Reprint as at 13 September 2014

Public Works Act 1981

Public Act1981 No 35
Date of assent3 October 1981
Commencementsee section 1(2)


Changes authorised by subpart 2 of Part 2 of the Legislation Act 2012 have been made in this official reprint.

Note 4 at the end of this reprint provides a list of the amendments incorporated.

This Act is administered by the Ministry for Primary Industries (Part 19) and Land Information New Zealand.



1 Short Title and commencement


2 Interpretation

3 Power to declare specific public work to be essential work [Repealed]

4 Service and content of notices

4A Powers of Minister of Lands

4B Execution of contracts for public works, etc

4C Delegation of Minister's powers

Part 1
Establishment and functions of Ministry of Works and Development


5 Ministry of Works and Development [Repealed]

6 Functions of Ministry [Repealed]

7 Powers of Minister [Repealed]

8 Other powers and functions not affected [Repealed]

9 Execution of contracts for Government works, etc [Repealed]

10 Annual report [Repealed]

11 Committees [Repealed]

12 Commissioner of Works and Assistant Commissioners of Works [Repealed]

13 Other officers and employees of Ministry [Repealed]

14 Delegation of Minister's powers [Repealed]

15 Delegation of powers by Commissioner of Works [Repealed]

Part 2
Acquisition of land for public works

15A Interpretation

16 Empowering acquisition of land

Acquisition by agreement

17 Acquisition by agreement

18 Prior negotiations required for acquisition of land for essential works

19 Compensation certificate may be registered to protect agreement

20 Declaration may give effect to agreement

21 Land may be purchased or improved for granting as compensation

Compulsory acquisition of land

22 Only land required for essential works may be compulsorily taken [Repealed]

23 Notice of intention to take land

24 Objection to be heard by Environment Court

25 Environment Judge may conduct inquiry alone by agreement

26 When Proclamation may issue

27 Natural material on land may be acquired or taken for public work

Extending estates in land that may be acquired or taken

28 Particular estates in land may be acquired or taken

29 Acquisition of certain public land

30 Subsisting licence may be acquired or taken for public work

31 Surface, subsoil, or air space may be acquired separately

Miscellaneous provisions

32 Survey and plan not required in certain cases

33 Protective fences to be made before boundary fences removed

34 Owner may require severed land to be taken

35 Acquisition or taking of land not to operate as merger of interests

Defining middle line of road or railway

36 Procedures for defining middle line [Repealed]

36A Transitional procedures for defining middle line

37 Land affected by middle line notice may be taken by Proclamation [Repealed]

38 Middle line notice to lapse after certain period [Repealed]

39 Registration of middle line notice may be cancelled [Repealed]

Part 3
Dealing with land held for public works

39A Interpretation

40 Disposal to former owner of land not required for public work

41 Disposal of former Maori land when no longer required

42 Disposal in other cases of land not required for public work

42A Solatium payment for loss of opportunity to purchase

42B Notice of right to apply for solatium payment

43 Land may be sold on deferred payments

44 Application of purchase money

45 Land held for public work may be leased, etc

46 Sale and removal of timber and coal from land held for public work

47 Issue of certificates of title to land held for public work

48 Easement may be granted over land held for public work

49 Dealing with strata

50 Transfer of existing public works

51 Prohibiting acquisition of rights by adverse user of land held for public work

52 Setting apart Crown land, public reserve, etc, for public work

Part 4
Gazetting, revocation, amendment, and registration of documents

52A Interpretation

53 Proclamations and declarations not to take effect until gazetted

54 Revocation of Proclamation or declaration taking land

55 Amending or revoking documents

56 Minor misdescription not to invalidate documents

57 Plan and Proclamation or declaration to be registered

58 Proclamation or declaration not registrable to be lodged with Chief Surveyor

Part 5


59 Interpretation


60 Basic entitlement to compensation

61 Exceptions to right to compensation

62 Assessment of compensation

63 Compensation for injurious affection where no land taken

64 Compensation for injurious affection to be assessed by reference to whole work

65 Compensation for land for which no general demand exists

66 Disturbance payments

67 Compensation for loss on repayment of mortgage

68 Compensation for business loss

69 Offer of compensation when entry made

70 Offer of compensation when land taken

71 Claimant's acts making execution of work more costly

