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Resource legislation amendments - Changes to the land acquisition process

In this article, we provide an overview of the amendments to the land acquisition process under the Public Works Act 1981 (“the Act”) which has been amended as part of the Resource Legislation Amendment Act 2017.

What is the Public Works Act?

The Act gives power to the Crown to acquire land for public works, and sets out the payments that may be made to the former owners of the land as compensation. The Crown may take land for a wide variety of purposes, such as the building of new roads, schools or parks.

Land Information New Zealand (“LINZ”) is responsible for administering the Act on behalf of the Crown. A number of organisations are able to apply for land under the Act. Usually these designating authorities will be State Owned Enterprises or territorial authorities such as your local or regional councils.

What are the reforms to the Resource Management Act?

While there have been a number of amendments to the Resource Management Act since its inception 26 years ago, this is certainly the most comprehensive package of reforms to date.

There are almost 40 amendments included along with changes to 5 other Acts. The changes seek to create a resource management system that achieves the sustainable management of natural and physical resources in an efficient and equitable way.

As expected, there has been a great deal of interest on the amendments from a raft of stakeholders, including district councils, corporations, iwi, professional associations and organisations, community groups, and individuals.  There have been a number of concerns raised by stakeholders, however the issues raised are primarily concerned with the resource consent and plan making process and there were no major issues raised on the amendments to the land acquisition process.

The amendments

The changes are summarised below:

  • Additional compensation for land which includes the owners’ home:  The Act now provides for compensation of up to $50,000 (previously only $2,000) to be provided to the owners of notified land if the land contains a dwelling that is used as the land owners’ principal place of residence. An agreement for vacant possession of the land must be agreed within 6 months for the maximum compensation to be available.
  • Additional compensation for land which doesn’t include the owners’ home:  The Act also provides for compensation of up to $25,000 to be provided to owners of notified land if the land does not contain a dwelling that was used as the land owners’ principal place of residence. The level of compensation for this type of land depends on the value of the land.
  • Changing compensation limits payable:  Previously the compensation limits set out above could not be changed without amending the Act. To allow the limits to be updated as required more efficiently, the amendments allow the Governor General to increase the limits by Order in Council on the recommendation of the Minister.
  • Delegating the function of issuing ‘notices of desire’:  The Minister of Land Information can now delegate the power to issue a notice of desire to acquire land to LINZ.
  • Evidence from previous RMA cases for hearings:  The Environment Court may now accept evidence that was presented at a related RMA hearing, inquiry or appeal and direct how evidence is to be given to the Court. A separate presentation of such evidence was previously required which was costly and inefficient.

The amendments to the Act are in general support of the government’s intention to better align and integrate the resource management system, and ensure the land acquisition processes are fair and efficient. 

Over the last few years the Waikato landscape has undergone some significant changes with more such changes to come.  The Act provides for the land needed for these projects to be accumulated and set aside.  It is important to consider the implications of the Act if you become involved in an acquisition and to stay informed about public works, in particular if you are purchasing or selling property. 

If you are looking to purchase a property and are unsure about how these projects may affect your new property, it is advisable to do your research.  Websites such as Land Information New Zealand and New Zealand Transport Agency both provide up to date information and plans for these projects. A Land Information Memorandum (LIM) may also list any proposed or existing transport network projects in the local area.

Amanda is an Associate in our Property Team and can be contacted on 07 958 7451.

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