Adrian Cowie, Registered Professional Surveyor, Topografo Ltd
Monday 8 December 2014
It appears that speed, rather than accuracy is becoming the new norm in defining legal boundaries in Christchurch.
Land Information New Zealand (LINZ) appear to be approving surveys that are clearly placing property boundaries in their incorrect location. The Landonline system managed by LINZ may not be providing the tight management of survey standards that it claims to provide.
Many areas of Christchurch have been affected by shallow ground movement, where buildings, fences, and land have moved horizontally due to lateral spreading and lateral stretching.
In many of these areas where the land, fences, and buildings have moved, the legal boundary probably remains where it was before the earthquakes. That is, the legal boundary does not necessarily move during sudden land movements such as landslides and earthquakes.
Licensed Cadastral Surveyors who are surveying boundaries for rebuilds of new homes are increasingly placing the new boundary marks in the incorrect location.
In one recent case, Land Information New Zealand has approved a survey where the surveyor has not apparently taken into account the over 600mm of lateral spreading.
The consequences of this are catastrophic. Four issues are of immediate concern:
Firstly, in many cases, the insurer is relying on newly placed boundary marks to build replacement homes for customers. The insurer may be forced to have to demolish the new house and erect it in the correct position;
Secondly, the homeowner becomes a victim for a second time, and has to again wait until the house is rebuilt in the correct position. What homeowner in their right mind wants their house, garage or fences built into the neighbor’s property?
Thirdly, the homeowners EQC Land Claim becomes a real issue when their actual land has moved (along with their fences, driveway, house and garage) so that it is partly into the neighbors. How will EQC remedy shifting the land back into its original location?
And fourthly, neighbours are in the very real position of losing land that is rightfully theirs.
Land Information New Zealand, it appears, in their desire to aid the speed of the rebuild, has allowed accuracy to be overlooked. Their allowing of surveys titled “Boundary Marking with Conflict” have allowed surveyors to mark boundaries without properly dealing with the underlying problems. The
‘Conflict’ is allowed to remain on the property for someone else to deal with in future. It is clear who benefits from this avoidance of the problem.
There are indications that some Surveyors are using pre‐earthquake survey methods in a post earthquake environment where the playing field has dramatically changed. They may also be forgetting that they are liable for the rest of their lives for the accuracy of each boundary mark they have placed into the ground.
For Insurers, it is critical that accuracy is placed before speed and cost. Re‐building the house for a second time to get it in its correct location is not cost‐effective.
For homeowners receiving a new home from an Insurer, it is critical that they know that their home is being rebuilt in the correct location.
For neighbors, if approached by a Surveyor wanting them to sign a document agreeing to their survey and boundary location: do not sign it. It is not the job of a neighbor to agree to where the boundaries are placed.
For anyone having their property re‐surveyed, insist on a full “Definition Survey” where a new certificate of title is issued. The “Boundary Marking with Conflict” surveys are akin to parallel imports.
They look good at the start, but they are not the real thing. You are left with a survey and a title that possibly don’t match.
Interestingly, many people (including Land Information New Zealand) are aware of this massive issue.
The only ones that don’t seem to be aware are (again) the landowner.
The longer this continues unchecked, the worse it will be for the landowners in Christchurch.
Land Information New Zealand, the New Zealand Institute of Surveyors, and the Government need to take immediate and drastic steps to remedy what is quickly becoming a complete, and utter shambles.
The Cadastral Survey Act 2002 is part of the CERA legislation. An opportunity exists to get this problem sorted through the provisions that exist in the CERA Act.
Let’s only hope it is not too late already.
Licensed Cadastral Surveyor
Registered Professional Surveyor
Disclaimer: Always consult your experts and solicitor for advice. Each property and situation is unique and the facts of each case need to be determined on their own merits. The above advice is not necessarily applicable to all sites.