An article from the June 2018 Victorian Planning and Environmental Law Association’s quarterly journal, VPELA Revue, entitled “Changes to Supreme Court Practice”–a review of recent changes to Supreme Court practice in the modification and removal of restrictive covenants.
The Supreme Court has again dismissed an application to vary a covenant by reason of a plaintiff’s failure to discharge its evidentiary burden under s84(1)(c) of the Property Law Act 1958.
In Del Papa v Falting & Ors, Lansdowne AsJ held:
80 It is important to keep in mind, however, that the burden is not on the defendants to establish injury; rather, it is on the plaintiff to discount it. Mr Chapman concedes that he did not inspect the rear of the Subject Land and so its interface with the only adjacent benefited land, that owned by the eleventh and twelfth defendants. Accordingly, there is no evidence that there will be no substantial direct injury to this portion of benefited land.
81 This absence of evidence in relation to direct impact on the land of the eleventh and twelfth defendants, does undermine the plaintiff’s case pursuant to s 84(1)(c). The more significant factor in its failure, is, however, that the plaintiff has failed, in my view, to show that there will be no substantially injurious precedential effect of the proposed modification.
The Court was also unimpressed with the Plaintiff’s bifurcated application:
20 Mr Del Papa’s evidence is that he and his wife would be prepared to build in accordance with schematic design plans dated February 2017 that he attaches to his affidavit. An enlarged version is Exhibit F. These plans show two options. Option A is for two very substantial two storey dwellings, one five bedroom plus rumpus room and study, and one four bedroom plus rumpus room and study. Option B is for three slightly smaller, but still very substantial, two storey dwellings, each five bedroom plus rumpus room.
131 I would also have been troubled by the fact that the proposed development is not even certain as to number of dwellings, as the plaintiff seeks either a two, or a three, lot subdivision. This is a matter that the Court can of course determine, if persuaded to grant the application, but it does raise a question as to the degree of commitment of the plaintiff to pursue her advanced proposals if the application is granted.
The take away lesson for applicants is that when you move from an uncontested application to a contested hearing, you need to make a first-principles re-assessment of the evidentiary basis of your application: revisit the plans, revisit the site and reassess the forensic basis upon which you say a precedent will not be created.
In Manderson v Wright (No 2)  VSC 162, the Supreme Court revealed the devastating potential consequences of breaching a restrictive covenant.
In this case Justice John Dixon ordered the demolition of about $1 million of building renovations at a property at Barwon Heads, saying the building works occurred outside the permitted building envelope governed by a restrictive covenant, “I am not persuaded in all of the circumstances that the hardship to the defendant from a demolition order is out of all proportion to the relief assured to the plaintiff.”
A subsequent decision on costs of the proceedings, saw the unsuccessful defendant, Ms Wright, liable for 50% of the costs of the proceeding, claimed by the plaintiff to be $460,000.
VCAT has again shown how difficult it is to modify a covenant via the Planning and Environment Act 1987 process, when a beneficiary of the covenant opposes the application.
In Stuart v Mornington Peninsula SC  VCAT 67, the permit applicant sought a permit to vary a covenant that limited the height of a boundary fence to 18 inches (0.46m) in height. The application sought to allow a fence ranging in heights between about 1.5m to 2.2m, extending for a length of ~30m.
The Council refused the application on the basis that it could not be satisfied that the proposed covenant variation met the tests required by section 60(5) of the Planning and Environment Act 1987, because an objection had been received from a beneficiary who expressed a perceived detriment.
The applicant submitted that there would be no detriment to any beneficiary in allowing the new fence and that the objection was so clearly without merit that it should be considered to be vexatious or not made with good faith within the meaning of s 60(5) of the PE Act.
The objector submitted that the variation of the covenant would be detrimental to the enjoyment of her property, the amenity of the area and contrary to the purposes of the covenant.
