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David Parker : Developing Sustainable Societies

Hon David Parker
Minister for Land Information

30 October 2007

Speech notes

Developing sustainable societies
Address to the 9th annual South-East Asian Survey Congress
9.40am, 30 October, Christchurch Conference Centre


Good morning and welcome to the 9th South-East Asian Survey Congress.
This Congress hosted by the New Zealand Institute of Surveyors is one of the largest and most prestigious conferences of surveying professionals ever held in New Zealand.

Thank you for making the effort to attend. You have come from throughout New Zealand, Australia, South-East Asia, Africa, the Caribbean and Europe. I am delighted to have been asked to open this important event and I congratulate the New Zealand Institute of Surveyors for organising it.


‘Developing Sustainable Societies’ is the theme of this Congress and you will be examining the fundamental principles of sustainability in land development.
This involves managing developments in a way that improves quality of life through better social, environmental and economic outcomes now and in the future.

Although New Zealand has a reputation internationally for pristine wilderness areas, unique native forests and stunning expansive landscapes, we know that we are going to have to work hard to keep our waterways and skies clean, and to maintain our biodiversity.

The New Zealand government has placed sustainability high on the political agenda. We are implementing a range of long term sustainable strategies for our economy, society, environment, culture and way of life. I’m proud to say that we are providing strong leadership and sound policies to ensure these strategies deliver real benefits.

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Changing Land Use and Land Rights

The intensity of land use continues to increase. Residential areas are becoming more densely developed than with increasing site coverage and less private open space. Public and private land in desirable recreational areas such as on the coast and near lakes is facing more development pressure.

Land use is also becoming more complex, with different types of interacting rights and a greater need for shared ownership rights, easements and covenants.

Surveyors play a vital role in the delineation of property rights by providing certainty of spatial definition which underpins the certainty of tenure.

High quality land information ensures that individuals and businesses can have confidence and certainty in a property rights system. Private property rights are a deeply-rooted part of our society and a prerequisite to economic investment, which in turn underpins progressive social policy. But public property rights matter too.

Private and Public Rights

The delineation between private property rights and public rights is being drawn more sharply. For example: the distinction between private property rights to land use, and the rights of the public not to have the environment polluted by that land use.

An illustration of the tension between public and private rights in New Zealand occurs around marginal strips. These are the 20-metre strips of land alongside certain waterways which are retained by the Crown, when it sells land. They are one of the ways by which we ensure public access to the nation's rivers, lakes and foreshore. Accurately defining marginal strips is essential in balancing the private rights of the property owner of the surrounding land with the right of the public to access the waterway.

Similarly, unformed legal roads, which give public rights of access to rivers, lakes, public and conservation lands, were recently recommended for more active protection by the Walking Access Board.

Sustainability and surveying

One of the ways New Zealand is moving towards sustainability is by tackling climate change. We need to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and one of the ways that we can do this is by moving to clean, renewable sources of energy and developing an emissions trading system.

You might be wondering how this relates to the surveying profession. It comes down to the accurate definition of property rights boundaries. For example under an emissions trading system it will be vital to be able to accurately identify and record the areas of forest that generate carbon credits. This will enable the owners of the various property rights (the land, the forest and the devolved carbon credits and liabilities) as well as the government to be clear on the specific boundaries of the property rights thus avoiding disputes.

Similarly, wind farms offer a good clean source of energy - but again there is need for accurate definition of property rights. After building the turbines for a wind farm, the remainder of the land can continue to be used for agricultural purposes – but there will be a need for continuing rights of access to the turbines for maintenance and so on.

As surveying professionals it is obviously important that you define the boundaries of property rights correctly, as well as meeting the needs of your clients and earning an income. But you also need to play your part in developing sustainable societies by promoting sustainable land use. New rural and urban land developments need to address land use, public and private property rights and the environmental challenges that development intensification and population increases create.

Technology and electronic surveying

The development and use of new technologies will be a critical part of achieving sustainable societies. New Zealand is a world leader in using technology in survey systems. The recent successful move to 100 percent electronic lodgement, processing and approval of cadastral surveys is a first for any country in the world. It is the biggest change in the cadastral survey system in a long time. Survey transactions are now approved at least twice as quickly.

The smooth introduction of 100 percent e-survey last month is a credit to the combined efforts of the New Zealand surveying profession and my officials in Land Information New Zealand.

International cooperation

New Zealand surveyors appreciate the opportunity to share knowledge and experiences with their international colleagues, and to work internationally.

New Zealand surveyors have a high profile internationally. For example, New Zealand contributed to the Iraq/Kuwait border survey that took place in difficult circumstances in the mid 1990s. The demarcation of this border has so far stood the test of time.

New Zealand also has a proud heritage of being involved in building international infrastructure such as the Hong Kong airport, and has worked with the UN and the World Bank to assist developing countries set up systems that provide for tradable interests and rights in land.

And New Zealand-trained survey students are held in high esteem overseas, with many New Zealand-trained surveyors working abroad. We also have much to learn from overseas practice, and I’m sure the wisdom and experience of surveyors visiting from overseas will leave its mark.


This Congress brings together local, regional and global surveying professionals to explore, consider and debate the difficult subject of balancing commercial realities with the need to achieve positive environmental outcomes.

I wish you well in your deliberations. Your profession has an important contribution to make to the development of sustainable societies. I hope you enjoy your time here and for those of you not from New Zealand, let alone from Christchurch, I encourage you to take the opportunity to see some of the sights the city has to offer.


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