The Institute of Cadastral Surveying Incorporated v Land Information New Zealand

(High Court, CIV 2010-476-624, 13 June 2012, Chisholm J)

This was an unsuccessful originating application by The Institute of Cadastral Surveying Incorporated (the Institute) seeking a declaration as to what comprises the component parts of a Cadastral Survey Dataset and who is responsible or liable for each of those component parts..

Background

Land Information New Zealand (LINZ) assumed responsibility for the land transfer and survey systems of New Zealand in 1996.  The cadastral survey system was set up primarily to provide for the accurate identification of boundaries for land tenure purposes.  There was a need for precise and accurate survey definition of the parcels of land on which registered titles are based, which is fulfilled by cadastral surveys of the land.  The Cadastral Survey Act 2002 (the Act) was introduced to govern these surveys.

Discussion

The Institute was concerned about its members being required to provide certification under the Rules for Cadastral Survey 2010 (the Rules).  It argued that surveyors should not be responsible for non-spatial information (the provision of information by parties that the surveyor had no control over). It was also concerned about any modifications made by the LINZ software after the certification has occurred, for example, the cadastral survey dataset plan which is created by LINZ from both data supplied by members from the Institute and other data not supplied by the Institute.  The Institute members did not want to be liable for the compilation process.

LINZ argued that the primary purpose of the Act was to promote and maintain the accuracy of this data.  It argued that Parliament deliberately avoided specifying the component parts of the dataset due to needing the system to be flexible and non-prescriptive to accommodate changes in technology. They further argued that, a combination of the Act, the Rules and the Standard for the Integration and Provision of Cadastral Survey Data (the Standard) determine the scope of the survey data and the responsibilities of the professional who conduct cadastral surveys.

Findings

In looking at the issues raised in this application, the Court stated that the purpose and context of the Act did not provide any indication that Parliament intended the Courts to embark upon the type of exercise requested in this application.  The Act was passed with the electronic environment in mind and it could be inferred that the Act was to provide flexibility with respect to that environment.

The Court further stated that the role given under the statutory scheme to the Surveyor-General indicated that they have been entrusted with wide functions that directly impact upon cadastral surveyors.

The Court decided that it would be contrary to the statutory framework for the Court to attempt to determine the component parts of a cadastral survey dataset and to allocate responsibility for such component parts.  The application was accordingly dismissed.