Fencing law

What are your rights and obligations when fencing your boundary?

If you want to build a fence between your property and your neighbour's, you don't need to argue forever about how it should be done or who will pay. The Fencing Act sets out your rights and obligations.

Your rights

Can I ask a neighbour to contribute to the cost of a new fence?

Talk to your neighbours about building a new fence or upgrading an existing one.

Yes. Generally, if you want to build a fence on a common boundary with your neighbour, or upgrade an existing one, you can expect the neighbour to go halves on the bill for an "adequate" fence. That is, one that is "reasonably satisfactory" for the purpose it is intended to serve.

Discuss your plans with your neighbour before you start putting in the fence-posts though, and keep the proposal reasonable. They are entitled to object if they disagree about what is appropriate.

If you can not reach an agreement, or your neighbour refuses to pay half, there is a formal process you can follow. First, you must serve your neighbour with a "fencing notice".

What should the "fencing notice" say?
The notice should state that it is served under the Fencing Act 1978 and contain the names and addresses of both you and your neighbour. It must describe:

  • The boundary to be fenced.
  • The type of fence to be built.
  • Who will build the fence.
  • The estimated total cost.
  • How materials are to be purchased.
  • The start date for work.

It must also explain that your neighbour has 21 days to object to any aspect of the proposal and make any counter proposals. It must say that if your neighbour does not accept liability, you must be told within 21 days the reason why and be given the name and address of whoever your neighbour believes is liable.

The notice must also say that if your neighbour makes no communication within 21 days, they will be deemed to have agreed to the proposals and will have to share the cost.

Remember to sign and date the notice, and keep a copy for yourself. You can deliver it by registered letter or in person. This is called "serving notice".

If you have trouble preparing your notice, refer to the Fencing Act. A sample notice is included in the schedules to the Act, as are some useful descriptions of different types of fences.

What if my neighbour doesn't want a new fence at all?
They should serve you with a cross-notice. They can object to part or all of your proposal if they believe the existing fence is adequate, or think your proposal is excessive. They can also object to being asked to pay if they don't own the property.

This cross-notice must be served on you in person or sent by registered mail.

What should a cross-notice say?
The cross-notice must reach you within 21 days. It should detail your neighbour's objection and any counter proposals. It should also state that it is served under the Fencing Act.

A sample cross-notice is included in the schedules to the Act.

What happens next?
If you can't agree between you, your options to resolve the dispute include mediation, arbitration, a Disputes Tribunal or a District Court.

I'd like to build a smart iron fence, but my neighbour says it will be too expensive and wants a simple wooden one. Who gets to choose?
If you can't agree, you'll have to get the issue resolved as above. But your neighbour doesn't have to pay any more than half the cost of an "adequate" fence.

My neighbour has sold up and gone, but I still want the new fence. Do I have to issue a new notice?
A new neighbour means a new chance for a friendly relationship. You may find they readily agree with your plans. But if they don't, you will have to go through the process again.

My neighbour still objects to the fence and won't let the builder cross the boundary line while building the fence. Can they do this?
Yes. But if it happens, you can seek an order from a District Court or Disputes Tribunal to allow anyone building the fence to enter your neighbour's property at reasonable times and do whatever is reasonably required to build the fence.

You can head off this problem if you raise the issue in your fencing notice. This way, at the initial hearing the court or tribunal can authorise you, or anyone employed by you to build the fence, to enter your neighbour's property.

Exactly where should the fence go?
The fenceposts should be placed right on the boundary line or as near to it as practicable. If there are no posts, the middle of the fence should be on the boundary line.

We had a fence, but my neighbour destroyed it. Now they want me to help pay for a new one. Do I have to?
No. They were responsible for the damage and they have to pay.

The fence has been destroyed in a storm, but my neighbour is overseas and I need to get it repaired quickly. Can I ask them to help with the cost when they get home?
Yes. If your neighbours are away, and a fence needs immediate repairs, you can do the work and recover half the costs from the other owner.

If the fence requires replacing, you should replace it with a comparable fence. But you can't upgrade the fence without your neighbour's agreement.

My neighbours have built a swimming pool near the boundary and are required by law to fence it in. Do I have to help them pay?
Yes, but your contribution should not exceed the amount you would pay if the swimming pool did not exist. That is, half the cost of an "adequate" fence in that area of the boundary.

