One of the most popular topics of conversation anywhere, and arguably the one with the most far reaching appeal, is real estate. Most folk have at least a passing interest in it at some level, and a great many have amazing property yarns that they’re fair busting to talk about. Talking real estate is also a great way to draw a line between the good real estate agents in your area, and the dodgy ones. Along the way, one finds opportunities to fine tune one’s estimate of what one’s own home is worth.
Consequently, here’s a wide range of stories connected, albeit a little loosely in some cases, with real estate. The collection starts in 2005, and often a rural focus is clearly visible. Many of the earlier pieces were published in New Zealand’s leading rural publication at the time, Straight Furrow.
Paper Roads – Read ‘em or Ride ‘em?
Paper roads have been with us for over a hundred years, but have recently been thrust under the limelight on account of the recent attempt to give the public right-of-way across private land, to access waterways.
Paper roads derive their name from the fact that they really only exist on paper, or in theory. They appear all around New Zealand, and are the result of previous local authorities making provision for settlements to be created in the future. In most cases there is nothing tangible to indicate where the road may be, and its exact location can only be revealed by a surveyor on site. The land that they occupy remains the property of the local authority, but very often the past or present owner of the land they traverse, oblivious to their exact location (or even to their existence in some cases) has built permanent structures on the “road” such as houses, milking sheds, dams, barns etc. More often than not there was no attempt to plot paper roads in geographically logical positions, and in many cases the topography of the land, or the existence of natural features such as slopes, gullies and rivers meant that it would be impractical to contemplate actually building a road in the position it was marked on the map. This reflects the purely theoretical nature of paper roads.
Nevertheless, they are technically the property of the local authority and the general public are within their rights to access them. In many cases this is irrelevant, as a great many paper roads don’t actually go anywhere that anybody has a reason to visit.
An interesting example exists around the Fonterra cheese factory near Lichfield, between Putaruru and Tokoroa. In the early twentieth century it was thought that this area would be ideal for a large settlement and hence a substantial grid of roads was mapped out sufficient to build another Christchurch. Nothing of that size ever eventuated and today many properties in the area play host to the network of paper roads.
More often than not the existence of paper roads on a property has little or no practical impact but can provide a certain level of nuisance value at sale time, if a canny purchaser decides to try and use them to bargain the price downwards. In some cases local authorities have made suggestions about selling the paper roads to the owner of the property they traverse. Most owners see this as a futile exercise, since land of the configuration of paper roads is of no use to the local authority. Some local authorities may regard the process as a potential revenue stream. Perhaps in a future perfectly logical world, paper roads will be offered to the surrounding landowner gratis or a nominal $1 purchase price.
Where paper roads create genuine problems, some landowners have had success negotiating with the local authority to effect what is known as ‘closure of roadway’.
The “long acre” scenario bears a resemblance to the paper road situation. The local authority owns the land alongside formed public roadways and the strip is generally considerably wider than the road itself. This is done in case the road needs to be widened in the future. It is technically the responsibility of that local authority to maintain this land, but this is obviously a labour-intensive and fruitless exercise as the land is of no use to the local authority until the day the road needs to be widened. The land is, however, of use to the local farmer for grazing so in a beautifully harmonious relationship the farmer maintains the land (by grazing it) and leaves only the grass berme between the bitumen and his fencing, effectively increasing the size of his acreage. Hence the name “long acre”.
Paper roads are a quaint relic of a bygone era. Nowadays developers have the responsibility of creating the roads that lead to and around their developments and titles are not issued until the roads have been physically created. If you have a situation requiring legal advice in regard to a paper road issue, a specialist in this area is Tim Kinder, Solicitor, P O Box 62, Putaruru.