A young couple were due to pay a deposit on a property during the alert level three period implemented by the Government in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.  They needed to use their Kiwisaver funds to pay the deposit.  They were very stressed when they found out that they may not be able to meet some of the requirements in relation to their application, due to not being able to physically see their lawyer to sign the required declaration.  This would have meant their funds could not be released for the deposit.

In order to access Kiwisaver funds, providers require the person requesting release of the funds to sign a declaration confirming they have not owned an interest in land before, and that they have been contributing to Kiwisaver for three years or more (among other things).

In general, statutory declarations for making KiwiSaver withdrawals need to be witnessed by a person authorised to take oaths and declarations under the Oaths and Declarations Act 1957 (such as a lawyer, Justice of the Peace, notary public, or other authorised person). 

Ordinarily the legislation requires a physical proximity between the person signing the declaration and the authorised witness (ie, they must be together in the same place when the form is signed).

However the COVID-19 pandemic situation means that face-to-face interactions between a person signing and an authorised witness are not possible. In response to this problem, the Government has made a temporary change to the legislation which allows an authorised person to witness a statutory declaration being signed via audiovisual or audio link for the duration of the Epidemic Preparedness (COVID-19) Notice 2020 (being three months from 25 March 2020). 

This means that if you need to sign a statutory declaration to access KiwiSaver funds while the Epidemic Notice is in effect, you can use video calling or remote conference facilities like Skype, Zoom, Whatsapp or Messenger to “get together” with an authorised person from your own homes and the declaration will be valid.  

It is important to make sure that your paperwork still complies with your individual KiwiSaver provider’s requirements.  Your experienced legal advisor will be able to advise you further regarding witnessing of your KiwiSaver documents, taking into account the temporary law change.

Therese Greenlees
Registered Legal Executive