Reading and Interpreting Titles

This note has been updated for 2017 and 2020 amendments but not updated for best practice. 

This note has not been updated for any RMA amendments arising out of the Natural Built Environment Act and Spatial Planning Act.

Titles (Computer Registers)

Most privately owned land in New Zealand is held under the land title system of the Land Transfer Act 1952, with an exception being some forms of Maori land. All property rights are derived from the Crown, and title to land in private ownership is a matter of public record. A title is the official document showing ownership of the land described in it, and the rights and restrictions that apply to the land. Titles have replaced paper certificates of titles (CTs) since 2002. 

Land Information New Zealand (LINZ) is responsible for all land transfers and for keeping title records. LINZ holds titles electronically in Landonline, available for public search. 

The system of registration of title to land in New Zealand is known as the Torrens system or the land transfer system. A parcel of land under the land transfer system has an individual title setting out: 

  • the title reference or 'identifier' and any prior title references 

  • the name of the registered proprietor and ownership history 

  • the legal description of the land, e.g. Lot 1 DP 456789 

  • the date the title was issued 

  • the land registration district 

  • the nature of the estate (e.g. an estate in fee simple) 

  • a note of any encumbrances, restrictions and interests to which the land is subject (e.g. mortgages, easements) 

  • a plan of the land, either drawn on it or attached to it. 

Titles are based on survey plans, which are the record of ground marking (the 'monumentation' of the boundaries). Survey plans are carried out by licensed cadastral surveyors. Unless the titles are 'limited as to parcels', the Crown guarantees the area and dimensions on the title.