Land Ownership and the Public Works Act 1981

A requiring authority is not required to own the land before lodging a notice of requirement for a designation over it. In some cases it may be very difficult and take a lengthy period of time to obtain ownership of all land required. For example, large network projects such as transmission lines and roading alignments. However, it is more likely that a requiring authority will own the land for site specific works before it is designated (for example, school sites). As an alternative to owning land, easements can be created where the land owner agrees. 

The Public Works Act 1981 (PWA) sets out the process and requirements for the acquisition of land, including compulsory acquisition, by a requiring authority, and the provision of compensation (s186(5) of the RMA). Where the requiring authority is a network utility operator, these provisions provide for compulsory acquisition by the Crown (Minister of Land Information), on behalf of the requiring authority. 

A person who owns or leases land subject to a designation or notice of requirement can apply at any time to the Environment Court using Form 24 or similar for an order that requires the requiring authority to acquire or lease all or part of the land (s185).

The Environment Court may make such an order if it is satisfied that the owner or lessee has tried but has been unable to sell the land or lease it, and either: 

  • the designation or requirement prevents the reasonable use of the land, or 
  • the person was the owner or lessee of the land (or spouse, civil union partner, or de facto partner, of owner or lessee) when the designation or requirement was created. 

It is important to note that requiring authorities generally prefer to negotiate property acquisition rather than use their compulsory acquisition powers.