Boundary Fences

Farmer Brown uses fences to mark the boundaries of his farm, to control stock and to manage his pasture.

Unfortunately, all his boundary fences are falling down!  Aside from good management practice, there are also legal reasons why he should repair them:

Farmer Brown's farm


Farmer Brown's farm borders the Egmont National Park on one side and Farmer Green's farm on another. It borders a lifestyle block in one corner and it has a road frontage. There is also a stream running across one corner of the farm.

Wandering stock: Some reasons to fence.  Farmer Brown read an earlier Legal Ruminations article (Wandering Stock Liabilities). So he knew he could be liable for any damage caused from his stock wandering on the road, if the wandering was due to his negligence. So fixing the fence to keep stock off the road was clearly a priority.

From the same article, he remembered that if his boundary with Farmer Green was not adequately fenced, it would be difficult to claim his losses from Green if Green's goats got into his prize dahlias.

Who pays?

The general rule in the Fencing Act 1978 is that adjoining landowners share the cost of fencing their common boundary equally. However, if neither neighbour wants to fence the boundary, they need not do so.

However, when Brown bought the farm (from Green's sister) in 2001, he remembered his lawyer had said there was a fencing covenant on the title. He checked and found he was liable for the full cost of fencing the boundary until the covenant expired in 2013.

Will the council share the cost of fencing the road frontage and the Department of Conservation (DOC) the cost of fencing the National Park boundary? Unfortunately, the Fencing Act exempts them from liability. (However, DOC has sometimes contributed in the past.)

The Lifestyle Block


Still reeling from all this news, Brown receives a notice from Mr Gray under section 10 of the Fencing Act. Gray owns the lifestyle block. He wants to build a fence on their boundary in schist.

"Schist!" thinks Farmer Brown. "That will cost a fortune!"

Fortunately for Farmer Brown, he is only liable to pay half the cost of an adequate boundary fence.

In a rural environment, a seven or eight wire fence is adequate.

Farmer Brown can send Gray a cross-notice under section 11, setting out the kind of fence he considers adequate. If they cannot agree on who pays for what, the District Court will have to adjudicate.


The content of this document is necessarily general and readers should seek specific advice on particular matters and not rely solely on this document.
If you would like further information on any of the topics in this document, please contact the writer or your usual Auld Brewer Mazengarb & McEwen adviser.
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