The Tribunal also entertained the submissions of another objector who was not a beneficiary of the covenant, consistent with DP Gibson’s ruling in Hill v Campaspe SC (Red Dot) (2011) VCAT.
The Tribunal explained that because the covenant was created or registered before 25 June 1991, s 60(5) of the Act applies. This provides:
(5) The responsible authority must not grant a permit which allows the removal or variation of a restriction referred to in subsection (4) unless it is satisfied that—
(a) the owner of any land benefited by the restriction (other than an owner who, before or after the making of the application for the permit but not more than three months before its making, has consented in writing to the grant of the permit) will be unlikely to suffer any detriment of any kind (including any perceived detriment) as a consequence of the removal or variation of the restriction; and
(b) if that owner has objected to the grant of the permit, the objection is vexatious or not made in good faith.
The decision maker is required to be satisfied of both limbs of s 60(5) before directing the grant of a permit for the variation of the covenant.
Ultimately, the Tribunal rejected the application because it did not find the beneficiaries’ objection to be vexatious or not made in good faith. This was so, even though the beneficiary would not be able to see the fence from her own property.
The take away lesson from this case is that if you are attempting to modify a covenant created before 25 June 1991 and you have a beneficiary opposing that application, it is rarely, if ever, worthwhile taking the matter on appeal to VCAT. Your remedy is more likely to be via the Property Law Act 1958 or Supreme Court process.
What is a restrictive covenant?
A restrictive covenant is a contract that runs with the land, that is negative in nature. More particularly, a restrictive covenant is an agreement creating an obligation which is negative or restrictive, forbidding the commission of some act. In its most common form it is a contract between neighbouring land owners by which the covenantee determined to maintain the value of a parcel of land or to preserve its enjoyment, acquires a right to restrain the other party, namely the covenantor, from using the land in a certain way: Fitt v Luxury Developments Pty Ltd (2000) VSC 258. The land subject to a restrictive covenant is known as the burdened land and the land with the corresponding ability to enforce the covenant is known as the benefited land.
How do I know if land is burdened by a restrictive covenant
If a restrictive covenant burdens or runs with a parcel of land, it should be noted under the heading “Encumbrances, Caveats and Notices” on a certificate of title available from Landata. You can then search Landata again for the relevant covenant that is often contained within a Transfer of Land, or ask a title searching firm to do this for you. One such title searching firm is Feigl & Newell on (03) 9620 7022.
How do I know if land has the benefit of a restrictive covenant?
Typically, the extent of beneficiaries can be discerned from a careful reading of the words of the covenant itself, but this may require further title searches and a careful examination of the Parent Title. Some covenants purport to convey the benefit of a covenant to all land in a subdivision, which may not be legally effective, see Re Mack and the Conveyancing Act  NSWLR 623. Before you become a party to proceedings concerning the modification or enforcement of a covenant, seek advice from a lawyer with experience in this area. Many people assume that because their land is located within an estate burdened by a network of similar covenants, they are necessarily a beneficiary to other comparable covenants, which may not be the case. See too, the section on Building Schemes, below.
How do I vary or modify a restrictive covenant?
There are several ways in which restrictive covenants can be varied or modified, but the two most common means are via a planning permit application to the local council or by application to the Supreme Court.
There is an initial appeal to applying for a permit to modify a covenant via the planning permit or Planning and Environment Act 1987 process, because it is seen to be cheaper and easier, but this appeal diminishes when one understands that all beneficiaries need to be notified (unless a pre-existing breach is being regularised) and for covenants created before 25 June 1991, only one genuine objection from a beneficiary is sufficient to bring the process to an abrupt halt.
For this reason, applications that might be seen as even slightly controversial, such as increasing the number of dwellings on a lot, routinely go straight to the Supreme Court. Most applications to the Supreme Court are successful as they proceed through the process without sustained objection, but the challenge here is to pitch your application at something a judge will be comfortable with, for the Courts have traditionally acted with caution when it comes to modifying restrictive covenants.
