The land transfer system

From the 1840s New Zealand’s land records were managed under a paper system. Since 2002, the titles, survey plans and related documents have been held in an electronic database called Landonline.

While Landonline stores our property records, the accuracy of title transactions depends on precise information about the land’s features and boundaries. New Zealand’s geodetic system provides the underlying measurements.

The records of property location and related information, such as the boundary dimensions, are together called the ‘cadastre’ and are shown in cadastral survey plans. See Surveying.

Land registration is governed by the Land Transfer Act 1952, and the Land Transfer Regulations 2002. A review of this legislation began in 2010.

The Registrar-General of Land, based within LINZ, develops standards and sets an audit and assurance programme for the land registration system.

Land registration districts

The Land Transfer Act 1952 divides New Zealand into 12 land registration districts.

All land records are organised according to those districts, so if you're ordering a copy of a record you’ll need to know  the district in which the property is located.

You can view and download more detailed maps, including maps of land district boundaries, through the LINZ Data Service.

Land Districts

History and principles of land registration

The deeds system recorded  property ownership in New Zealand before the land titles system. 

The current land transfer registration system (“torrens”) replaced the deeds system in 1870. 

Use of this system is compulsory - no legal interest in land may be created except by registration under the Land Transfer Act 1952.

The principles underpinning the current land registration system are:

  1. Mirror principle – the register accurately and completely mirrors the state of title.
  2. Curtain principle – purchasers of land should not concern themselves with trusts and other interests lying behind the curtain of the register. The exception is that some public trusts (s129 LTA 1952) can appear on titles.
  3. Insurance principle – this provides state guarantee to the title and the interests registered within and provides for losses incurred as a result of errors in the registry.

Indefeasibility is a core concept of the land transfer system. It protects the registered proprietor against claims of a competing owner, and against encumbrances, estates and interests not appearing on the register. This system is supported by the state guarantee as to the accuracy of the registered rights. Indefeasibility can be defeated if it can be proven that fraudulent activity has been carried out by the proprietors in obtaining the title.

How land title registration works

Conveyancers lodge legal documents with us to record any changes made to titles, such as transfers of ownership, discharges of mortgage and new mortgages. We record the transaction in the title record for that land.

The Registrar-General of Land develops standards and sets an assurance programme for the land rights registration system.

How land subdivision works

Before a housing or commercial subdivision can be sold or developed, surveyors produce a cadastral survey plan. Survey plans show a property's legal boundaries, areas and dimensions.

The local authority certifies the plan to verify that it meets subdivision requirements, for example roading and drainage services.

The surveyor lodges the survey plan with us for approval and we deposit the survey plan as a legal document, cancel the existing title and issue a new title record for each new piece of land shown on the deposited plan.

Want to order a copy of a title or another type of record?

Find out about historic and current land records

Order a title

Last Updated: 30 November 2015