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Dunedin City Council – Kaunihera-a-rohe o Otepoti

An encroachment is a part of a property that has been constructed or developed outside the legally drawn boundary and is in fact on DCC-owned land such as a road reserve.

We do not actively seek out properties that have encroached on road or other reserve land but when we know one exists, we have a legal obligation to include the information on the property’s Land Information Memorandum (LIM). When we discover an encroachment, we advise both the LIM applicant and the property owner.

We estimate that there are about 2000 properties in Dunedin that have encroached on reserve land, and we deal with about 50 each year as they come up through LIM or building consent applications. We have dealt with about 1000 encroachments since the introduction of boundary lines more than 100 years ago.

Types of encroachment

Covered under the Local Government Act.

  • Air space – this can include balconies or trees which can interfere with power and other lines.
  • Subsoil – such as basements.
  • Garages – these are considered to be part of the motor car network and are allowed as of right under the LGA but permission must be sought from the DCC.

Covered under the Public Works Act which allows for the road reserve to be leased or licensed for other use at the discretion of the DCC which can enable people to develop these areas.

  • Ground space at road level – this can include landscaping, spas, fencing or buildings.

Why do encroachments matter?

The first issue with encroachments is that the property owner has more land space than they are paying rates for and we need to ensure fairness for all ratepayers.

Road reserve space is becoming more precious as utilities, such as telecommunications, power and water increasingly choose to lay infrastructure underground. This infrastructure needs to be kept separate for reasons of safety and practicality.

There are also multiple road users, such as push chairs, mobility scooters, cyclists and pedestrians, all of whom need space to move about the road network safely. As housing density increases, there will also be more demand for space for kerbside collection bins, parking and people.

There are risks associated with having development (such as fences, garages or landscaping) on an encroachment. These include:

  • Insurance - many insurers won’t cover damage to land outside the property boundary.
  • Utilities have access as of right under central Government legislation so there is a risk that the land can be dug up.
  • Public access – everyone has the right to use road and other reserve land so theoretically, people can wander across an encroached area if they choose to.
  • If assets such as power boxes or bus shelters are placed at the edge of an encroachment, they may in the future be stranded when the land is reclaimed for public use, resulting in additional expense.
  • When public amenity improvements are considered, such as bus shelters or plantings, it may become necessary to place them in an encroached area.

What to do

We encourage property owners to check the legal boundary of their property and come and talk to us if they discover they have an encroachment.

When an encroachment is discovered, we have several methods for making sure the property owner is protected as well as meeting all their obligations. It is up to the property owner to choose which will work in their situation. Our staff can discuss these options to ensure you understand all the ramifications of each.

Leasing – the area can be leased to the property owner. A certificate of title is needed and the lease holder becomes responsible for the entire leased area. These are usually granted commercially rather than to private properties, as 100% responsibility is transferred to the lease holder.

Licencing – a property owner can apply for a licence to occupy the area. There are some fees associated with this option which are explained in the Road Encroachment Policy.

Road stopping – this is when the property owner buys the piece of land from the DCC. It is a legal process that involves considerable effort and cost, for both parties. We can explain the process in more detail if you decide this is the best option.

Removing any development on the encroached area – this may not seem palatable for some property owners, but it is an option to be considered if none of the others are viable.

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