Private land with public access

How is access granted?

Our ability to access the ‘great outdoors’ in New Zealand is seen as something of a citizen’s right. At times, however, It does conflict with the rights of private landowners when, in order to access the great outdoors, there is a need to cross their private land first.

The question of public access over private land has recently been becoming more of an issue. In particular, groups who are advocating for that access see the acquisition of private land by overseas people as an opportunity to gain more formal access over private land. Historically, New Zealanders have enjoyed a reasonably significant amount of access over private land – often based around relatively informal arrangements.

Public access over private land is a complex topic. This article gives you some background to the law relating to the rights of private landowners.

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Biosecurity in New Zealand

Who is liable for an outbreak of plant disease?

Biosecurity issues never seem to be far from the news these days. The Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) is responsible for biosecurity in New Zealand and gets its powers in relation to biosecurity under the Biosecurity Act 1993. The purpose of the biosecurity system that the Act puts in place is to prevent or manage risks from harmful organisms such as pests and diseases. It does this by attempting to stop pests and diseases before they arrive in the country and, if they do, by trying to either eradicate or manage them.

Psa, varroa mite, myrtle rust and Mycoplasma bovis have all recently caused major issues. Now MPI is seeking the destruction of tens of thousands of plant cuttings and trees that were imported from an American nursery in the state of Washington after an audit uncovered irregularities in the nursery’s processes.

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Property Briefs

Warmer homes for Kiwis

Low-income homeowners or homeowners in low-income areas could be eligible for the new government grant to assist in keeping their homes warm in winter.

On 1 July 2018 the new four-year government program, Warmer Kiwi Homes, came into effect. Under this initiative the government will cover up to two-thirds of the cost of underfloor and ceiling insulation or, if you have a concrete floor, ground vapour barriers. Warmer Kiwi Homes only applies to homeowners who have a Community Services Card, however, funding help no longer stretches to landlords.

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The great lawyers’ fee debate

Lawyers’ fees are often a difficult subject to discuss. They shouldn’t be.

When setting a fee we need to consider many things but, ultimately, the fee we charge to you must be fair and reasonable – for us both. We need to be paid for the expertise we give to provide you with a trouble-free property transaction and you need to know what we do to ensure this happens for you.

Remember to ask us for a GST-inclusive cost estimate. Our cost estimate will usually have three components:

  1. Our fee
  2. The disbursement cost, and
  3. Office services charge.

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Guiding your offspring into flatting

Going flatting for the first time is an exciting step for your adult children. They get to live with people their own age and you have your freedom. How can they make the most of this new-found independence with the least risk to them?

Residential tenancy agreements

Flat leases are really ‘residential tenancy agreements’. Agreements should be in writing, however, an unwritten agreement can sometimes be enforced. A written agreement makes the obligations clear for both a tenant and their landlord. Your child and their flatmates should talk with their landlord about what the agreement contains. You should remind them to read the agreement through before it’s signed – no one wants nasty surprises.

Residential tenancies can be for a fixed term or ‘periodic’. Fixed term means that the tenant rents the property for a fixed time such as 12 months. This means rent must be paid for the full term, even if the flatties go home for the university holidays.

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Postscript

ONEcheck – a useful tool for new business

When you’re starting a business, one of the first things you think of is its name. This is a big decision as, ultimately, your brand is built around the name of your business.

There’s an easy way to check existing business names using ONEcheck. You can search for possible business names, associated domain names and trade marks, as well as the recent addition of searching social media. ONEcheck gives clear explanations of the difference between a registered business name, trading name and trade mark, guidance on how to best protect your brand and much more.

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Inherited debt? What if your parents die broke?

When you hear the word ‘inheritance’, what is your first thought? Is it positive or negative? Do you think about what you could receive from your parents, or what you might pass on to your children? Answers will vary, but generally the term ‘inheritance’ carries positive connotations. The Oxford Dictionary defines an ‘inheritance’ as ‘a thing that is inherited’. More helpfully, Wikipedia defines it as ‘the practice of passing on property, titles, debts, rights, and obligations upon the death of an individual’.

For this article, however, we’re focussing on ‘debts’ rather than actual things. What happens when your parents die broke? Can you inherit a debt?

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Questions you shouldn’t ask job applicants

An employment minefield

In the lead-up to the 2017 election, broadcaster Mark Richardson caused an uproar when he asked the then Leader of the Opposition, Jacinda Ardern, if she had plans to have children. The commonly-held view was that this question was outrageous. While a broadcaster has the liberty to ask a range of questions, an employer or potential employer cannot ask this.

