Historic land records

New Zealand’s survey and land registration systems have changed several times since 1840. This page discusses the older types of land record held by Toitū Te Whenua and elsewhere.

New Zealand’s survey and land registration systems have changed several times since 1840. Our historical land records are held in 3 forms:

  • Original paper records are mostly held by Archives New Zealand as part of the public archive. Paper records that are still needed for business use are held by Toitū Te Whenua. We also hold all records relating to the survey cadastre.
  • Microfilm aperture cards covering a variety of records are held by the 12 land registration districts. A full national set is held by Toitū Te Whenua in Wellington.
  • Digital records are held in our Landonline system. Many older records have been digitised, and updates to land records are now registered electronically.

The lists below summarise which of our older land records are held by Toitū Te Whenua, and which are held by Archives New Zealand. Some types of records are stored partly at one agency, and partly at the other. The historical actions of the different land registration offices can determine who holds what records.

Record sets are stored as close as possible to their land registration district (see map). They can be accessed through a Toitū Te Whenua office, or through a branch of Archives New Zealand.

You can usually order a copy through Toitū Te Whenua.

Search for a record

The Archives New Zealand collections search lists all records they hold, and lets you arrange to view records in person.

Archives New Zealand collections search

Some records held by Archives New Zealand, such as surveyors’ field books, have been published on our Field Books website.


Note about the word ‘historic’

In land records, the word ‘historic’ can just mean that the records are old. There are also technical uses – a historic record of title is shows all records registered or noted since the title was first issued, whether these are current or not. Historical instruments are instruments that are no longer current. The land records system makes a distinction between ‘current’ and ‘historic’, even if the historical instrument was only registered last week.

On this page:

Where records are held

Held by Toitū Te Whenua Held by Archives NZ
All records detailing the cadastre  
Survey plans, except for roll plans Roll plans – larger, older plans of many types
Field books after 1971 and all South Island books, in paper or digital form Field books before 1971 and all North Island books
Traverse records/sheets
All current title records and the few remaining deeds that are current A full national set of Crown grants
  All original deed indexes and registers
Copies of the original deeds that were recorded in the indexes and registers  
Some original Abstracts and Journals, which record documents lodged in the title system Some original Abstracts and some of the earlier sequences of Journals
Some other volumes documenting title and surveying activities Some other volumes documenting title and surveying activities
Some Crown property paper files Some Crown property paper files

Records relating to land ownership

Abstract/lodgement form

List of documents lodged against a particular title. Historically, land registration districts recorded lodgement in different ways. See also ‘Journal’.

View an abstract/lodgement sample

Crown grants

Records of grants of Crown land to individuals, dating back to 1840. Crown grants are now held at Archives New Zealand.

View a Crown grants sample

Crown records

Records of the purchase or disposal of land by the Crown, excluding the core title and survey records.

See our Crown property section


Deeds were used to record most property ownership in New Zealand before the land titles system. The significant record showing property ownership is the notation in a deeds register. See also ‘Registers and indexes’ and ‘Plans (deeds plans)’. All deed registers and indexes are now held at Archives New Zealand.

View a deed sample

Instruments (documents)

More recent land records include ‘instruments’, the legal documents dealing with sale and ownership of land that are registered on the title. The most common instruments are transfers, mortgages, discharges of mortgage, easements, covenants, leases, caveats and transmissions.


A journal is a list of documents lodged against a particular title at a particular office. Historically, land registration districts recorded lodgement in different ways. See also ‘Abstract'.

View a journal sample

Provisional registers / qualified records of title

These recorded interim titles issued for land held under the jurisdiction of the Māori Land Court.

See 'Searching for Māori land records

The Land Transfer Act 2017 replaced the provisional register with qualified records of title. All land, estates, interests or other matters registered or noted on the provisional register before the introduction of the Land Transfer Act 2017 are treated as if a qualified record of title had been created.

Provisional registers for North Auckland, South Auckland and Taranaki have been digitised. These are available from Toitū Te Whenua.

Registers and indexes

Registers were used to record information such as the receipt of a document or plan. Different land districts used a range of registers, such as block registers (or cadastral record maps), field book registers, parish registers, plan registers, reserves registers, section registers, and survey district registers.

Indexes provide cross-references between registers and other records. They can be in text or map form, and either paper-based or electronic. Toitū Te Whenua’s primary index is Landonline, which replaced the Land Titles System and the Survey Data Index. Other index types include deeds indexes, section indexes, tenure indexes, statutory action index, index to places and streets, and each title (which themselves contain abstract or document numbers).


Warrants are a title to Crown land issued by the Governor-General, without the need for a new title to be issued. These are now held at Archives New Zealand.

Records relating to survey

Field book/notes

Field books and field notes are detailed records of field measurements made by surveyors. These include some of New Zealand’s earliest survey records.

View a field book sample

Legalisation cards

These record statutory actions against parcels on survey plans.

Plans (deeds plans)

Deeds plans support the deeds records by showing land areas that have been divided up by particular deeds.

Plans (SO, DP, ML)

These are the plans deposited as legal representations of land in the title system. They are organised in sequences, including Survey Office (SO), Deposited Plan (DP) and Māori Land (ML). Some of these (often the older ones) are filed as ‘roll plans’, and are held at Archives New Zealand.

Plan registers

Plan registers recorded all plans as they were lodged in a particular land registry. See also ‘Registers and indexes’.

Traverse record/sheet

Traverse records and sheets are surveyors’ technical records. They show how the survey was completed, with lists of survey mark names, vectors between marks, and coordinates of these marks.

View a traverse record sample

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