How high can my fence be?
You can usually build up to 2 metres in height without getting planning consent from the local council.

However, you should always check with the council to make sure. It may be that you live in a special heritage area or are affected by rules in the district plan that mean you cannot build your fence this high.

Resolving a dispute

Mediation and arbitration
A mediator helps the two sides in a dispute negotiate a solution. An arbitrator imposes a solution. Both processes are private and voluntary, but once you agree to take part in an arbitration you are bound by the outcome. The courts will back an arbitrated settlement. A mediated outcome can be enforced by the courts only if you both agree to this happening before you start the process.

Both approaches are charged on a time basis, which you negotiate with the mediator or arbitrator. Contact the Arbitrators' and Mediators' Institute of New Zealand for help.

Disputes Tribunal
A Disputes Tribunal can hear most claims relating to the Fencing Act or for property damage, provided the claim does not exceed $15,000 (or $20,000 if the parties agree) and does not relate to loss of light, sunshine or views, or the removal or trimming of trees.

District Court
A court can also hear claims relating to the Fencing Act or for property damage, including issues a Disputes Tribunal cannot hear. Courts can award monetary compensation for damage caused by a tree, and can order that a tree be removed or trimmed.

Claims to a District Court will almost certainly require the help of a lawyer and can be expensive.

Member comments

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Edward B.
03 Nov 2019
Third party fence drama

I have served both back and side neighbours with separate fencing notices to replace our side and back boundary fences. The side neighbour seems to be ok. The boundary was resurveyed a number of years ago and the boundary junction is approx 400mm out, so the back neighbour is "squatting" on some of our section. She has objected to the fencing notice - but has given no written reason...we have told her that the other fence is being built next week and that they need to remove the concrete they have poured around the boundary peg - or the builder will do it and we will pass the cost on to them - we also asked if it would be OK if the builder stepped on her land to allow them to place the fence post and she has said that under no circumstances will she allow this. At a bit of a loss how to proceed - and wonder if it is OK if I remove a small section of the old fence on our boundary (400mm inside our section) so that the builders can get to place the post. ?

sewsable
23 Oct 2019
Fencing on our property next to council drain

The house we live in is a back section and the land that goes from it to the road is owned by us but has a council open drain running the length of it, our access is via a right of way across our neighbour's land. There is currently a fence on our land next to the drain to prevent anyone from falling into the drain at night (health and safety), but the fence needs replacing. Said fence is not there to mark between our land and the neighbour's land as it is fully on our land only. Is the council required to contribute to this as it would not be needed at all if their drain wasn't on the property? Also, is there any height minimum when there's a waterway/drain involved?
Thankyou.

Consumer staff
24 Oct 2019
Re: Fencing on our property next to council drain

Hello Sewsable,

We'd recommend checking with your local council as to the minimum height needed, and checking your land title/land information memorandum for details of any council obligations towards fencing of the drain.

If you’re a Consumer member, our advisers can provide more personalised advice on 0800 266 786. Or if you’d like to join, more info is available here: https://www.consumer.org.nz/topics/learn-more

Kind regards,

Natalie - Consumer NZ staff

carol j.
20 Oct 2019
Neighbour has put up fence without consultation

My neighbour has erected a fence on our boundary without prior consultation with the 2 neighbours. I do not live at the property as it is a section I am planning to build on shortly and was only advised after the fence had been put up.
The fence is inadequate and unsightly and I would like to replace it with something of a better quality. Happy to pay the cost myself, but now there is an ugly fence on our boundary. I have emailed and messaged the neighbour but she hasnt replied, other than to tell me I have got a free fence!!
Looking for some advice please on what I can do. The neighbour who has erected the fence is clearly not interested in any consultation or mediation. Thanks.

Consumer staff
22 Oct 2019
Re: Neighbour has put up fence without consultation

Hello Carol,

One of our advisers has sent you an email regarding this.

Kind regards,

Natalie - Consumer NZ staff.

