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New Property Law Section

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Property lawyers, who are facing considerable challenges to their practice, now have a stronger national voice with the launch in Wellington today of the Property Law Section of the New Zealand Law Society.

The section was launched (at 12.30pm) by Christine Grice, who took over as President of the New Zealand Law Society this morning, and by the Chair of the section's new Executive Committee, Lindsay Lloyd, who is a partner in the Christchurch firm Macfarlane Dougall Stringer.

Sections are a relatively recent innovation within the New Zealand Law Society. Rather than a geographical grouping, they enable lawyers who practise in the same specialist area of law to pursue their particular issues. They operate with a substantial degree of autonomy and are able to represent the interests of their members with a strong voice at the national level from a broad base of representation.

The establishment of the section is significant as it comes at a time when property lawyers face many changes and challenges to the way in which they practise, including proposals to allow non-lawyers to undertake conveyancing and lawyers to sell real estate. Property Law Section Chair Lindsay Lloyd said that nearly half of all lawyers practised property law.

Launching the section on a Friday, he said, was significant as that was the traditional settlement day for many residential and commercial transactions.

"An integral part of that process is the solicitors' undertaking and the giving of solicitors' certificates to institutions, steps which are often an unrecognised or an under-valued aspect of the transaction."

New legislation, including the Building Act and Resource Management Act, had impacted significantly on property transactions, he said, noting that there would also soon be new legislation relating to property ownership rights for non-married couples. Changes in the use of land were also putting pressure on traditional statutory structures and adding to the complexity of property transactions. These included developments such high-rise apartment buildings, retirement villages, malls, marinas, even homes situated on the ninth hole of a golf course.

"All require careful thought and advice on the various rights and obligations that arise for all parties concerned," he said. Referring to a cross-pollination of business activities and lifestyles, Lindsay Lloyd said that the rural sector was not immune. "These days many towns are surrounded by `five acre blocks' - many of which are used for horticultural business purposes. These encompass all three traditional areas of property practice - rural, residential and commercial.

"A more complex world means that instead of a one-page contract, which was the norm in most property transactions in this country until the late `70s, we now have an eight-page closely-printed sale and purchase agreement."

Property lawyers also faced new challenges in the areas of Maori land law, and the advice required when dealing with new and often multiple family relationships and the growth in the number of trusts.

"It is all new. It is all challenging. It is all stimulating. It provides the impetus for the Property Law Section being launched today."

An object of the section, he said, was to continue to protect and promote the interests of the public in property law matters. "For many people property transactions often represent the bulk of their life savings, or a substantial portion of their investment/retirement capital. They, together with banks and commercial organisations, expect and rely on the integrity and skill of the property lawyer to protect their interests.

"Property lawyers distinguish themselves from others who may offer conveyancing services by the breadth of their experience and their ability to collate and consider the wider implications of any particular transaction.

"No aspect of law can be practised in a vacuum and it is inevitable that any part of a property transaction will have an impact on other areas of life - such as family, marriages, partnerships, trusts, wills, resource consents and balance sheets to name a few," Lindsay Lloyd said.

The Property Law Section has a website (www.nz- lawoc.org.nz ls ls.htm) which will list members geographically to enable people to contact property lawyers easily.

ENDS

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