This paper applies the fusion debate to the most recent reform of the law of trusts in New Zealand, the Trusts Bill. The fusion debate centres around whether a distinct role for equity is needed, or whether the common law and equity can integrate to form one unitary body of law. It aims to achieve coherence in the law – where equitable and common law doctrines aim to achieve the same objectives, it is incoherent to maintain reference to two distinct sets of rules. The Trusts Bill is analysed in light of this – can equity’s traditional flexibility and conscience-based approach be seen in the Bill and in the wider reform process? These values are often used to differentiate between equity and the common law. This paper argues that the Trusts Bill does take incremental steps towards fusing common law and equity even in relation to the trust, traditionally the heartland of a distinct equitable jurisdiction. Flexibility and conscience-based reasoning do not differentiate the law of trusts as seen in the Trusts Bill from common law doctrines. The shift towards a statutorily-defined framework, the language used throughout the Bill and the underlying rationale behind reform all show incremental steps towards fusion occurring even if complete fusion cannot yet be seen. The future of fusion is left to the courts, but the Trusts Bill shows increasing fusion even in this area of the law is possible.
Mclean, Anna, Fusion: Can It Encompass the Trust? An Assessment in Light of the Trusts Bill 2017 (October 29, 2019). Victoria University of Wellington Legal Research Paper, Student/Alumni Paper No 25/2019.