Posted by Aidan Tattley on August 26 2020 in News

Whilst many things may be slowing down due to Covid-19, one thing that is not, is infrastructure projects / expenditure. In the June 2020 budget an additional $3 billion has been allocated for infrastructure – this sits on top of the $12 billion ‘upgrade’ allocated in January 2020. Evidence of this can be seen in many places around New Zealand by the extent of the orange cones.

What is happening?

The Government is seeking ‘shovel ready’ projects to expedite and which can stimulate the economy. Legislation was introduced to allow the fast tracking of the consenting process for selected projects. However, this fast-tracking process relates to the consenting process under the Resource Management Act 1991. How this is going to align with the process of acquisition of land / land rights (as necessary) is yet to be seen.

Many ongoing projects have also been ‘restarted’ or timelines accelerated, this may, in some cases, see the relevant acquiring authority acting and seeking to conclude matters under urgency. Whilst the affected landowner should not seek to unnecessarily delay matters (and would not have any interest in doing so), caution and consideration is always advised, but even more so when acting under such urgency, and of course, with awareness of what is at stake.

These projects and others will continue, as will the need for acquiring authorities to acquire private land / land interests to allow these projects to progress. It has been estimated by Infometrics in 2018 that “A total of $129 billion in capital projects are estimated to be built over 2019-2029 period”.

Where does this leave you, the landowner?

In most cases, and for most people, the prospect of having some, or all, of your land taken for a public work will be daunting. That and the fact that in New Zealand the idea of property ownership and property rights are held in high regard and are not something which should be simply ‘set aside’ or infringed.

This is where the Public Works Act 1981 comes in. It seeks to strike a balance between allowing the necessary public works to proceed, whilst protecting or compensating landowners ‘fairly’. In many cases, there will be a ‘well worn’ path to resolution, however, despite this, issues can still arise. One such example is where proper process is not followed. It is well established that an acquiring authority must follow proper process and have express authority to acquire land. If this is not the case, any taking of land may be ultra vires (essentially, done without authority). This is not a common situation, but one which does arise from time to time, particularly where the acquiring authorities are working under accelerated timeframes or with heightened work/project loads (as we expect to see in the near future).

If you find yourself in this undesirable position, you are entitled to seek independent legal, valuation and professional advice – in most cases the reasonable costs incurred in respect of this are reimbursable as part of the Public Works Act process. By seeking appropriate advice early, particularly, legal and valuation advice, we can assist in protecting your position and valuable property rights, whilst working towards a satisfactory outcome.

If you have been notified that your land is required for a public work and have questions or would like to discuss how we can help, please do not hesitate to contact us.


Richard Hatch | Partner
t + 64 9 300 8761 |

Aidan Tattley | Solicitor
t + 64 9 300 8757 |

This paper gives a general overview of the topics covered and is not intended to be relied upon as legal advice.