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Property Knowledge Hour: Property – are you legislatively compliant?

The April Government Property Group (GPG) Knowledge Hour session brought together an audience of agency property specialists to hear about the Department of Internal Affairs' (DIA) journey to discover whether they were compliant with all of the different legislation that impacts on an agency’s property portfolio.

DIA’s General Manager Property, Harley Spence, and Senior Legislative Compliance Analyst, Natasha Baldwin, asked the audience: can you demonstrate all your buildings are legislatively compliant? Harley said this was the question they were asked. He explained this is not a straight forward question to answer, and shouldn’t be treated as a tick-box exercise.

The DIA’s property portfolio is a geographically dispersed mixed property portfolio that includes owned buildings, leased buildings, co-location sites, individuals working on secondment in other agencies, and other Crown property.

Determining the impact of the complex range of legislation and regulations that spans thousands of pages made answering the question more complex than it first seemed.

Centralising the property function in 2016 has allowed Harley to take a more co-ordinated approach to this issue. Natasha has been bought on board to develop the strategy. She pulled together information on the portfolio, including all information on areas of compliance. She initially focused on the buildings that the agency owned, but has also worked with the agency’s landlords across the country.

You initially need to check what legislation you should be compliant with and then work out how to demonstrate it, such as asking the question: does the building have a Building Warrant of Fitness (BWOF)?

Natasha Baldwin

Natasha says with over 5,000 pages of legislation she initially worked to develop a systems approach to compliance, with five key principles, 29 elements for the compliance system, and four questions within each element. Whilst this may sound like a lot of work, many of the elements already existed and just required minor changes to incorporate legislative compliance considerations.

For example, says Natasha, we asked the question: what training do we need to do for staff around legislative compliance. Training of staff is very important to us as an organisation and we want our staff to have the tools that they need to make the right compliance decisions, she says.

They were also conscious of the increased responsibilities on the Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking (PCBUs) as a result of changes in health and safety legislation.

Another major take-away from the piece of work has been to trust but verify. Natasha advises taking the time to do due diligence and verify compliance, don’t just trust the information that is provided, check the information and ask questions if anything doesn’t seem quite right. For example, if a contractor tells you that a building consent is not required, ask them what exemption they are relying on, and check that they are correct and document this important decision. This includes undertaking a detailed due diligence before entering into a new lease.

Harley says it’s a great time to be working in property across the public sector and looks forward to the opportunity to work with GPG and develop best practice in this area. This would be a great step under the recent property functional leadership mandate change and Government expectations for the property portfolio.

If you would like further information please email us. We are running a series of knowledge hour breakfast sessions for agency property specialists. Keep an eye on our website and our newsletters to find out about upcoming sessions when they are promoted.