ENVIRONMENTAL AND POLICY

The target of the external relations portfolio is to build on community and local government relationships whilst being the advocate for kiwifruit growers on wider issues such as health and safety and resource management.

Climate Change and growers

In 2008, the government passed the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS). The purpose of the NZ ETS is to:

  • Assist New Zealand to meet its international obligations under the Paris Agreement to keep global warming to within 1.5c by 20250
  • Help New Zealand to meet its zero carbon 2050 target and emissions budgets.

In 2019, the government passed the Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Act. The Act requires inclusion of farm gas emissions by 2025 however currently, farm and horticulture gas emissions are exempt from the ETS, providing that an appropriate alternative is accepted by the government. Currently this alternative is He Waka Eke Noa. The proposal under He Waka Eke Noa will potentially result in either a small levy for all orchards or only large orchard operations being required to pay a levy.  On orchard emissions under He Waka Eke Noa relate to the use of synthetic nitrogen fertilisers. At this stage, the exact costs associated with He Waka Eke Noa have not been set. However, the levy is likely to be in the hundreds per annum, as opposed to thousands.

He Waka Eke Noa aims to develop a framework to support farmers to measure, manage and reduce agricultural emissions. This includes an approach to recognising on-farm sequestration, encouraging new technology development to reduce emissions, and an effective pricing system for agricultural emissions from 2025. Not all growers are captured under He Waka.

Two alternative options are being presented:

  • Farm Level – this option will only affect a very small number of growers who apply more than 40 tonnes of synthetic fertiliser per annum. This will require those growers to know and report on their emissions. There is also the opportunity for sequestration to offset their emissions.
  • Processor Hybrid – this will result in a marginal increase in fertiliser costs through a targeted levy. There is also an opportunity for sequestration to offset emissions, where a farm management plan is entered into.

With both options NZKGI feel it is important that any balance of the levies taken through this process be ‘ring fenced’ for research and technology which will aid in reducing gas emissions.

Union – Employer Rights

A union is an organisation that supports employees in the workplace by acting as an advocate for them. Unions bargain for collective employment agreements with employers and help employees with information and advice about work-related issues.

As an employer, you may be contacted by a union representative wanting access to the workplace or employees. Set out below are your rights and responsibilities.

Union membership is a choice

Employees have the right to choose whether or not to become a union member. As an employer, you cannot have in place an agreement or contract that requires anyone to join or not join a union and you cannot treat any employee differently based on their membership.

Union meetings

If you have employees that are in a union, each of your employees is entitled to attend at least two meetings (up to two hours long) every calendar year. If an employee would ordinarily be working during the time a union meeting is held you are required to pay them their ordinary rate. Similarly, if a meeting is during business hours but an employee would not normally be working you are not required to pay them for attending the meeting.

Notice of union meetings:

  • The union and employer should act in good faith to try to agree on a meeting time that works for both of them, thinking about the employer’s operational requirements.
  • The union must give the employer at least 14 days’ notice of the date and time of a union meeting.
  • The union must make arrangements with the employer to maintain the employer’s business during union meetings (which may include enough union members not attending the meeting so the employer’s operations can continue).
  • After the meeting, the union must give the employer a list of members who attended and confirm how long the meeting was.
  • The employees must be back at work as soon as practical after the meeting, and the employer doesn’t have to pay a union member who attends a meeting for any period longer than 2 hours in respect of the meeting.

Can a union walk into my workplace?

A union representative does not need to obtain consent from an employer before entering a workplace if there is either:

  • A collective agreement is in force that covers work done by employees at that workplace; or
  • A collective agreement is being bargained for that covers work done by employees at that workplace.

Where either of the above doesn’t apply then the previous rules still apply — union representatives must obtain the consent of an employer or representative of an employer before entering any workplace.

Can I say no to a union entering my workplace?

When you get a request from a union to enter your workplace, you cannot unreasonably say no and you also must give them the answer as soon as possible. If you say no, your reasons must be in writing provided to the representative that made the request the next working day after your decision is made. If you say no and do not give reasons, the Employment Relations Authority may provide a financial penalty.