Additional compensation

72 Additional compensation for acquisition of notified dwelling

73 Assistance to purchase dwelling

74 Assistance to purchase farm, commercial, or industrial property

75 Compensation for tenants of residential and business premises

76 Refund of expenses where acquisition of land abandoned

The claim

77 By whom compensation may be claimed

78 Limitation of time for claiming compensation

79 Minister or local authority may take proceedings to determine compensation if person entitled fails to make claim

80 Accelerating hearing of compensation claims

81 Public Trust may be ordered to represent infants, absentee owners, etc

82 Particulars to be inserted in claim

83 Serving of claims

84 Filing claims in District Court

85 Tribunal may require claimant or respondent to state particulars

86 Third party notice

87 Amendment of claim

The award

88 Award to be in writing

89 Separate sums to be awarded for items of claim

90 Costs in claims for compensation

91 Costs may be deducted from compensation awarded

92 Costs in claims beyond jurisdiction of Land Valuation Tribunal

93 Costs in claims withdrawn or abandoned

94 Interest on compensation money

95 Finality of award and enforcement

96 When title doubtful compensation, etc, to be paid to Public Trust

97 Compensation in case of limited interests, etc

98 Public Trust may invest compensation money

99 Mortgaged land

100 Land subject to rent charge

101 Land on which rent payable

102 Funds from which compensation to be paid

Part 6
Grants of land, etc, in lieu of compensation

103 Minister or local authority may grant easements, etc, in lieu of compensation

104 Tribunal may award easements as compensation

105 Granting of land as compensation where equivalent land not readily available

106 Granting of land as compensation in other cases

107 Provisions relating to grants of land in exchange

107A Grant of lease or licence as compensation

108 Execution of certificates

109 Execution of certificates on behalf of local authority

Part 7
Surveys and investigations

109A Interpretation

110 Powers of entry for certain survey purposes

111 Powers of entry for other survey and investigation purposes

111A Powers of entry for survey and investigation purposes other than by Minister or local authority

112 Offence to destroy survey marks

Part 8
Legalisation, stopping, and exchanging of roads

113 Interpretation

114 Declaring land to be road

115 Certificate of consent may be registered

116 Stopping roads

117 Dealing with stopped roads

118 Application of other Acts to stopped roads

119 Taking severances

120 Registration

Part 9

121 Interpretation [Repealed]

122 Certain roads vested in Crown [Repealed]

123 Provisions relating to construction of motorways to apply to roads constructed pursuant to middle line [Repealed]

124 Minister may make roads and declare Government or district roads [Repealed]

125 Roads in areas where no territorial authority exists, etc [Repealed]

126 Powers of Minister over roads under his control [Repealed]

127 Powers of Minister in regard to swing gates and cattlestops on roads [Repealed]

Damage to and nuisances on roads

128 Owner or occupier of land not to cause damage to bridge by removal of stone, etc [Repealed]

129 Penalties for damage to roads, bridges, etc [Repealed]

130 Notice to be given of local authority works [Repealed]

131 Poles, etc, on roads to be adjacent to boundaries [Repealed]

132 Removal of roadside structures [Repealed]

133 Removal of trees, hedges, etc, that obscure visibility or interfere with a public work

134 Service of notice

135 Emergency work on trees, etc

Part 10
Access ways and service lanes


136 Minister may construct access ways and service lanes [Repealed]

137 Control and management may be vested in Council [Repealed]

Part 11


137A Interpretation [Repealed]

138 Governor-General may authorise and declare motorways [Repealed]

139 Middle line procedures [Repealed]

140 Power to make motorways [Repealed]

141 Land may be temporarily occupied [Repealed]

142 Compensation where road interfered with or wholly closed [Repealed]

143 Access to land cut off from road or separated by motorway [Repealed]

144 Alterations to roads, drains, etc [Repealed]

145 Restrictions on poles, etc, on motorways [Repealed]

146 Availability for traffic [Repealed]

147 Maintenance and control of motorways [Repealed]

148 Restrictions on use of motorways [Repealed]

148A Vehicles which may be operated on motorways [Repealed]

148B Restrictions on access to motorways [Repealed]

149 Construction of buildings and facilities on, over, under, or adjacent to motorways [Repealed]

150 Motorway deemed to be road [Repealed]

151 Application of Impounding Act 1955 [Repealed]

152 Offences [Repealed]

Part 12
Limited access roads


152A Interpretation [Repealed]