For more information about the various options for modifying or removing a restrictive covenant in Victoria see here.
How do I modify a covenant through the Supreme Court?
To modify a covenant through the Property Law Act 1958, or Supreme Court, process, an applicant will typically need a planning report prepared by a planner with experience in this area of law and an Originating Motion drafted by a solicitor. There are numerous other procedural requirements that invariably require the involvement of an experienced and competent lawyer.
Once the application is lodged with the Court, a hearing is convened at which directions for advertising is given by an Associate Judge. Typically the notification process will take eight to ten weeks before a further hearing is convened at which objections may be considered by the Court.
If no objectors appear to be heard, which is routinely the case, the Court will consider granting the relief sought, but a judge may still want to be convinced about the appropriateness of the application. If it is positively received, relief may be granted at that time. However, if the matter is contested, directions may be given for the exchange of evidence and submissions and the hearing may be listed some six months or so later for determination.
A detailed description of the process of modifying or removing a restrictive covenant in the Supreme Court is set out here along with a comprehensive collection of precedents.
How do I object to an application to vary a restrictive covenant?
An objection to vary a restrictive covenant does not need to take any particular form. However, it is useful to understand what the Court deems to be a relevant or persuasive reason to object against what is typically seen as being irrelevant or difficult to establish. A useful indication was given by Justice Cavanough in Prowse v Johnston who gave weight to objections that complained of loss of character, loss of privacy, the bulk of the proposed building, additional noise, traffic, parking and access issues and most importantly, that of precedent, that is, is this proposal the thin edge of the wedge?
An article setting out the process of objecting to a restrictive covenant in Victoria is set out here.
The Supreme Court published a guide for objectors in December 2017.
What is a building scheme?
Where a building scheme, or scheme of development is established, all purchasers and their assigns are bound by, and entitled to the benefit of, the restrictive covenant. However, notwithstanding the frequency with which they are discussed, in Victoria, they are something of a unicorn–often talked about, but never actually seen. The real difficulty in attempting to uphold a building scheme in this state is establishing that a purchaser of land was or should have been aware that a building scheme was in place prior to purchase and therefore ought to be bound by its terms. An authority that helpfully sets the relevant principles is Vrakas v Mills  VSC 463.
How to interpret a restrictive covenant
An article setting out some principles for the construction or interpretation of a restrictive covenant in Victoria is set out here.
Should I buy land subject to a restrictive covenant?
If the land is of no use to you unless the covenant is modified, it is probably unwise to buy it. The process of modifying a covenant is often too uncertain, too time consuming and too expensive to justify taking the risk. Covenants can cost as little as a few thousand dollars to modify if things go well. On the other hand, parties have spent close to half a million dollars to modify covenants without success. Equally, some modifications may be completed within weeks. Others may take years. Most applications to modify covenants receive little or no sustained opposition, others ignite well orchestrated and well resourced community campaigns. Any estimate as to prospects is just a well informed guess. If you’re not dissuaded, get a beneficiary report from Feigl and Newell and then find a lawyer with experience in the modification of restrictive covenants to give you an estimate of the likely opposition to change. You may be lucky and find there only a few beneficiaries who live some distance away.
How can I find a restrictive covenant lawyer?
The modification or removal of restrictive covenants is a specialised area of law and regularly done by only a handful of lawyers in Victoria. An article setting out a reliable means of finding a lawyer with experience in the jurisdiction is set out here.
Costs in an application to modify a restrictive covenant
An article summarising the principles in relation to orders of costs in s84/Supreme Court proceedings is set out here.
Representing yourself in an application to modify a restrictive covenant
Judges make every effort to accommodate self-represented litigants. The Supreme Court even has a self-represented litigant coordinator who may be able to provide you with some guidance.