Bill Y.
24 Sep 2019
Rural boundary fence

Hi, we run stock on a property we lease and the neighbour has trees and no stock. The boundary fence (post and batten) was rundown and our stock got through into his property and then through his rundown road fence onto the road. Luckily no accidents. I asked if he would go halves in the fence but he doesn't see why he should pay anything as he doesn't have any stock. We've had to rebuild the fence at our cost following a second incident of stock getting onto the road through his property. Can we still serve him with a fencing notice and go through that process, even though we've rebuilt the fence?
Bill

Consumer staff
26 Sep 2019
Re: Rural boundary fence

Hi Bill,

One of our advisers has called you and left a voicemail on your answerphone in relation to this query.

Kind regards,

Natalie - Consumer NZ staff

Anne B.
12 Sep 2019
Neighbours Don't Want Boundary Fence

Our neighbour doesn't want a fence! We've issued them with the fencing notice and they have objected to having a fence. We know we are entitled to a boundary fence and they have to pay half but what do we do now?

Consumer staff
13 Sep 2019
Re: Neighbours Don't Want Boundary Fence

Hi Anne,

If you can't agree between you, your options to resolve the dispute include mediation, arbitration, a Disputes Tribunal or a District Court. You can find more info here: https://www.consumer.org.nz/articles/fencing-law#article-resolving-a-dispute

Kind regards,
Frank - Consumer NZ staff

Aroha W.
05 Aug 2019
Fencing

One of our neighbours has a yucca tree that is herniating into the fence and some of the
Wooden fence is now being
pushed toward us and nails are now exposed. I approached the neighbours and she said they shouldn’t be
Responsible and Ali that they did not have $5000 to sort it out. I said all the need was to trim base which is pushing the fence over. But since then part of the trunk is now nearly leaning and
Nearly touching the fence. I am worried that with spring nearby the yucca will grow
And cause more
Damage. Help please

Consumer staff
06 Aug 2019
Re: Fencing

Hi Aroha,

The Community Law website has further information on trees encroaching on a property. You might find their article on this useful:

https://communitylaw.org.nz/community-law-manual/chapter-26-neighbourhood-life/trees/

If you need further help our advisers are always here to provide more information. Feel free to call them on 0800 266 786.

Kind regards,

Natalie - Consumer NZ staff

Liz O.
03 Jun 2019
Fencing modifications

Hi, we live next door to a privately owned early childhood center. They have been issued with an abatement notice due to excessive noise and council made recommendations as to how the existing fence should be modified in order to rectify the situation. The owners apparently indicated to council they were intending to cover the cost. If they notify us the night before that they were going to do work on the fence the following day (without providing any other details), are we within our rights to request information regarding the type of work, materials, duration and timing of this work? This is a shared fence and runs on either side of our baby’s room, built on the boundary. Seeing this is a shared fence and given the circumstances, can they proceed without consulting us, as they notified us (on very short notice) and they’re going to cover the cost? We just want to find out what our rights are. Any information would be appreciated.

Consumer staff
06 Jun 2019
Re: Fencing modifications

Hi Liz,

We think if they did tell you it would go a long way to building good neighbourly relations, but legally if they are not coming onto your property, and they are paying for the modifications, then they don’t have to provide you with the information unless it breaches your council’s by-laws and policies.

For example this is the Wellington City Council policy on construction noise in residential areas;

https://wellington.govt.nz/services/environment-and-waste/noise-control/construction-noise-in-residential-areas

Our advisers are always here to provide more information, should you need it. Feel free to call them on 0800 266 786.

Kind regards,

Natalie - Consumer NZ staff

Baz K.
28 Apr 2019
Neighbours dog

Hi, we live on the backs of an estuary where there is lots of native timber along the bank behind the houses. The bank is steep and heavily bush clad so unusable in regard to human usage. There was a fence down there years ago, but this now old and rotten but also pretty much grown out by trees and native shrubs.
The neighbours dog comes onto our section regularlyand messes on the lawn, and the council have told them to contain it. They want us to share the cost of a fence that would still not contain the dog because of the terrain. Is this a fair request? And would we have to pay half. Cheers

Consumer staff
29 Apr 2019
Re: Neighbours dog

Hi Baz,

I am not sure if you are in a rural or urban area, so if you follow the links on our website, the Fencing Act gives examples of specimen type of fence.

If you are in a rural area, and you consider the native shrubs a suitable live fence, you could apply to the Disputes Tribunal that it is an adequate fence.

There has been a pre-existing fence, so from what you say, you would only have to replace that fence. It would be just along the boundary with the neighbour and would only need to be an ’adequate’’ fence – it doesn’t necessarily mean dog proof. It is for the dog’s ownér to arrange to make it dog proof at the side and back of their section. I am not sure if your neighbour has discussed the type of fence and cost with you yet?

