The Incorporated Societies Act 1908 will receive a long-awaited update after many years of consultation and deliberation. The purpose of the Incorporated Societies Bill is to put in place a modern framework of basic legal, governance and accountability obligations for incorporated societies and those who run them.

The aim of the Bill is to:

•       Make societies more robust

•       Help societies govern themselves, and

•       Provide societies and their members with more constructive options when things go wrong.

Officers' duties: The Bill puts in place six broadly expressed duties on officers of a society (modelled on directors' duties from the Companies Act 1993). These include a duty that officers should act in good faith and in the best interests of the relevant society, and that officers exercise their powers of office for a proper purpose.

Gaps in the current Act: The Bill also closes certain gaps in the current legislation, such as providing an express mechanism for societies to amalgamate with each other, based on a simplified version of what is included in the Companies Act.

This Bill is currently at the Select Committee stage with its report due in October; it is expected to become law by the end of 2021. Once finalised it will provide a two-and-a-half to four year transition period for all of New Zealand's 23,000+ incorporated societies to adjust to the new changes. Each incorporated society will need to review and update its rules/constitution in the transitional period once the Bill comes into effect.