Originally Published in Nelson Marlborough Farming November 2010
We sometimes have clients contact us who are having various problems with a paper road A paper (or unformed road) refers to land that has the status of legal road, but has not been formed or maintained by the local council. There a number of paper roads around New Zealand and many of these roads were laid out in the late 19th or early 20th century and have never been used for access.
Generally speaking the right of public access to these legal, but never formed roads, is the same as for a formed road. Usually these legal roads are farmed by adjoining landowners with or without a formal agreement with the local Authority . The rules do vary from one council to another so it pays to contact your local one to clarify. There are a number of situations where unformed roads are being used by adjoining land owners unbeknown to council and it may be a case of what council does not know won't hurt them.
Since the existence of these roads are often not known by the public, or there their exact location isunclear, historically they have not been a significant problem to many land owners. Although this anonymity does provide some sense of security to properties adjoining paper roads, there has been a recent move towards publicising the encouraging the public to utilise them. These potential users include hikers , mountain bikers, four wheel drive clubs, etc.
Such paper roads can be a source of conflict to farmers where members of the public are aware of their location and choose to exercise their right of access.
Landowners with concerns over a paper road should initially investigate the status of the road through a surveyor or search agent, and possibly identify its location through aerial photographs or a physical on site survey.
Closing A Paper Road
One option is to apply to close the road (technically known as a road stopping) and to purchase the stopped road from council. Although the stopping of a legal road can be bit of a drama , many rural land owners will choose to go through the process where the ownership of the road is critical in terms of security, effective farm management, or where buildings or other infrastructure encroach into to the paper road
The majority of the paper roads in New Zealand are controlled by local Authorities, and the stopping of them can be done either under the Local Government Act 1974 or the Public Works Act.1981 If it is done under the Local Government Act it is subject to public notification and possible objection by parties who feel adversely affected or otherwise aggrieved by the road stopping.
The first step in this process is to make an application to your local council to see if they are willing to part with the road. You can do this yourself or get someone knowledgeable about the process such a land surveyor surveyor to assist. The council will consider issues such as the need for public and private access, the requirements of network operators and future roading plans in deciding whether the road is surplus to requirements.
If council agrees to undertake the stopping of the road, all costs such as legal, surveying and valuation are generally met by the person acquiring the stopped road as well as the cost of the land purchase.
This article was prepared by John Cotton specialized in rural surveys.