Canterbury Property Boundaries and Related Matters Bill - Second reading

Thursday, June 2, 2016

STUART SMITH: It is a pleasure to speak on the Canterbury Property Boundaries and Related Matters Bill. I say that because many of my colleagues do not think I am a Canterbury MP but, in fact, the Kaikōura electorate is, actually, a little bigger than the state of Israel.

It extends from the Marlborough Sounds right down to the Ashley River, which is just north of Christchurch. Many of my constituents were affected by the earthquakes directly, and some have properties in Christchurch that have been affected by this.

I also have quite a few constituents who have moved north out of Canterbury into my electorate, and I run into those people quite often and, in fact, have advocated on their behalf in many earthquake-related matters since the earthquake.

I think this bill really touches on one of the main tenants in our society and that is property, and property that we all hold very dear. One thing we expect with our property is that it is all set in our boundaries and our boundaries define our property.

Generally, it is accepted that property boundaries are fixed and do not move. In fact, surveyors generally accept the principle that they do not move at all, except for gradual, unnoticeable water-boundary movement, which, I guess, stands for erosion.

In fact, as has been pointed out, over 11,000 properties, it is estimated, had their boundaries move by at least 20 centimetres, which is significant by anybody’s measure. The difficulty is that the surveyors and residents generally expect they are fixed, so something had to be dealt with in the law.

I was quite surprised that only 11 submissions were received on the bill, as has been alluded to before, but I accept that some of those represented bodies that were quite significant in that, being the council and other bodies.

I think it is quite significant too that some of the recommendations that came out from the Local Government and Environment Committee were quite significant in taking note of the aftershocks and earthquakes that have occurred since, and particularly the one that has been mentioned on Valentine’s day of this year and extending out this bill to take account of that right through to February 2022.

If you look back at history after significant earthquakes in New Zealand, and we have had quite a number, the aftershocks and earthquakes do go on for a long period of time, particularly after an earthquake of the magnitude and the ground accelerations that occurred in Christchurch. So that is quite a prudent matter for the select committee to touch on, and I think that will be a very welcome addition to the law.

A number of submitters thought that a dispute-resolution mechanism should be put in the bill itself, but there are, however, existing processes under the Property Law Act 2007 and also the Land Transfer Act.

The select committee felt they provided quite adequate mechanisms for dispute resolution, and, of course, the various parties can always get through a dispute like that on their own. The select committee came to the view that it would add complexity that was unnecessary and so, therefore, it decided not to follow those submitters’ recommendations.

It also recommended amending clause 10 to specify that it provided the specified criteria be met and there be no liability for surveyors and boundary determinations done in the interim period between 4 September 2010, the first earthquake, and the commencement of this legislation on its ascent.

I think that is a very good move. It takes away any liability from those people and the decisions they have made in good faith. But that will be with no negligence, bad faith, or misconduct, or non-compliance with statutory obligations and professional standards.

So I think this is a really good bill. It is necessary. It is a shame we have to do these things, but given the uncertainty thrown up by the earthquakes, this is very necessary. It is with great pleasure that I commend the bill to the House. Thank you.