If the notice and cross notice process has been followed, and you still haven’t settled on a suitable fence, then you can take that to the Disputes Tribunal as well.

Kind regards,

Maggie - Consumer NZ adviser

Julie O.
24 Apr 2019
Ugly trellis fence beside boundary fence

Our neighbors are erecting a trellis fence on their side of the boundary fence (not attached to the boundary fence itself, but a few centimeters in front of it). This extends about a meter above the boundary fence, so if you include the boundary fence and trellis it would be around 3 meters. Are they allowed to do this? This isn’t continuous along the length of the boundary fence, but in about 4 sections and different material used, so looks ugly. Can we do anything about this?

Consumer staff
29 Apr 2019
Re: Ugly trellis fence beside boundary fence

Hi Julie,

I suggest you contact your local council planning department – if the trellis is too close to the fence, a building consent may be required due to its height:

https://www.building.govt.nz/projects-and-consents/planning-a-successful-build/scope-and-design/check-if-you-need-consents/building-consent-exemptions-for-low-risk-work/schedule-1-guidance/part-1-exempted-building-work/21-fences-hoardings/

Kind regards,

Maggie - Consumer NZ adviser

Genevieve L.
09 Apr 2019
New boundary fence to block access

My neighbour wants to put up a fence on our boundary, which is currently a shared driveway (no legal easement). My front door is on this boundary line, only 1 m from the boundary, and the only access to my backyard will then be along a 30 m long < 1 m wide corridor. It will be physically impossible to get furniture in/out of the house or backyard.
Do I have any grounds to fight this?

Consumer staff
10 Apr 2019
Re: New boundary fence to block access

Hi Genevieve,

Strictly speaking, the Fencing Act applies and a fence can be put on the boundary normally. However, given that your access way along the fence to your front door is less than a metre wide along the side boundary, this could do with further investigation as this is not a high density area.

Kind regards,

Natalie - Consumer NZ staff

Rebecca S.
21 Jan 2019
Section still unsold - developer owned

Hi, The section beside ours is still on the market and owned by the developers of the subdivision. Can we ask them to pay half the boundary fence cost? Regards Rebecca

Consumer staff
23 Jan 2019
Re: Section still unsold - developer owned

Hi Rebecca,

It depends. The developer of a subdivision will usually ensure there is a fencing covenant in place when they sell sections, so that they aren’t liable for contributing to the cost of adjoining fences. In the absence of such an agreement, they would be liable to contribute under the Fencing Act.

Kind regards,

Paul D - Consumer NZ adviser

Candice P.
13 Oct 2018
Road traffic noise fence

Hi I erected a 1.8m high timber fence which cut main road noise somewhat. It’s not good enough however. Can you please advise acoustic fencing solutions for a busy main road? I mistakenly removed a hill of dirt from same area whic allowed the noise to put in.

Consumer staff
15 Oct 2018
Re: Road traffic noise fence

Hi Candice,

A timber fence can still be an effective sound barrier but the construction is important. The first thing to eliminate are any cracks, gaps or any spaces at ground level, these let sound pass straight through. Overlapping the fence palings helps to eliminate any gaps in this situation. The fence also needs to have sufficient mass to help absorb sound, BRANZ recommends a minimum mass of 12kg per square metre.

If you are still finding that the noise is too much then the next step would be to either raise the fence height or look at putting in a more solid option such as a brick or concrete wall.

Cheers,
James - Consumer NZ writer

Richard
16 Sep 2018
Road Reserve Fence

Hi, I had a fence that was on the top of a bank which is Council Road Reserve and a slip due to the Council not fixing the problem. That has caused the fence to become un-repairable due to the bank subsidence. The council has used a mesh wire and anchorage system to support the bank after sending photos of th e problem for 8 years but refuses to make good the fence that requires a new build in parts and repair in others. The council says the land (driveway, path, and fence) are my asset but it is not on my house plans and clearly shows as being council land in their information. I am at a loss and do not know where to go to resolve this. Please can you advise the best course of action.
Many thanks
Richard

Consumer staff
17 Sep 2018
Re: Road Reserve Fence

Hi Richard,

One of our advisors will contact you privately about this issue. If you have any more questions, feel free to call our advice line which is available to members on 0800 266 786.