Traditionally, the practice has been to set the matter down for a contested hearing in the normal manner, with the exchange of evidence and submissions. This can involve much time and a large amount of preparation. But more recently, the Supreme Court has facilitated self-represented litigants in covenant cases, by giving people an opportunity to present a short submission at the second return of the application, that is, immediately after advertising. In this way, litigants in person can put a short summary of their views to the judge, without becoming a party to the proceedings; without the need to prepare evidence or cross examine witnesses; and without the potential costs consequences of running a contested case to its conclusion. It must be remembered though, that this will occur in the course of a busy Court list and the judge’s capacity or preparedness to entertain detailed submissions will be limited. The Plaintiff also may elect to not press its case at this second return, and may ask the Court to set the case down on a future occasion, at which time the application can be heard and determined in a more considered manner.
Further, although there are cases in which the court has refused applications to modify covenants, even where there are no parties in opposition such as in Re: Jensen and in Re: Morihovitis, in practice, it is probably fair to say that a defendant has far lower prospects of success if they are not represented, and the plaintiff’s case is not thoroughly tested.
As mentioned above, the matters you wish to put before the Court are set out here.
Mediation and applications to modify restrictive covenants
An article explaining the role and utility of mediating covenant disputes in the Supreme Court is set out here.
How do I deal with a restrictive covenant that gives a discretion to a deregistered company?
An article setting out the process for dealing with a restrictive covenant that confers a discretion on a deregistered company is set out here.
(04) 1122 0277
At the second return of an application for the modification of a restrictive covenant (usually, the first hearing after notification to beneficiaries), the judge may ask whether you wish to set the matter down for mediation.
If one or both parties agree, the judge may add the following words into the draft orders:
– The proceeding be referred to a mediator to be agreed between the parties or in default of agreement to be appointed by the Court, such mediation is to take place by [date].
– The mediation must be attended by those persons who have the ultimate responsibility for deciding whether to settle the dispute and the terms of any settlement and the lawyers who have ultimate responsibility to advise the parties in relation to the dispute and its settlement.
– Subject to the terms of this order, the solicitor for the plaintiff must, after consultation with all parties, deliver to the mediator a copy of this order and copy of any other relevant information, and take all steps necessary to ensure that the mediation commences as soon as practicable.
– The mediator not later than 3 days after conclusion of the mediation, report back to the Court as to whether the mediation is finished.
– Subject to any further order, the costs of the mediation shall be paid in the first instance by the plaintiff.
For plaintiffs, the benefit of mediating is the prospect of an almost certain outcome in litigation that they are likely to end up financing. It also perhaps comes as the unwelcome news arrives that the case is going to be contested.
For defendants, it may also mean that an acceptable outcome may be achieved, without the expense and inconvenience of having to prepare for a contested hearing.
For both parties, mediation permits creative settlement opportunities that might not be possible in an otherwise binary decision making process. For instance, in Rosenwald v Hogg, Macaulay J observed:
This is a classic example of a case where the parties may well have been able to achieve a ‘compromise’ result, by negotiation and agreement, which the court simply could not give them. That opportunity was given to the parties at the commencement of this case when I pointed out the finely balanced difference between them having regard to their respective experts’ opinions.
One example may be the articulation of building envelopes as occurred in this case.
Another example might be the drafting of a side agreement, for instance, in relation to the retention of protection of vegetation during the development process. Bear in mind, however, that side agreements may be personal and of little use if the relevant land is subsequently sold. Covenants, of course, mostly run with the land.
A mediation will usually take only half a day. They normally commence with the mediator explaining that what is said in the mediation is ‘without prejudice’–that is, it cannot be referred to in open Court. And then the parties may take a few minutes each setting out what they hope to achieve from the mediation. The mediator may then take the parties aside to ‘caucus’ or endeavour to ascertain the underlying objectives of importance to each party. Identifying these underlying issues is likely to assist in achieving an outcome that is acceptable for everyone.
