Access, roadways, rights of way & easements

On this page:

Access rights

Not all Māori land blocks have legal access.

Access to Māori land would normally have been taken into account at the time the title was originally issued. In many cases:

  • a roadway would have been laid off to give access to the land
  • there may have already been a public or private roadway servicing the land
  • a right of way to access land, across a neighbouring property, may have been put in place.

Unfortunately ongoing access can’t always be guaranteed for any land.

Over the course of many years, as land was further subdivided, transferred or sold, practical access may no longer be available (if at all).

Where land has become ‘landlocked’ you will need to approach the surrounding property owners to negotiate and formalise reasonable access.

In extreme cases, where you are unable to reach agreement with surrounding property owners, you can make application to the court for reasonable access to landlocked Māori land. However this is a long process and you may be required to pay compensation for access across private land.

Find out more about Title Improvement – Te Whakahou Taitara 

Contact us for more assistance 

Back to top

Roadways

A roadway is a defined piece of land on or through a block over which you can gain access to the land.

There are five types of roadway:

Private road

A private road is a restricted road which allows access but use of the road maybe restricted to:

  • The owners of the roadway block
  • The owners of any blocks the roadway services
  • A combination of both

Private roads are not council or public roads and must be maintained by their owners and beneficiaries.

Public road

A public road is an unrestricted roadway which provides access to any member of the public. Public roads are vested in, and maintained, by the local council in the area, or by the New Zealand Transport Agency where that roadway is a state highway or motorway.

A private Māori roadway may only become a public roadway if:

  • there is sufficient support from the owners of that roadway for it to become public
  • the local council has agreed in writing to take over and maintain the roadway
  • compensation between the owners and council has been agreed and paid.

Once satisfied, a judge may make a recommendation to the Minister of Transport that the roadway should be declared a public road and vest in the local authority.

Land used as a road but not declared a road

In some circumstances, Māori land may already have a formed roadway through it, although there has never been any formal roadway order made.

Where this has occurred, it may only become a public roadway if:

  • there is sufficient support from the owners of that roadway for it to become public
  • the local council has agreed in writing to take over and maintain it as a roadway
  • compensation between the owners and council has been agreed and paid.

Once satisfied, a judge may make a recommendation to the Minister of Transport that the roadway should be declared a public road and vest in the local authority.

Paper road

A paper road, also known as an unformed road, is a private or public roadway that has been laid out on a survey map but for some reason has never been created or used.

Paper roads still have legal status and can be used at any time in the future to access a block until that road is cancelled and re-vested in owners of the surrounding land blocks.

If the roadway is a private road, you would need to seek the views and agreement of the land owners affected by the road to have it closed.

If the roadway has public status, you must seek the agreement of the local council or in the case of a highway or motorway, the agreement of the New Zealand Transport Agency, to have the road closed.

Stopped or closed road

A stopped or closed road is one which is no longer required for that purpose. To stop or close an existing roadway you would need the:

  • written consent of the Minister of Transport to close the road
  • written consent of the local council to close the road.

You, or a representative of either the local council or the New Zealand Transport Agency, can apply to have a stopped or closed road re-vested by a judge in the land from which it was originally taken.

Back to top

Rights of way

Unlike a private or public roadway, a right of way allows you to pass along a specific route across someone else’s land to access your land. Unlike a road, it is not a public roadway and is not a guaranteed size, shape or have a surveyed plan. It is limited to access to your land only and the right is noted against the title to your land and any land you cross.

Rights of way are granted at the time a title is created and is done by consent of all owners at that time.

Until cancelled by either party, the right of way is legally binding.

Back to top

Easements

An easement is a special property right which enables you to enter onto, use or access part of a land block for a particular purpose. You have no direct rights to the land itself, which is retained by the land owners.

Easements are usually made between two parties:

  • the dominant estate – the person or party gaining the benefit of the easement
  • the servient estate – the person granting the benefit.

The most common forms of easement are for buried utility lines (such as electricity or phone lines), sewerage and water pipes, or overhead power and phone lines. They can also be in the form a vehicular access or other access to certain places (such as to power poles or pylons on a property).

In these cases, the local council could be given an easement across a block, supported by a survey, to access and maintain water and sewerage pipes buried on the property or, the local power lines company could be given an easement to maintain the power lines across your property.

Easements are made by agreement between both parties and often involve compensation of some type.

Back to top

This page was last updated: