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The importance of knowing your boundaries

By Anna Bensemann | Nov 06, 2020

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Land is an important asset and discussions with neighbours over where the boundary lies between properties can occasionally be problematic. This is particularly relevant if your land contains trees, good grazing land, streams, rivers or a coastal margin. It’s helpful to know your rights and obligations when it comes to property boundaries.

Every property has been marked out by surveyors who have installed survey pegs. These are usually square, usually wooden, white painted pegs in the corners of property boundaries, with boundary lines generally in a straight lines between points. The pegged locations are also located electronically and saved in Land Information New Zealand’s (LINZ) online database.

During neighbourly disputes over the exact location of a boundary, we have heard stories of boundary pegs being removed or shifted by a neighbour who seeks to gain advantage by acquiring more land, or remove themselves from an obligation such as maintaining a shared access. This is an illegal act as legislation governing surveyors sets out that only registered surveyors, or those authorised by a registered surveyor are permitted to install, shift or completely remove a boundary peg. Nevertheless, any unauthorised changes to the location of boundary pegs can be remedied and replaced by a surveyor.

The location of your boundary will become critical when considering who owns various assets on a property. During harvesting of trees for example, the location of your boundary, and consequently your timber asset, becomes an important factor. Any encroachment into a neighbour’s forest could create endless headaches for forest owners and may result in compensation for any trees taken from over the fence.

Under ever changing freshwater legislation there are increasing requirements to fence off waterways within farms. This can be called into question when it’s not clear whose property bounds a waterway, and consequently who is responsible for the costs of fencing off the waterway. With some farmers facing many kilometers of fencing and then ongoing riparian management to avoid the spread of weed pests into the farm, knowledge of who is responsible is helpful.

Boundaries also become important when considering who has legal access across land, known as a Right of Way. If you have a shared driveway, it may be that one person owns some or all of the driveway and others simply have rights of way to drive over this. Depending on the legal documents that establish a right of way there may be maintenance obligations and costs apportioned to various owners. When in rural settings such driveways may simply be a gravel track and costs of maintaining these may become high.

So if you have any concerns about where your property boundaries are located, or what rights or implied costs you might be faced with due to the actual location of your boundary, it’s a good idea to have the boundary location confirmed by a surveyor to remove any uncertainty.

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