The choice of the mediator is important. Someone who has experience in the jurisdiction is more likely to be able to fairly and accurately assess the likely range of outcomes at a contested hearing. Three names include:
- Bill Rimmer, +61 3 9225 7222; https://www.greenslist.com.au/barrister/William-Rimmer
- David Lloyd, +61 3 9225 6958; https://www.vicbar.com.au/profile/6947 or
- myself, Matthew Townsend, +61 3 9225 8558 https://www.listgbarristers.com.au/barristers/matthew-townsend
A mediator is not there to provide legal advice to act as a party’s advocate. That said, there may be some practical benefit in having a neutral third party explaining the process in objective terms. For unrepresented parties, and for those quite unfamiliar with the process of modifying a restrictive covenant, this may be of particular assistance.
For applicants, it is important to remember that simply because you have a mediated agreement doesn’t mean the Court will necessarily accept that agreement by modifying the covenant in the manner agreed. You may still need to convince a judge that you have established an absence of substantial injury on the totality of beneficiaries, and that there are no other reasons why the judge should exercise his or her residual discretion against the modification proposed. However, a mediated outcome, in most cases, will certainly assist in proving to the Court an absence of substantial injury and one might suggest that it’s still better to fail here, than after the expense of a contested hearing.
The Supreme Court has refused an application to modify a single dwelling covenant to allow a 21 apartment development over two lots (~1,400sqm) in 9 Highlands Road in Thomastown–notwithstanding the absence of objectors in Court to oppose the application.
The decision of Re Morihovitis  VSC 684 is somewhat different to the decision of Re Jensen  VSC 638 where the Court refused a relatively modest unopposed application because it was proposed amongst a relatively intact network of single dwellings. Rather, the application in Re Morihovitis was found to be simply too great a departure from what the covenant originally contemplated:
The absence of a single dwelling covenant on no. 11 immediately exposes the peculiar and testing feature of this application. Subject to planning laws and considerations, there is nothing on title to prevent the plaintiff as owner of no. 11 from building an apartment block, or at the least, there is no restrictive covenant getting in the way of a planning application to do so. But the presence of the restrictive covenant on no. 9 Highlands Road obliges the responsible authority under the Planning and Environment Act to refuse to grant a planning permit unless the covenant over that land is removed or varied. Thus, by this application Mr Morihovitis seeks under s 84(1) of the Property Law Act to modify the single dwelling covenant on no. 9 by deleting and adding words as shown in this way −
… not at any time hereafter excavate carry away or remove or permit to be excavated carried away or removed any earth clay stone gravel or sand from the said land hereby transferred except for the purpose of excavating for the foundations construction of any building and basement to be erected thereon and that not more than one dwelling house and outhouses shall be erected on the said lot hereby transferred …
The Court therefore found it would alter the character of the neighbourhood:
The judgment to be made about ‘substantial injury’ turns on the nature and degree of the injury to those benefits. Here, in my judgment, the location of the proposed development is not so removed from the residential area of the neighbourhood that it can be regarded as being sufficiently far away from it to say that such changes will not be seen and felt. It will be a conspicuous part of the neighbourhood. It will be the only apartment block in the neighbourhood. The scale of the project and its departure from the scale of any existing residential developments in the neighbourhood, means that if it does not of itself create the sort of notorious problems of higher density living as I have identified them, it will in my judgment be the beginnings of altering the character of the neighbourhood.
Although the Plaintiff endeavoured to make the most of the absence of objectors, the Court pushed back on any suggestion it would give the Plaintiff a free rein:
No objectors have attended Court. However, it is established in the legal authorities on these applications that the absence of objectors does not necessarily satisfy the onus of proof, and it certainly does not amount to implied assent. But as is commonly submitted in these applications, the absence of objectors ought go some way to overcome a court’s caution. In this case, it was submitted that the absence of objectors willing to advance their objection to a substantial development such as this was especially significant, meaning to say I think the Court should not be overly cautious or assailed by the scale of the development in the assessment of substantial injury. The submission went a little further. It was submitted that known cases where such applications were refused were, or tended to be, opposed applications on which the Court could act on grounds of resistance from a beneficiaries according to evidence adduced by them. In this case, although it was said that the Court has to play devil’s advocate, it was submitted the Court should, in the absence of objectors or any other evidence, act on the plaintiff’s evidence.