153 Creation and revocation of limited access roads [Repealed]

154 Provisions of Acts relating to roads to apply to limited access roads [Repealed]

155 Access to and from land [Repealed]

156 Authorisation of crossing places [Repealed]

157 Restricting movement to or from a limited access road [Repealed]

158 Limited access road not a road for certain purposes [Repealed]

159 Requirements relating to declaration of limited access road [Repealed]

160 Certificate of land affected to be forwarded to District Land Registrar [Repealed]

161 Administration of limited access roads [Repealed]

162 Offences [Repealed]

163 Compensation [Repealed]

Part 13

163A Interpretation

164 Railways to be authorised by Order in Council [Repealed]

165 Presumption as to area of Crown land or reserves used for railway, revesting of land not used, etc

166 Power to make railways, railway stations, etc

167 Rights of way where railway along or across road on level [Repealed]

168 Compensation where road interfered with or wholly closed

169 Access to land cut off from road or separated by railway

170 Alterations to roads, drains, etc

171 Agreement as to use of railway bridge for combined traffic [Repealed]

172 Right of way on joint railway and common bridges [Repealed]

173 Land may be temporarily occupied

174 Application of Impounding Act 1955

Part 14
Railways and tramways regulation and inspection

New Zealand Railways Corporation railways

175 Inspection of railways

Local railways and tramways

176 Interpretation

177 General Manager to be appointed for every local railway

178 Appointment of Inspector

179 Notice of intended opening

180 Minister may postpone opening or working of local railway

181 Notice to Minister of accidents

182 Inquiry as to accidents

183 Returns of accidents

Part 15
Defence works

184 Crown may construct defence works

185 Destroying or altering defence works

Part 16
Protection of public works (including aerodromes)


185A Interpretation [Repealed]

186 This Part not to derogate from Town and Country Planning Act 1977 [Repealed]

187 Control of use of land in vicinity of essential works [Repealed]

187A Control of use of land transferred to State enterprises [Repealed]

188 Removal of trees, buildings, etc, interfering with use of aerodrome [Repealed]

189 Minister may direct local authority or airport authority to serve notice under this Part and in default may serve notice on its behalf [Repealed]

Part 17
Artificial lakes and secondary use of public works land

Artificial lakes

189A Interpretation

190 Regulations as to use of lake formed by construction of Government work

Secondary use

191 Secondary use of land held for public work

192 Compensation under this Part

193 Revenue and expenditure under this Part

Part 18
Government drains


194 Minister to have powers of territorial authority [Repealed]

195 Government drains [Repealed]

Part 19

195A Application of Part 19 of Public Works Act 1981

196 Interpretation

197 Minister may construct and maintain water supply works

198 Minister may appoint territorial authority or catchment board as his agent

199 Minister may supply water to any person from water supply works

200 Notification of investigation of proposed irrigation scheme

201 Report of National Authority on proposed irrigation scheme [Repealed]

202 Notification of proposed irrigation scheme

203 Poll for proposed irrigation scheme

204 Preparation of rolls

205 Voting

206 Publication of proposal to take a poll

207 When and how poll to be taken

208 Constitution of district, etc

208A Reduction in size and abolition of irrigation district

209 Basic charge

210 Adjustment of basic charge [Repealed]

211 Water availability charge

212 Adjustment of water availability charge [Repealed]

212A Alternative to basic and water availability charges

213 Determination of interest

214 Liability of occupier for annual charge

215 Determination of irrigable area

216 Water availability agreements

217 Supply of water

218 Diminished supply

219 Penalty for late payment

220 Irrigation notice

221 Charge on land

222 Application of this Part to existing schemes

223 Minister not bound to acquire land

Part 20
National and local works

224 Government and local authority may combine in works of both national and local importance

Part 21
General provisions

225 Licences and authorities may be held by the Crown

225A Inventions, etc, by employees [Repealed]

226 Shares in building-unit companies

227 Advances for purchase of plant and equipment

228 Authorising Government to construct public works outside New Zealand

229 Improvement of farm land

230 Minister of Crown may appoint person to sell stores, etc, by auction

231 Money due by local authority may be deducted from money payable by Government

232 Minister may execute instruments [Repealed]

233 Notice of entry to be given

234 Emergency entry on land

235 Power to alter or divert rivers, etc, for safety or maintenance of public work [Repealed]

236 Imposition of building and other restrictions on land held for Government work

237 Excavations near public works

238 Controlling authority may bring action for damage to public work

239 Removal and disposal of abandoned property from public works land

240 Recovery of land from persons holding illegal possession

241 Obstructing employees

242 Offences and penalties

243 Regulations

244 Amendments to Town and Country Planning Act 1977

245 Requirements for certain public works to be removed [Repealed]

246 Requirements and designations for certain public works to be removed [Repealed]

247 Amendments to other Acts

248 Repeals, revocation, and savings

249 Transitional provision

Schedule 1
Notice of intention to take land for [description of public work] in [name of district]

Schedule 2
Statutory declaration

Schedule 3

Schedule 4
Notice requiring claim to be heard by Land Valuation Tribunal

Schedule 5
Certificate under section 107(7) of the Public Works Act 1981 for grant of land under section 105 or section 106 of that Act

Schedule 6
Certificate under section 107(7) of the Public Works Act 1981 for grant of land under section 106 of that Act


Schedule 7
Act administered by Ministry of Works and Development


Schedule 8
Enactments repealed

Reprint notes

An Act to consolidate and amend the law relating to public works