Buller District Council

Abandoned Land

What is Happening?

Council is taking the necessary steps so that Abandoned Land in Buller can be sold.

This will be completed in two stages. The abandoned land titles have been sorted into two groups.  The first group contains titles from the Charleston area and all other abandoned land titles make up the second group.

Abandoned land titles from Charleston make up approximately 75% of the total number of titles, so the first stage will address the majority of the titles.

Refer to the timeline on this webpage for more information about when Council anticipates the Charleston properties may be sold by tender.

Public Notice of Intention to Sell Abandoned Land (179Kb)


Council has abandoned land from which annual rates are not collected. When the land is sold to a new ratepayer rates can then be collected from that property.

Sale of abandoned land is subject to the provisions of the Local Government (Rating) Act 2002 (hereafter referred to as the Act).  In order to ensure adherence to the Act an abandoned land timeline has been developed which takes these statutory requirements into account.

Sale of abandoned land is also subject to a section of the Buller District Council Delegations Policy – the Rating Delegations.    This policy delegates the key decisions about selling abandoned land to the Chief Executive Officer.  This means that Councillors and Council staff have minimal input into the process of the sale of abandoned land.

Delegations and Law

Under the rating delegations section of the Buller District Council Financial delegations’ policy the Chief Executive Officer has authority to commence abandoned land procedures and has authority to sell abandoned land including setting the reserve price.

Those delegations are specific delegations for the abandoned land process,   set out in the Act.

The Act sets out specific timeframes and steps that Council must follow to correctly sell abandoned land.  This includes requirements that:

  • Council give one month public notice to have the land declared abandoned and the intent to sell the land prior to applying to the Court for authority;
  • All abandoned land sales must be by public auction or tender;
  • All abandoned sales may be subject to any terms or conditions that the local authority thinks appropriate, but it must place a reserve on the land.

Prior Abandoned Land Advertising

The sale of abandoned land throughout the District was advertised back in 2011, but the sale of that land was not completed.  Council resolved to shelve the project as market conditions precluded releasing a large amount of land onto the market at that time.

At that time the original advertisement was published signalling Council’s intent to have the court declare the land abandoned, there were a number of enquiries regarding parcels of land from descendants of the deceased owners.

These persons were advised at the time that they were required to follow a legal process to make claim on any land, but to date, no notification has been received at Council as to any commencement of any legal proceeding to claim any land parcels.

Despite the long timeframe, Council will make best efforts to contact those persons who have previously made enquiries regarding land when the next public notice to have the land declared abandoned is published.

Request to Gift Property

There has also been interest from various groups that some parcels of abandoned land should be “gifted” to the community for what would be deemed as a reserve, or for some other community project, but the process for the sale of abandoned land is clearly set out in the Act, with Section 79(1) stating “A sale or lease of abandoned land must be by public auction or public tender”.

The key point is Council does not own abandoned land.  Council can only facilitate the advertising and court processes for it to be sold.

Therefore, the process is fair and transparent.  Interested parties are able to participate in the tender or auction process should they decide to do so.

Charleston Abandoned Land Terms or Conditions of Sale

So far, in the Charleston area, there has been 46 titled parcels identified, although a number of these are only big enough as “tent sites” (which, more than likely, they were, in the halcyon days of the gold mining in the area).

As such, quite a few will need to be sold in groups, or limited to purchase only by an adjacent land owner where the land is too small to build on, or landlocked.  These terms and conditions will be part of the tender document, as Section 79(2) allows “A sale or lease is subject to any terms or conditions that the local authority think appropriate …”

The terms/conditions of each parcel of land will be approved by the Chief Executive Officer (as the delegated authority in the sale of abandoned land process).

Recovery of Outstanding Rates

It is proposed (as part of the tender process) that the successful tenderer for any of the lands will not be liable for rates until the rating year following the sale (hopefully, 1 July 2020), although Council is able to apply the proceeds from the sale to all costs associated with the “abandoned land” process (as set out in Sections 75-76 of the Act), including the outstanding rates, which would date back six years as at the time of sale.

Council is only able to recover six years rates arrears due to statutory limitations, these limitations are set out in the Limitations Act 2010.

Abandoned Land Timeline for Charleston Area Property

*The above dates are a guide, they are dependent upon the time the Court requires to process the documents.

Process Step Date Required
Preparatory work with regard to each parcel 31 May 2019
Prepare report for Council June meeting (this report) 18 June 2019
Advertisement regarding Council seeking Court Order to declare land abandoned 28 June 2019
Lodge court documents 31 July 2019
Receive Court Order 15 October 2019
Prepare tender document 15 December 2019
Advertisement for sale by tender advertising 20 January 2020  – 15 March 2020
Evaluate tenders & respond to all tenderers 15 March 2020
Settlement of tenders & finalise legalities of sales 15 May 2020
Ratepayer liable for rates 1 July 2020

What about Consideration of Tangata whenua?

There is no need to consult with Iwi on this matter.  After review it is confirmed none of the land that has been abandoned is Maori Land. Maori Land has special provision made it for it in the Act.

Tangata whenua may participate in the public tender or auction if they have interest in purchasing any of the land parcels.

Making a Claim on Abandoned Land

It is not likely that there are any surviving owners of the blocks of land being considered for sale as abandoned land.

However some descendants may be able to claim their right to land if they produce the necessary Court approved documentation.

If a person believes they have a claim on the land it is up to that person to resolve the Estate of the person listed on the Certificate of Title. If no Will can be located to address the administration of the Estate, an application needs to be made to the High Court registry nearest to where the deceased was living when he or she died.

If any person believes that they have a claim on any of the land listed it is recommended that they seek legal advice 

What are the costs and benefits for Council selling abandoned land?

Council has not asked ratepayers for more rates to pay for the sale of abandoned land.

The majority of the work required is being completed in-house under existing budgets.

Legal fees will be incurred and they will be deducted from the unbudgeted sale proceeds.

Depending on the successful tenders for Abandoned Land, Council may be able to newly rate somewhere in the vicinity of half of one percent of the value of the total general rates collected.  That would mean that, all things being equal, everyone in the District would pay a little less.


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