Myths Around Subdivision (August 2016)

Myths around subdivision and land Information

In this day and age with information abounding 'on line' as well as down at the local cafe and bar it's hard to know what to believe.  I've recently been told a few interesting tales.  Like – the house is definitely built on the legal road because Council said it was.  In another case -  there is no problem with access because I've looked at Council's 'accurate' map and it shows that the road formation is not on private land.  In both cases they are simply wrong.

No, I'm not having a go at Council, it is just that considerable experience is needed when interpreting data on any map that combines information from various sources, as these systems do.  Some of the older survey information originates from survey record sheets that were digitised at a low accuracy back in the day and never ever actually intended for the use they are now being put to. 

Surveyors have the skill to look at this information objectively and can often make a quick judgement as to just how 'accurate' this information actually is.  Often, in recently developed urban areas, these maps are good quality but out in the rural areas the accuracy often falls away quickly.

As for subdivision, there are plenty of 'experts' on this subject too.  “The neighbour has done it and he says that I can do the same – all I need is for you to just come and put some pegs in so we can get the new titles”.  Yeah right!

Property owners, land agents, solicitors, farm advisers, accountants and many others have had some subdivision experience at times and may be prepared to offer some advice based on their experience.  Normally this advice is general and merely indicates that their client could look into the possibility and consult experts.  Whether the advice was intended this way or not, some will come in saying that one person or another has said that they 'can subdivide'.  This is a big call because I have many years of experience and most often I need to do considerable research before I can say that a subdivision is possible.

So what should you do if you are considering subdividing?  Many Council's now have clever web sites that offer information either relative to an individual property or the zone that your land sits in.  Visiting the web site and researching subdivision rules, or alternatively calling in and discussing your property with the Council duty planner will give you some clues - but be careful there as well.  I'm sure that, if they think subdivision is a possibility, they will say 'yes you can lodge an application for this but you should seek professional advice first'.  However, what many people hear is 'yes you can subdivide'.  If Council say that, ask for it in writing.

Subdivision is a very technical process involving firstly gaining resource consent approval following a detailed assessment against the District Plan, engineering investigation and a comprehensive assessment of environmental effects.  Then a legal survey needs to be carried out under very stringent regulations and data requirements for the government.  Title is only finally issued following the completion of many conditions of consent and financial contributions to Council.  Therefore, any 'yes' at the outset must be well qualified.

So, if you are contemplating any subdivision or changes to your boundaries and want to get the best value out of your land, rather than talk to a friend, call an experienced surveying company for specialist advice.  Feel free to give me a call and discuss your situation. 

Brent Trail, Managing Director of Surveying Services, specialises in resource consent applications for subdivisions across the Waikato, Bay of Plenty, and Coromandel.  For further information call 0800 268 632 or email


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