see a property industry where we all belong.
Q: How do you stop yourself from working during the holiday period?
A: I know the importance of recharging my battery and make sure I carve out specific family time where I can be fully present with those I hold dear. I'll only be answering the phone in the case of an emergency - although I admit some of my best ideas have come when I've been taking the time to do nothing – taking a break seems to put everything into perspective.