The Queen's Chain
The reservation of land along the margins of waterways had its origins in early legislation governing subdivision and settlement of Crown land in New Zealand. Queen Victoria sent instructions to Governor Hobson on 5 December 1840 to reserve land along water bodies and not to allow these reserved areas to be occupied for private purposes. Instructions issued by the Surveyor-General under Regulations pursuant to the Land Act 1877 required reserves of 100 links (ie, 1 chain) along navigable rivers. By 1886 these provisions had been extended to settlement surveys of Crown land in coastal areas. Section 110 of the Land Act 1892 required a 66-foot (ie, 1 chain) wide strip of land to be reserved along the coast, lakes over 50 acres, rivers over 33 feet wide, and rivers under 33 feet wide at the discretion of the Commissioner. These early statutory requirements relating to survey and subdivision of Crown land gave rise to the colloquial term 'the Queen's Chain' - which is still used today to refer generally to reserved land along the margins of waterways and the coast.
Local Government Act 1974
Section 289 of the Local Government Act 1974 (LGA 1974) provided a code for reserves along water. Originally these reserves were deemed under s289(1), to be local purpose reserves “for the purpose of providing access to the sea, lake river or stream as the case may be and to protect the environment" Under the Reserves Amendment Act 1979, these reserves become esplanade reserves.
The LGA 1974 required a 20-metre esplanade reserve to be provided at the time of subdivision along rivers over 3 metres wide adjoining allotments less than 4 hectares, the coast, or lakes over 8 hectares. Once created, the reserve was to be vested in the relevant local authority under s306(4).
A special case were allotments over 4 hectares adjoining the coast and lakes over 8 hectares: if the land was used for rural purposes and land owners did not intend to sell the land within 5 years, compensation and survey costs relating to the establishment of the esplanade reserve were paid by the Crown (s290).
The above sections of the LGA 1974 were repealed by the RMA and have been included to explain how older esplanade reserves were taken.