I do not accept the amplitude of that submission.
Ultimately, the Plaintiff was held to the contract he struck when he purchased his land, at least insofar as the present development was concerned:
To put it in plain terms, Mr Morihovitis has bought land knowing of a negative covenant on it which binds him as if he made it by private contract. He cannot use the land in defiance of that contract. By statute this Court might discharge that obligation or modify it if doing so will not cause substantial injury to those to whom the promise was made. That cannot be done by saying or assuming that the planning authority will ensure that the apartment development is in accordance with planning laws and regulations. The question for the Court is whether the landowner should be relieved of his promise and allowed to build an apartment block in the first place, before it is subjected to planning scrutiny. For the reasons I have given, in my judgment the plaintiff has not shown that the proposed modification will not cause substantial injury to those to whom the covenant was given.
Choosing a lawyer to run your application to either modify or remove a restrictive covenant, or to defend such an application, can have considerable bearing on both the substantive outcome of the proceedings and, of course, costs.
In this sub-specialty of property law, only a relatively small number of law firms have had much recent experience, particularly in contested applications.
Getting your choice of lawyer wrong can mean up to twelve months lost by pursuing the wrong type of application or perhaps losing an opportunity to recover a proportion of your costs.
The best means of choosing the right solicitor (or barrister) is to look through recent published cases to see: who has been acting for who, where the relevant land was located; and in which jurisdiction the case was run.
The following search from the independent Australian Legal Information Institute lists all Victorian cases (Supreme Court proceedings, VCAT hearings and panel hearings) using the search phrase “restrictive covenant”:
The following is a similar search narrowed to Supreme Court proceedings:
And the following is a similar search narrowed to VCAT proceedings:
However, be careful about making predetermined judgements about which jurisdiction in which to commence your application. The decision to pursue an application under the Planning and Environment Act 1987 vis a vis the Property Law Act 1958 may prove to be of considerable importance and you should be confident your lawyer is familiar with the advantages and disadvantages of both avenues.
Restrictive covenants in Victoria often give development discretion to companies that have long been deregistered. A good example is the series of covenants affecting the area around Altona that may provide:
… nor will I or my heirs executors administrators or transferees use any material other than brick and/or stone for the main walls of any such shop or dwelling house without the consent in writing of the said Altona Beach Estates Limited
Altona Beach Estates Limited, the original developer of the land, has long ceased to exist.
A question is then raised: how will the Australian Securities & Investments Commission (ASIC) exercise its discretion if it is called upon to act in the capacity of the deregistered company pursuant to section 601AE(2) of the Corporations Act 2001?
Helpfully, ASIC has produced a practice note of sorts to explain its policy in relation to such requests.
This policy states that ASIC may consider applications for consent under an encumbrance (e.g. plans of subdivision where there is no specific prohibition to subdivision in the encumbrance; construction of a fence within the restrictions/conditions of the encumbrance) and may consider applications to discharge expired encumbrances. However, ASIC will not otherwise vary the restrictions/conditions of an encumbrance or discharge a current encumbrance.
It is not then, as some might have you believe, a fait accomplis that the discretion will be exercised in the applicant’s favour.
The policy can be found here: http://asic.gov.au/for-business/closing-your-company/effects-of-deregistration/property-of-deregistered-companies/there-is-an-encumbrance-also-known-as-a-covenant-or-restrictive-covenant-over-my-property-in-favour-of-a-deregistered-company/
If you own land with the benefit of a restrictive covenant, you may receive a letter by mail or see a sign on land giving notice of an application to modify or discharge it pursuant to s84 of the Property Law Act 1958.
If you wish to contest this application you may wish to:
- write an objection; and/or
- appear in court to support that objection.
