New Zealand Recap – Autumn 2021

We are delighted that after literally years of campaigning the Unit Titles (Strengthening Body Corporate Governance and Other Matters) Amendment Bill, passed its first reading unanimously and is now proceeding to select committee for analysis.

The Bill seeks to amend the Unit Titles Act & Regulations and improve governance for the industry as a whole.

Topics to be covered include voting procedures, proxy vote rules, disclosure, manager requirements, industry bodies and conflicts of interest among many other themes.

The Government have advised they support the Bill but believe further work is required. As do we! It is great to have had unanimous support which shows that there is universal recognition that there are problems with the current legislation.

When our working group reviewed the draft Bill, it was under significant pressure and assisting Hon. Nikki Kaye in driving the Better Body Corporates initiative. The next step will be to ensure all areas including technical areas and core issues are addressed, not just a siloed approach, through our submissions due later this month.

We are currently surveying and collating member feedback as this is our critical chance to provide further input and potentially amend sections based on our expertise, experience, and knowledge of how the legislation will play out on the ground.

Further to this, as updated by our Vice President, Liza FryIrvine, the Epidemic Preparedness (COVID-19) Notice was also renewed again for a further 3 months (to 21 June 2021). This means the ability to run remote meetings continues under section 88 UTA 2010 through to 12 September 2021.

This is to be expected given the global pandemic is still at large. But it is also a good reminder to consider how well remote meetings are working and to review the remote meeting provisions in the Bill and consider any improvements. The remote meeting procedure in the proposed Bill differs from current section 88(3) UTA. Many will be aware of both the benefits and the added complexities of hybrid meetings.

While we are on legislative announcements, last week the Government dropped their Housing Policy bombshell.

While the investment in infrastructure is welcome, the impact on the investment and rental market will be significant. Removing deductibility of mortgage repayments, namely tax benefits and incentives, especially on top of the recent Healthy Homes implications may well drain the rental pool and lead to increased rents. Amplified by the government providing increased incentives for first home-buyers, its simple supply and demand. Many in the industry are pausing to take stock in light of the uncertainty.

Of the 687,000 rental properties in NZ, only 65,000 are managed by the government (previously Housing New Zealand, and now known as Kainga Ora). It does feel like the government has overlooked the benefits and importance of the partnership that exists between private landlords and tenants. What we really need is to build more houses, not ideological and abstract policy.

While the inevitable bouncing between lockdowns continues to challenge us, we are also in many ways luckier than most and it’s been a treat to be able to get together with fellow members and colleagues in person again.

It was a privilege to be involved in the Body Corporate Chairs’ Group (BCCG) public event in March to provide information to anyone who may be considering purchasing an apartment; Here I spoke alongside Chlöe Swarbrick, Green Party MP for Auckland Central as well as other industry groups such as our long-time partner ADLS (Auckland District Law Society). We covered Body Corporates for beginners, owners’ rights, and obligations, what purchasers should know before signing a purchase agreement and what makes living in a community different to living in a stand-alone home. It was also a valued opportunity to promote our SCA (NZ) eBook resource Introducing Strata. Our partnership with BCCG has meant both the consumer and professional voices are represented and heard. As they say ‘a rising tide lifts all boats’.

Thanks to Alisha, Anuja and the HQ team we also recently hosted a timely event with Geoff Penrose, General Manager of Lifemark. Lifemark is a social enterprise and division of CCS Disability Action that provides professional services on accessibility and universal design in the built environment. The concept of universal design is centered on flexibility for both lifestyle and life change. Geoff presented members with insights on how the housing market is evolving and into the value and strategies of adaptation, as housing moves to accommodate changing needs. This event shed light on some of the ways in which apartments and community title shared complexes have blind spots when it comes to their design and what adjustments could be made to make shared spaces more accessible and improve residents wellbeing.

Body Corporate Chairs’ Group (BCCG) public event in March

So, while we continue to weather a plethora of changes to legislation and general market conditions, it is also a pinnacle and exciting time for the sector amidst the chaos!

Kia Kaha.

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