New Zealand Law Society - Legislation gives clarity to Canterbury boundaries

Legislation gives clarity to Canterbury boundaries

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The Canterbury Property Boundaries and Related Matters Bill came into force on 29 August 2016 when it received the Royal Assent.

The purpose of the bill is to provide certainty to surveying and titles in greater Christchurch following the Canterbury earthquakes, to support recovery and rebuilding, and to maintain public confidence in the cadastre.

"Greater Christchurch" is defined as the districts of the Christchurch City Council, the Selwyn District Council, and the Waimakariri District Council, and includes the coastal marine area adjacent to those districts.

The "Canterbury earthquakes" are defined as any earthquake in Canterbury between 4 September 2010 and 13 February 2022 and including any aftershock in that period.

Land Information Minister Louise Upston says the legislation takes a pragmatic view by saying boundaries have moved with the land.

"In most instances, this means that boundaries will be where property owners expect them to be, as marked by features like fences. This legislation will reduce the potential for future boundary disputes and conflicts."

Land Information New Zealand (LINZ) says the Surveyor General will now start consulting with surveyors on proposed rules to implement the new legislation. It says these have been designed around feedback received earlier in 2016.

Ms Upston says there is a possibility that there will be boundary conflicts as a result of earlier approved surveys that did not take land movement into account.

"LINZ will work with surveyors and property owners to manage any conflicts," she says.

Coverage and impact of the legislation

Sections 7 and 8 of the new Act set rules applying to all boundaries that determine the spatial extent of land.

Section 7(2) says the boundaries are deemed to have moved or to move with the movement of land caused by the Canterbury earthquakes (whether the movement was horizontal or vertical, or both), unless the movement was a landslip.

This does not affect the validity of an estate or interest in land, "and the land (as moved) continues to be the same land, and affected by the same interests, as before the movement". It also does not affect the boundaries within greater Christchurch before 29 August 2016.

Section 8 states that a cadastral survey will continue to determine the boundaries of any land surveyed within greater Christrchurch if it was done in good faith and without negligence between 4 September 2010 and 29 August 2016, and its cadastral survey dataset was determined to comply with section 9(a) of the Cadastral Survey Act 2002 in that period.

Section 10 removes liability for cadastral surveys or boundary determinations between 4 September 2010 and 29 August 2016 if the liability would not have arisen if the survey or determination had been done on the opposite basis to that used - ie, that the boundaries did or did not move with the movement of land caused by the earthquakes.

Legislative history

The legislation was introduced on 22 October 2015 and given its first reading and referred to the Local Government and Environment Committee on 3 November 2015. Submissions closed on 15 January 2016 and the select committee report recommending passage of the bill with amendments was released. The committee noted that it had received submissions recommending establishment of a dispute resolution framework, but that it felt that existing processes under the Property Law Act 2007 and the Land Transfer Act provided adequate mechanisms to resolve disputes. The committee also recommended extending the period covered by "Canterbury earthquakes" further into the future.

The bill received its second reading on 2 June 2016 and was read a third time on 25 August 2016.