The first step is to ascertain whether you have the benefit of the covenant. Because covenants are essentially contracts that run with the land, the law generally says that if you are not party to a contract you have no standing to enforce it.
If you have received written notice of the application, the chances are that your land has been identified as having the benefit of the covenant. If you have simply seen the sign on the land and live nearby, someone may have formed the view that your land either does not have the benefit of the covenant or that the modification or removal will not affect you. Or it may mean that the address for correspondence on your land title is out of date. This is surprisingly common.
If you are unsure whether your land has the benefit of a covenant, the cheapest and quickest option is to contact an experienced title searcher such as Dinah Newell from Feigl & Newell on (03) 9629-3011 or firstname.lastname@example.org This is a specialised task and it is risky to leave it to someone who hasn’t done it before.
Once you have established a benefit, the question might then be what to write in your objection. Two decisions of the Victorian Supreme Court provide some guidance. The first is Prowse v Johnston in which Justice Cavanough listed the concerns of residents that he accepted were reasons a single dwelling covenant was not obsolete:
108 The objections of the defendants are set out in the various affidavits sworn by them. They are summarised in their written outline of submissions as follows:
(a) Loss of character of the residential estate being an estate with large single dwelling family homes and substantial gardens;
(b) Loss of privacy and overlooking into neighbouring private outdoor living areas and gardens;
(c) Bulk and dominance of proposed building particularly when viewed from adjoining residences and property;
(d) Loss of large, spacious Edwardian family home on the burdened land and surrounding mature trees and established garden;
(e) Loss of family neighbourhood with front and rear garden;
(f) Loss of spaciousness, beauty and privacy;
(g) Construction of a three-storey building with basement car parking over virtually the entire site in conflict with the prevalent single dwelling residential character of the area;
(h) Additional noise, traffic, parking and access issues associated with 18 units and 33 [actually 36] basement car spaces;
(i) This is the “thin end of the wedge” and the precedent effect of the removal of a covenant for the construction of a large unit development would be very significant;
(j) The character of the Coonil Estate has been maintained for over 90 years and should be preserved;
(k) Much of the Coonil Estate is a recognised heritage overlay area which should be preserved;
(l) The proposed development will be an isolated “eye sore” in stark contrast to the many period and heritage homes surrounding the burdened land; and
(m) The plaintiff’s land was purchased as part of the Coonil Estate, and has benefited from the reciprocal covenants given by others.
109 I accept that these are all admissible objections, though some are stronger than others. They are relevant to show that the covenant is not obsolete. They are also relevant for other purposes, to which I will come. The covenant is not obsolete. The purposes of the covenant are still being achieved throughout the Estate and on the burdened land, with a contribution in that respect from the covenant on the burdened land.
In the more recent decision of Oostemeyer v Powell Justice Riordan set out in paragraphs  to  the evidence he relied upon to reject an application to modify a covenant made pursuant to s84(1)(c) of the Property Law Act 1958 the so-called “substantial injury” test.
Once you have registered your opposition to the application to modify or remove the covenant you may be required to appear in the Supreme Court to support your objection. That is not to say the court will not consider your objection if you don’t appear. The Court generally reads every objection closely. However, in the standard form notice in the Court’s Guide for practitioners, the court makes it clear that “Written objections without an attendance may not be considered.”
Once at court, the Judge in charge of the list will set the matter down for a contested hearing.
It’s a matter of judgement at what point you wish to get a solicitor and/or barrister involved, if at all. Oostemeyer v Powell (above) demonstrates that unrepresented residents can succeed in fending off an attack on a covenant. However, it is relatively rare that objectors represent themselves in a contested hearing, partly because of the complexity of the proceedings and the time involved; and partly because objectors are typically reimbursed most of their costs, even if they are unsuccessful, in accordance with the principle in Re Withers.
The Supreme Court published information for objectors in December 2017.
Owen Dixon Chambers
email@example.com (04) 1122 0277
Liability limited by a scheme approved under Professional Standards Legislation.