Christchurch’s Legal Boundaries in Chaos – Press release

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 preearthquake 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. Rebuilding the house for a second time to get it in its correct location is not costeffective.

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 resurveyed, 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.


Adrian Cowie
Licensed Cadastral Surveyor

Registered Professional Surveyor
Topografo Limited


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.

A sample letter to the Building Consent Authority

MBIE has worked with two project Management Offices (Insurance Companies) and have recommended the following.

“Maximise use of Schedule 1 exemptions”  As can be seen on page 4 in this document.

We disagree that the insurance companies are allowed to advise our regulatory authority.

Their main interest after the damage has occurred will always be to reduce cost. This can allow cutting corners in the building process, cause unsustainable practices and transfers undesirable  liability onto the homeowner.

This is a sample letter that people can use to ensure risk and liability is not transferred onto them without their knowledge. This letter does not stop or hinder anything. It just makes sure you are kept informed. Following this notification you are in a position to negotiate and decide if you accept this risk or not. This is not legal advice. Feel free to copy, share and modify to suit your own circumstances.

Click here to use our online letter template 


Christchurch, Date: ____________


Attn: Christchurch Building Consent Authority.


Notification of restrictions to the building consent requirements for my property located at

________________________ .

As the owner of this property, which is subject to reinstatement under an insurance contract, I hereby make the following declaration:

If a consent application has been submitted for my property, please withdraw it immediately and notify the applicant of the following restrictions.

The reinstatement should be conducted by a third party without any significant involvement by myself, since I am not a qualified builder, will not oversee the project, and am in no way qualified to determine if my reinstatement will meet the Building Code requirements. If my area has suffered from lateral spreading, liquefaction or settlement, I expect the current legal boundaries to be established and a full survey carried out before any work commences.

As a ratepayer, I choose to use the services of the Building Consent Authority to ensure that the building is up to standard and that the intended life of the building is 50 years or more.

I expressly decline to permit any third party the use of exemptions from a building consent under section 14c of the Building Act without my prior written

Likewise, I refuse any variations on the building consent without my prior written approval.

I also decline to permit any third party the use of existing use rights under the Resource Management Act if this would result in any risk or liability or obligations being transferred to me as the owner of the building, or if this would result in any way in non-compliance with the current district plan. Otherwise, I would require an existing use rights certificate to be issued.

I request a full building consent, including all producer statements signed by certified, qualified personnel and full inspection records. At the conclusion of the building work, I will require a signed Code of Compliance Certificate, PIM, a clean LIM report and a building location certificate if required.

Please confirm acceptance of this notification.

Name and address of owner:

Contact phone:

Property address:

Insurance company:

Claims handler:

Claims handler email:

Claims handler phone:

E-mail to or bring to CCC.


Advice to applicant:

If you wish to stop your insurer/PMO using exemptions or claiming existing use rights, you should first try to ensure that it will not involve any transfer or increase in risk for yourself (e.g. a hazard notice, a repair or rebuild that does not comply with your insurance policy entitlement, or with the Building Code). If you still have had no EQC land report or information on the amount of your land settlement, this is also an argument for delaying any construction or repair work. The condition of the land and the settlement amount may determine the best option for you. Each person’s situation is different, so if you are unsure, it is best to consult a property lawyer first. If you are unwilling to wait, you can also engage a surveyor to ascertain the extent of lateral spreading and where boundary locations should be. This letter will stop consents being issued for your property, but you will still have to negotiate with your insurer.