Bryce Town: convenor ADLS Property Law committee

This profile is part of a series on ADLS committee convenors

DSC 2551B Bryce Town

Bryce Town

Where do you work, what’s your role?
I am a commercial property partner with Morrison Kent.

Where did you study?
I did my law degree at the University of Auckland. I took a year off in the middle of it to go to London to indulge my love of modern music.

It was 1977 and I was there at the height of the punk rock era. Music was changing; it was an exciting time. I was lucky enough to catch acts like The Jam, The Clash, The Sex Pistols, Elvis Costello, The Stranglers and more.

I’ve never lost my love for modern music and took my sons to Coachella in 2015.

What’s been your career to date?
After law school I joined the Justice Department’s Lands and Deeds Office.

From there I moved to the Ministry of Works’ legal division as an assistant district solicitor. The legal division looked after town planning, commercial leasing and contractual construction matters for all government departments.

I was fortunate to get experience and exposure working on “big stuff” early on, and had lots of independence.

Instructions included multiple town planning hearings and contractual arbitrations. I went back to London, working at Citibank and for private law firms, returning to New Zealand in 1986.

I interviewed with three firms and got offers from all of them. I accepted a position at Morpeth Gould, which has undergone a few name changes along the way, and 32 years later I’m still here.

How long have you been a member of ADLS?
My entire career.

How long have you been involved with ADLS committees and which committees have you worked with?
I’ve been a member of the Property Law committee for about 15 years and convenor for the past 12.

I’m also a member of the Documents and Precedents subcommittee currently reviewing the ADLS Deed of Commercial Lease.

Why is committee work important?
Property Law committee membership puts you at the cutting edge of property law changes, including pending legislation and property law development including recent significant case law.

It also gives you the opportunity to be proactive about forthcoming issues.

You get the opportunity to contribute to the development of new legislation and publicise professional issues of interest to our specialisation.

How do ADLS committees make a difference?
The work of the Property Law committee over many years means we are seen as credible and a valued contributor by government.

We often get asked to participate in discussions prior to new legislation being drafted and we also make regular submissions on proposed legislation.

More government departments are asking for our views on new government policy that has a property law angle. The ability to have these frank discussions and have our voice heard on emerging law is enormously valuable to all property lawyers.

What’s been the most notable achievement or biggest focus of your committee in the past few years? Why was that important?
We try to make it practical for lawyers to cope with changes in government policy.

We were successful in campaigning for a redraft of parts of the new Land Transfer Act.

In relation to the Overseas Investment Amendment Act we persuaded the select committee in our submissions to remove the requirement that lawyers certify property purchasers as being entitled to purchase residential property.

That was a big win for the profession. Had it remained it would have been very onerous requirement and exposed lawyers to extensive risk.

We’ve also had ongoing consultation with Land Information New Zealand in relation to rewriting the Landonline software, now called STEP (survey and title enhancement program.

A couple of other interesting projects include expressing our sovereignty concerns about the offshore data storage of our land transfer data and exploring new forms of co-ownership to assist young people into property ownership.

We’re also active in Unit Titles Amendment Act legislation with hard work from Joanna Pidgeon and her team.

There has been input into the Residential Tenancy legislation, input to the brightline test and we consulted with IRD on the residential land withholding tax requirements.

What would you say to anyone thinking of becoming involved in an ADLS committee?
You have an opportunity to be at the cutting edge of new property legislation and legal issues.

It can also be career-enhancing if you wish to specialise in a particular property area.

What’s the biggest issue facing your specialist practice area at the moment? And how does that affect lawyers, their clients and New Zealand?

The increasing complexity of issues that property lawyers are required to be involved in such as AML, FATCA, tax statements, brightline test, RWT (resident withholding tax) and OIO (overseas investment office) issues concerning foreign ownership.

The biggest issue is that property lawyers need to be up-to-date and compliant with all new regulatory requirements and all new property law.

What’s the best kept secret about ADLS committees?
Participation is a collegial experience that can be great fun. Not only that, it gives your continuing legal education a mega-boost.

To find out more about ADLS committees, contact Melissa Fini: melissa.fini@adls.org.nz

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