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Tracking Down Information About Your Property

Originally Published in Nelson Marlborough Farming February  2011

Prior to 2001 Land Information New Zealand, the government agency tasked with maintaining  our land records, had offices in Hokitika, Nelson and Blenheim which provided a low cost and convenient service to land owners in our region. Since then the service has been “centralised” to Christchurch and the paper records (old plans, titles and the such) have been captured digitally in a system called landonline.  

The loss of  the government land information offices locally has meant that title and survey plans can only be obtained from those professionals who can access   Landonline, and your surveyor or lawyer is now often the best source of  current titles and survey plans. 

The loss of these local offices has, to a certain degree, been offset by the varied uses the spatial data that Land Information New Zealand has generated from the paper records can be put to. This data can be used to form the the basis of  GIS (geographic information systems) that are used in recording and supplying land information.  In recent times councils have adopted this GIS  technology with some enthusiasm and many have  made their GIS systems available to the public online for free. Available on council websites are aerial photographs, property and road  boundaries, information on services and an abundance of other data.

The West Coast councils seem to have been slow to adopt this technology  but Nelson/Tasman has a website www.topofthesouthmaps.co.nz, and Marlborough provides a service at gis.marlborough.govt.nz/DekhoPublic . While the detail on the aerial photographs is generally good  it can be patchy in some of the remote areas. 

For those who live in an areas such as the West Coast where the local councils have not made this data available online google earth ( earth.google.com ) has some basic aerial photographs with reasonable definition, but without the boundaries shown.

To professionals working in planning and surveying these GIS systems have become an essential tool however the maps and aerial photographs also have significant potential for use as a land management tool for the individual farmer. The resolution of many of these areal photographs are such that fences, crop pattens, watercourses,  buildings etc. can be identified, and areas and/or distances measured using the tools provided.

In years gone by the rural landowner to obtain this sort of information needed, at some cost, to purchase aerial photographs from an aerial photography company, or engage a surveyor,  now this information is available for free, in colour and instantaneously from the web.  For those without internet access Councils will provide printouts of the data for a nominal charge. 

Another use of  council GIS  is the ability to view the aerial photographs and the property boundaries at the same time giving an indication of where the actual boundaries are in relation to features on the ground.. The accuracy of this overlay is not always perfect and the boundary positions can only be regarded as indicative.

Where the position of the boundary is critical (for example when a fence, or building  is to be constructed) the exact boundary should be located on the ground from official survey marks, or a surveyor engaged if there is any doubt.

This article was prepared by John Cotton specialized in rural surveys.

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