New Zealand Recap – Summer 20/21

As I write this, we’re fast approaching the most wonderful time of the year! 2020 has taught us so much, including our real hair colour, the ‘COVID kilos’ pandemic, and that despite what my dad has been telling me for years, you can live in a bubble! Never again will we take takeaways for granted. But most importantly, it’s given us all the chance to stop, recalibrate and take heed in one way or another.

The challenges for strata in New Zealand have come thick and fast as we have all been pushed to our limit this year with COVID-19. The demands on the sector have never been so tough, while growth continues to exceed expectations.

SCA (NZ) has worked hard to bring clarity to members, lot owners and residents about their rights and obligations throughout the pandemic, and especially in those chaotic first few months as we all came to grips with new rules and realities.

New Zealand (and Australia) have weathered the storm better than most and good governance, management and sensible decision making across the board has played a part.

We have continued to fight the good fight on strata reform in New Zealand after finding our momentum from 2017 checked by the incoming government. A members bill has been introduced ready for its first reading; however, the election and pandemic have delayed its passage so far. More to come in 2021 as we try to revive our efforts there.

It’s been a privilege to be able to get together with fellow members and colleagues in person again, and while I’m sure the SCA (NZ) Christmas party photos will speak for themselves in terms of the ongoing benefits of comradery and networking through SCA (NZ), I also wanted to share a synopsis from my fellow board member and Conference Chair Thomas Gibbons post another successful JV Symposium with the Auckland District Law Society.

The Auckland District Law Society and Strata Community Association (NZ) 2020 half-day conference was held on 19 November, in-person and via web stream. It was a chance to reflect on an interesting year – in terms of legal issues, manager issues, and of course lockdown and COVID-19 issues – and to reflect and gear up for the year ahead.  

After a brief introduction, the conference began with a governance update and comments on navigating COVID-19. Liza Fry-Irvine noted recent Tribunal decisions which have considered practical issues such as how a committee is elected, and the restrictions on proxies – in particular, that a proxy cannot be appointed by email, and that a proxy cannot call a poll. In my mind, both conclusions are wrong, but they stand until challenged further. In addition, legislative amendments have made virtual meetings a reality, at least while COVID-19 regulations remain in place. Wendy Baker spoke on the challenges for managers arising from COVID-19, including the importance of good communication, and being adaptive to technology – not an easy ask for some owners, nor for some managers, who had to get to grips with verifying attendance at virtual meetings, and conducting meetings remotely. However, technology also has its benefits, as Julie McLean was able to buzz in from Australia to present her comments from across the ditch.  

Joanna Pidgeon outlined the Unit Titles (Strengthening Body Corporate Governance and Other Matters) Amendment Bill, which in my opinion is long overdue, and which will help clarify the roles and responsibilities of various actors in the unit titles space, including for managers and committees, as well as clarifying issues in respect of quorums, resolutions, and conflicts of interest. Categorising bodies corporate into small, medium, and large is a positive step, and will allow more attention to how different sizes of body corporate need to be regulated. Adriana Radich then spoke on wellness, a particular challenge for managers in the uncertainties of the COVID-19 environment, before Vicki Toan and Anita Reinecke gave their legal and manager perspectives on administration. Arguably, there is a lot of uncertainty in this area, and it was highlighted that not all applications will be successful.

After a short break, a panel of Ian Jespersen, Charlotte Muggeridge, Ben Thomson and Kathryn Clark gave legal and survey perspectives on boundary issues – a common difficulty with unit titles. There are many problematic titles out there, and the scope of an adviser’s duty remains an important topic to explore further. I then gave a case law update, with particular attention on the comments in Singh on manager and committee duties, the decision in Bell on maintenance and repair responsibilities, and the brand new decision in Housley on operational rules that prohibit Airbnb. Andrew Hough and Paula Beaton spoke on earthquake strengthening issues, which remain complex for owners, lawyers, and managers, before a panel discussion addressed various issues including minority relief, the disconnect between the legislature enabling technology while the Tribunal delimits proxies, and an overview of themes from the day. We then concluded for networking and drinks.  

As we wrap up the year, the future has never been so hazy, but we know together we will continue to navigate the unchartered waters and evolve, raising the bar as we go.

We thank all our valued members and sponsors and look forward to working with you in 2021.

“Wherever you are, be all there.” – Jim Elliot

Kia Kaha.

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