12. VESTING OF ASSEMBLY PROPERTY (Standing Committee)

That the Assembly

1. delete regulation 4.10.1 (e) with immediate effect; and

2. make consequential amendments to renumber clauses (f) and (g).

4.10.1

(e)        The legal title to Assembly property shall be vested in the Property Trust of the Church in the State or Territory in which the property is situated, except as may otherwise be approved by the Assembly Standing Committee.

Rationale:

Clause 56 of the Constitution provides that “The Assembly shall either appoint trustees or create a body corporate to hold property which is under the direct control or management of the Assembly.” Prior to church union there was a legal vehicle for the national Council of the Church. It was known as the Uniting Church Council of Mission Trust Association (UCCMTA) but was first established under another name in the Methodist Church in 1917. This legal entity was used to hold property when required and to be the contracting party as the need arose. In 2004 the Standing Committee reorganised the UCCMTA into a more contemporary entity – UCA Assembly Ltd.

Over many years, and certainly for many properties that were held by the uniting churches prior to union, Assembly property has been vested in the synod Property Trust within which the property is located. This situation has become increasingly problematic over the past decade. The problem is felt acutely by Frontier Services. A fairly recent example has been where a funding body that wanted to fund a multi million dollar extension to an aged care facility became concerned that Frontier Services could not produce a title to the property in question other than in the name of a synod Property Trust. The National Director and General Secretary were in long and ultimately successful correspondence with the relevant department assuring them that the owner of the legal title would not change the usage of the land after the Department had given Frontier Services the use of the funds for a multi million dollar building project. Government Departments do not understand the subtleties of our arrangements and they are increasingly less inclined to accommodate them. It is risky and inefficient to continue to put the Assembly in this sort of situation as new property title comes into the control of the Assembly.

It is not intended that this provision be retrospective but over time it will make the operational arrangements of the Assembly more secure and easier to negotiate with external parties. It is acknowledged that there is provision for the Standing Committee to grant permission to hold the land title in its own corporate vehicle and this has been done in recent years. Nevertheless the necessity to use an exception as the normal way of practice is generally considered inefficient and certainly points to the exception being accepted as the new rule.