Peace and Goodwill to all Members

This is not a religious (or political) article, but the well-rehearsed Christmas theme of peace and goodwill to all has prompted me to consider more deeply the relationship between members of a society.  That relationship is largely taken for granted when people join community organisations, and, sadly, it receives critical consideration only when things go wrong. The common law heritage In the absence of a statutory framework for the incorporation of societies, British case law characterises the relationship between members in a society and between a member and a society as being contractual in nature.  Despite having statutory provision for the incorporation of societies, that rationalisation has been adopted in Commonwealth countries such as New Zealand, Australia and Canada.  With the prospect of new societies’ legislation being considered by the Law Commission it is timely to consider whether that legislation should establish minimum expectations of a society’s members. New Zealand Case Law Our Courts have accepted the contractual analogies derived from Britain: On becoming a member a contract arises between the member and the society, the terms of which are set out in the rules of the society (for instance, see Henderson v Kane and The Pioneer Club [1924] NZLR 1073 at 1076, O’Neill v Pupuke Golf Club Inc [1932] NZLR 1012, Temple v Hawke’s Bay Football Association [1970] NZLR 862 at 864, and Finnigan v New Zealand Rugby Football Union Inc [1985] 2 NZLR 159 at 177 (CA)), By virtue of their membership members agree to be bound by the society’s rules (see, for instance, Tucker v Auckland Racing Club [1956] NZLR 1), but The Courts seem reluctant...