NZ First fought for changes to "poorly-targeted" rent dispute policy

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters has described Labour's original COVID-19 commercial rent dispute proposal as "poorly targeted".

Justice Minister Andrew Little has announced a temporary law change to force commercial landlords and renters to consider COVID-19 in disputes over rent issues, almost two months after the Government first floated the idea. 

But to be eligible, business must have 20 or fewer full-time staff at each leased site and be based in New Zealand. Also, businesses and landlords who have already reached agreements in response to COVID-19 cannot access it.

Mr Peters said Labour had proposed the solution for all existing lease arrangements, and claims his party is responsible for watering the policy down.  

"This would've been poorly targeted policy and affected many landlords who've sensibly adapted to the changed circumstances brought by COVID-19," he said. 

"Using a sledgehammer to smash a nut is not common-sense. We must remember the sanctity of contracts is a crucial dimension to settled law."

The NZ First leader said his party made sure it's only available for New Zealand-based businesses with 20 or fewer equivalent full time staff, and that it cannot be accessed by businesses that have already come to an agreement with their landlord. 

"We believe that as a Government we need to show New Zealanders we're aware of the fiscal costs of every policy decision reached - therefore we've insisted on better targeting," Mr Peters said. "This is why we urged our coalition partner to better define the size and problem of commercial rent disputes."

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