If you simply do not respond, this is taken as an automatic yes and the union can lawfully enter – consent is treated as having been obtained if an employer does not respond to a request within two working days after the date of the request.

Where consent is not required, the current conditions on entry still apply. They will only be able to enter for certain purposes, during business hours, and must follow health, safety, and security procedures. On arrival, a union representative will need to make a reasonable attempt to find the employer or, if they are unable to, they will need to provide a written statement with the date, time, and reason for their visit.

Conditions relating to access to workplaces are set out in the Employment Relations Act 2000 S21 here.

More information can be found here.

Residential Tenancies Act Changes

Recent changes to the Residential Tenancies Act 1986 (RTA) has meant amendments to multiple parts of tenancy law and all employers, not just RSE, need to be aware of how these changes affect Service Tenancies. The requirements in relation to service tenancies and changes arising are set out below.

What is a Service Tenancy

A service tenancy is when an employer provides accommodation for a worker to live in during their employment. This type of agreement is covered by the RTA, which means all the standard rules apply, except for a couple of differences about rent and ending a service tenancy. A written tenancy is still required, and even if the tenant does not pay rent the arrangement where an employer provides accommodation is still considered to be a service tenancy.

What do you need for a Service Tenancy

As part of a service tenancy, certain requirements need to be met including:

  •  A tenancy agreement signed by the employer (as landlord) and the employee or contractor (as tenant). This can be included in the employee or contractor agreement contract, although it is recommend having these separate
  • Working smoke alarms or detectors within three metres of each bedroom door, or in every room where a person sleeps
  • Insurance statement
  • Intent to comply statement for the healthy homes standards
  • Ceiling and under floor insulation and an insulation statement (which are parts of the healthy homes compliance statement, required from 1 December 2020).

The Tenancy Services website has a checklist that can be used to make sure properties are compliant, available at tenancy.govt.nz/landlord-compliance-checklist

Rent payments

The landlord may take the rent directly from the tenant’s pay each week or fortnight. This can only happen if:

  • The tenant agrees
  • It is in the employment contract
  • It complies with employment law

If there is a longer pay period (eg, due to a holiday) the landlord can deduct the rent for that same longer period.

Ending a service tenancy

A service tenancy normally ends when the tenant’s employment ends and is different to other tenancies. If the tenant’s employment is ending, the landlord or the tenant must give at least 14 days’ written notice to end the tenancy. This notice can only be given if the tenant’s employment has ended or either party has given notice for it to end. In some situations, if the tenant’s employment has ended the landlord can give less than 14 days’ notice for the service tenancy to end. This also applies if the tenant is transferred with less than 14 days’ notice. This can only happen if:

  • The landlord has reason to believe the tenant will cause substantial damage to the premises if the tenancy is permitted to remain for 14 days.
  • The landlord’s business needs to have a new worker in place in less than 14 days. There must be no other suitable accommodation available for that former worker during the 14 days.

If the tenant’s employment or engagement is continuing:

  • If the tenant wants to end their tenancy before their employment has ended, they must give 21 days’ written notice.

A landlord can only give notice to end a service tenancy if the tenant’s employment or engagement has ended or is due to end. A notice to end the service tenancy cannot generally take effect before the employment or engagement ends or before the transfer occurs.

Other changes to the RTA

Other changes arising in the updated RTA include (but are not limited to) the following:

  • Tenants can ask to make changes to the property (including fixtures, renovations, alterations or additions) and landlords must not decline if the change is minor (ss42A and 42B);
  • Tenants can request to install fibre broadband and landlords must agree if it can be installed at no cost to them (with specific exemptions) (s45B);
  • Landlords must retain a series of documents including the tenancy agreement, reports of inspections, records of any building work requiring a building consent, prescribed electrical work, sanitary plumbing, gasfitting, or other maintenance and repaid (s123A).

If you have any concerns about your compliance with the RTA we strongly recommend you talk to a professional or review the RTA in detail.

Important Dates

Landlords and tenants should both understand these dates for complying with rental law.