Job interviews can be a challenge for both employers and applicants. There are varying opinions on the best way to interview applicants and which questions will help you ascertain if someone is the right fit for your workplace.

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How old do you have to be?

As lawyers, we’re often asked the legal age for a variety of things such as agreeing to medical treatment, making a will and so on. We thought it would be useful to pull together some of this information as a guide for the required ages in these situations.

The younger years

At the age of five, you can be enrolled in a state school, although, under a recent law change, a child can start school at the beginning of the term closest to their fifth birthday, if their school has a ‘cohort entry’ policy. Youngsters don’t actually have to start school until they’re six years old.

At just 10, you can be charged with murder or manslaughter and, at 12 years old, you can be charged with a number of other serious criminal offences.

Teen times

When you’re 14 years old, you can be left at home alone. You can also babysit a child, as long as you’re capable of providing reasonable supervision and care. You can now also be prosecuted for any criminal offence.

When you turn 15, you can wave goodbye to school, but you will need approval from the Ministry of Education.

On reaching your 16th birthday, you can sit a driving test and get your learner driver licence. Generally, you can leave home without your parents’ agreement (unless there are serious concerns about your welfare). You can agree to, or refuse, medical treatment.

At 16, you can get married or enter into a civil union for which you will need your parents’ consent – even though you don’t have to live in the same house as them. Once you marry, however, your parents will no longer be your guardians.

You can leave school of your own volition at 16, and you’re also eligible to work full-time. You can legally consent to have sex, apply for an adult passport, fly a plane solo, apply for a firearms licence and you’re eligible for various state benefits. Your parents cannot change your name, unless you agree to it.

There’s more . . .

When you’re 17 years old, you can join the armed forces if you have your parents’ consent. You can apply to join the New Zealand Police, but you can’t start training at Police College until you’re 18.

In the criminal court system, after you turn 17 you will be treated as an adult and must appear in the District Court or High Court; you no longer appear in the Youth Court.

Your 18th birthday signals the end of your parents (or legal guardians) having any legal responsibility for you. You can make a will; although in some circumstances younger people can do this. You can get married or enter into a civil union without your parents’ consent. You can go off to the bank to apply for your own account, credit card and a loan. (You may have a bank account when you’re under 18 years old, but it must be in the joint name of a parent or guardian.) You can be called upon to do jury service. You may place bets at the TAB or racecourse, buy Instant Kiwi tickets, vote in national and local body elections and you may stand as a political candidate. You can legally buy alcohol, cigarettes, tobacco or fireworks and can change your name, all without needing anyone’s agreement.

That’s not everything

At the age of 19, if you’re adopted, you can place a veto that will last a decade on information about you so that your birth parents cannot contact you; this veto can later be removed or renewed.

After you turn 20, your birth parents can ask Oranga Tamariki (Ministry for Children) for information about you. If you don’t want them to do that you must apply for a veto; you need to write to the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages saying that you don’t want information to be released that could identify you. In the letter, you must say if you’d like counselling about your choice.

By the time you’re 20 years old, you have the vast majority of adult rights and responsibilities. If you’re adopted, you can apply to the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages to obtain a copy of your birth certificate to find out the names of your birth parents. You can apply to adopt a child who is related to you. You can gamble or work in a casino, and you may drive with a small amount of alcohol in your system.

When you are 25, you can apply to adopt a child who is not related to you, as long as that child is at least 20 years younger than you.

There are, however, a number of things you can do with no minimum age. You can buy contraceptives, own land, purchase a lotto ticket, obtain a passport, have a tattoo and join a trade union.

We hope this helps with some age-related queries, and that the answers haven’t come as too much of a shock – particularly to parents! Please contact us if you have any questions we haven’t answered here.

Making sure your loved one is mentally capable when signing their will

What does it mean to have ‘mental capacity’ when it comes to signing a will or an important legal document? This has recently become a hot topic, with new case law shining some much-needed light on the subject. It’s also something that families need to be aware of as their loved ones age.

Mental Incapacity

Mental capacity, as a concept, seems straightforward and self-explanatory. Common sense would suggest that if there is even a slight question as to a will-maker’s capacity, an assessment should be carried out to ensure they fully understand the provisions in their will, as well as the possible consequences that could arise from them.

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