Encroachment Changes

8 June 2010

If you have an encroachment licence to use road reserve land in Wellington for private purposes, like parking and gardens, you might want to have a look at the proposed changes to the Council's encroachment policy, which are the subject of public consultation from today.

A garage on an encroachment on road reserve

A garage on an encroachment on road reserve

The consultation is in two parts - one looks at our fees, the other at changes to our existing policy - including the definition of structures and the criteria used to decide whether to approve a licence application.

About 6,000 Wellington residents and business owners currently have encroachment licences - mostly for private garages or car decks on road reserve land, or where they are using portions of this land to expand the size of their properties, or where they have a balcony overhanging a public footpath (usually in the central business district).

Many pay rental fees on a yearly basis for making private use of this public land.

Council Principal Policy Advisor Bryan Smith says at the moment, encroachment licence holders pay the same flat rate ($11.25 per square metre) regardless of the value of the land.

"Our review has found that a 'one size fits all' approach is unfair to some property owners."

The consultation outlines three options for setting fees:

  • leaving it as it is - a flat rate per square metre
  • differentiated fees - where the rate per square metre is in proportion to land values in the area, say by suburb
  • individual valuations of each encroachment
  • licence.

If agreed, the preferred option would remove the inequities between homeowners citywide. Residents in some areas of the city would be expected to pay less for their licences. At the same time, suburbs with a higher market value would be likely to see an increase in their encroachment fees.

Bryan says the preferred option is setting fees in proportion to land values in a given area. "This option balances simplicity with a system that is fair to property owners in different areas. Individual valuations would mean legal and valuation costs for every property owner and expensive administrative work for us."

The review also recommended changes to the way fees are calculated when road reserve land is fenced or hedged to the exclusion of the public.

Another finding was that buyers of apartments with balconies over public roads are sometimes not being advised of the rental fees they may face.

"This means when they receive their first lease bill from the Council, it's a surprise. We'd like to change the rules so this doesn't happen any more. When new apartment blocks are being developed, we would assess the value of any proposed encroachment and charge a one-off fee that covers the life of the encroachment."

We also want to make it easier for private landowners to buy road-reserve land where it's clear this land will not be required for public uses in the future. We will be asking the Government to review the rules that frustrate the sale process.

We're looking for feedback on the proposed changes to the Road Encroachment and Sale Policy by 5.00pm Thursday 8 July. The draft policy will be considered by Councillors in August. You can find a copy of the consultation document either in the Public Input section on this website or ask for one at our Service Centre on Wakefield Street. You can also phone (04) 499 4444 to have a copy posted to you.