Online account payment
Wynn Williams are one of the New Zealand's pre-eminent law firms, with a significant depth and range of resources across many legal disciplines.
Search this website
Legal articles & publications
Client Toolkit - About AML
Health & safety at Wynn Williams
Doing Business in New Zealand
Investing in New Zealand
Hutt City Council v The Lower Hutt District Court  NZHC 706
Join our mailing list
By: Kirstie Wyss
Section 181(2) of the Local Government Act 2002 empowers territorial authorities to construct sewage and stormwater drainage works "
on or under private land
". This case was the first occasion the High Court has been required to interpret section 181(2) of the Act.
In 2006, a large landslide occurred on residential properties in Lower Hutt. The slip took out portions of two sewer pipes that were previously buried beneath the backyard of two of the properties. The Hutt City Council (the "Council") carried out emergency repairs to the sewer pipes, which involved suspending temporary sewer pipes through the airspace of the gully created by the slip. These sewer pipes are suspended for 10 metres at a height of approximately four metres above the floor of the gully. The pipes are attached by ground anchors, which are on private land.
The Council intended to replace the emergency pipes with permanent sewage pipes that would also be suspended above the gully. The question for the Court was whether section 181(2) permits the Council to suspend the sewage pipes
The Council argued that "
on or under
" private land, included above the ground where the pipes were supported by structures attached to the land. Justice Collins assessed the section as striving to achieve a "
careful balance of Council's powers with the rights of private property owners to enjoy their property, free from unreasonable interference
". His Honour found private property rights were supported by the purpose and context of section 181(2), in particular:
Works pursuant to s 181 of the Act must be necessary;
The requirement to obtain the landowner's consent, or follow a statutory procedure;
The Council's decision to carry out the works must be reasonable;
The Public Works Act 1981 provides an option for the Council if section 181(2) does not permit the works; and
Underlying policy values require the Courts not to curtail the rights of private land owners more than is required by the text and purpose of legislation.
Justice Collins concluded that section 181(2) did not authorise the Council to suspend sewage pipes above the land. This case provides a clear assertion of private property rights in the context of public works undertaken by local authorities pursuant the Local Government Act.
Download this article in PDF format
Back to the Legal Articles & Publications
Share this page via social media
Print this page
Share this page by e-mail
Share this page on social media:
Enter security code:
Wynn Williams Client Toolkit
Online account payment
This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with stylesheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so. The latest version of
will work best if you're after a new browser.