Fencing a cause of conflict

Putting up a fence or knocking one down can be a delicate subject between neighbours.

A free legal seminar held by the Marlborough Community Law Centre in Blenheim yesterday offered guidance on the right way to go about it.

The legal definition of a fence, property boundaries and where to put a fence were among topics covered by Stephanie Moses from the centre.

The 1978 Fencing Act sets out the responsibilities of having a fence.

"It's often an area that causes a lot of conflict among neighbours," Mrs Moses said.

"A fence is a barrier with or without gaps. It includes gates, culverts, hedges and ditches, and can be used for privacy, and to keep out animals and keep children safe."

A fence normally followed the boundary of a property, which was fixed by a survey when the land was first subdivided, Mrs Moses said.

People had to make sure the boundary was in the correct place, otherwise they needed to speak to a lawyer about getting the land resurveyed.

A fence on a boundary was jointly owned by the owners of the land on either side of it. This meant both parties were jointly liable for the cost of putting up and maintaining the fence unless one party damaged it.

"A fence must be ‘adequate' or reasonably satisfactory for its purpose," Mrs Moses said.

"Nobody has to pay for an unnecessarily expensive fence."

Neighbours only had to share the expense for a basic fence.

If a party refused to pay, a fencing notice could be issued before work on the fence started.

"You can apply to have fences removed if the fence is injuriously affecting the land or causes any undue obstruction of view," Mrs Moses said. The removal costs usually fell to the "remover".

A fencing notice had to include the boundary to be fenced, fence type, who would build it, the total cost, and the start date for work. The neighbours then had 21 days to issue a cross-notice if they disagreed with the proposal.

Mrs Moses encouraged people to discuss their proposal with neighbours before issuing a fencing notice. They would have to wait for the possible cross-notice before building the fence.

If the parties could not reach an agreement, the matter could be taken further, through mediation, arbitration, the Disputes Tribunal or the District Court.

The Marlborough Community Law series is being held daily at the Trust Bank community rooms in Alfred St, Blenheim, from 12.10pm to 12.50pm, Monday-Thursday. For more information, call 0800 266 529 or email reception@commlawmarlb.org.nz

The Marlborough Express