Seaton v Minister for Land Information

[2013] NZSC 42

This was an appeal against a Court of Appeal decision in which a compulsory easement was granted over the appellant’s land for 3 electricity towers. The NZTA was undertaking a road-widening project and wanted to move 3 electricity towers owned by Orion NZ Ltd, a network utility operator onto the appellant’s land for safety reasons. The easement was to be granted under s 16(1) Public Works Act. The appellant submitted the proposed easements were not directly required for government work as required under s 16(1).

Decision

Elias CJ stated that if the required land was for required for government purposes, then there could be no issue that s 16(1) applied. However, Elias CJ considered that s 16 should be confined to what is “reasonably necessary” for government work. Chambers and Glazebrook JJ agreed and said that s 16 was tolerably clear in that land could be taken if it was reasonably required for government work. Since the Crown did not need the easements as they were not the ones who wanted to convey electricity, the work could not be for government purposes. As a result, the Supreme Court, by a majority, allowed the appeal.