Cheers,
Frank - Consumer NZ staff

Audrey N.
26 Apr 2018
New fence

Hi there

Our house and the adjacent houses on either side haven’t had a fence since they were built in the 60s. Keen to follow your advise to request the neighbours to contribute as building a fence of 160 linear metres is just way too costly to do ourselves. Not feeling too confident though especially as they know that we’re thinking of adding a pool which requires fencing. Is there a more compelling argument to better position our request?

Also, any thoughts of the most cost effective material to build our large fence; love the colourbond material however that’s coming in at $30,000, and durafence at $35,000.

Many thanks
AN

Consumer staff
02 May 2018
Re: New fence

Hi Audrey,

One of our advisors has contacted you privately about this issue. If you do have any more questions, feel free to call our advice line which is available to members on 0800 266 786.

Cheers,
Fonda - Consumer NZ staff

Maire S.
29 Oct 2017
Adequate fencing

The fencing article is interesting but would be much improved by examples of what counts as adequate.

Previous member
30 Oct 2017
Re: Adequate fencing

Hi Maire,

Thanks for your feedback. We've included a link to the Fencing Act's descriptions of different fence types:

http://www.legislation.govt.nz/act/public/1978/0050/latest/whole.html#DLM21894

Thanks,
Fonda – Consumer NZ staff

Denise G.
15 Jun 2017
My perfectly good fence was cut down

Hi, I have a neighbor with super sonic hearing. She cant stand the sound of the dehumidifier a friend is using in a cabin next to the fence and is constantly telling me to turn it off at night when my friend isn't here. She told me she was pricing up some 1.8m palings to put onto the fence (well that is what I thought she was planning to do and was implied in her email to me) and there was no mention of when she was planning to do the work nor any consultation about what she was planning. When I got up this morning I saw that she has had her brother hack out about 5m of my prefectly functional and stylish and modern fence and put up a 1.8m high fence made out of second hand black painted wood, the posts dont go to the ground and where they are nailed to my old fence posts the wood isnt even cut off evenly. It is a shocking abortion of a fence and I am furious. The council wont help me as I feel she has compromised the stability of the whole fence line now and that the new (made from secondhand wood) fence could blow over once the cabin is removed from beside it. What are my rights here? She has said I can ring her brother for a quote to re-attach the narrow corrugated iron onto my side of her horrible fence. I dont want that, I would NEVER let him loose with a hammer and saw again and I want the fence repaired to look as it did before her demo session.
Thank you,
Denise

Previous member
16 Jun 2017
Re: My perfectly good fence was cut down

Hi Denise,

One of our advisers will be in touch to get more info about your situation. You can also call our Consumer Advice Line on 0800 266 786 — your membership includes this.

Kind regards,
Fonda - Consumer NZ staff

Ross S.
10 Dec 2016
Fence boundaries

Hi. The boundary markers are on the middle of the fence posts and the pailings are in my Neighbours side which is on a row, they say the pailings belong to them as the row is an easement over their property and they say they can dictate the color. Is this true?

Previous member
21 Dec 2016
Re: Fence boundaries

Hi Ross,

We've tried to get in touch but haven't been able to reach you. If you still need advice, you can give our advisers a call on 0800 266 786.

Kind regards,
Fonda - Consumer NZ staff

Mark G.
30 Nov 2016
Dispute over fence condition

Hi, is there any guidance on ways to settle whether a fence needs replacing or not without going through the courts? It seems odd that an arbitrator would have expertise on the worthiness of a fence. Does the building industry not have some sort of service whereby an objective tradesman can say whether a fence is worthy of staying or not?

Previous member
30 Nov 2016
Re: Dispute over fence condition

Hi Mark,

The suitability of a fence depends on its intended purpose. The Fencing Act defines an adequate fence as “a fence that, as to its nature, condition, and state of repair, is reasonably satisfactory for the purpose that it serves or is intended to serve”.

If you have any more questions, feel free to get in touch with our advisers on 0800 266 786 — this is included in your membership.

Kind regards,
Fonda - Consumer NZ staff

Rob F.
19 Nov 2016
Living Fence

Hi, Can a hedge be a fence 'a living fence'?
I.e. can an existing hedge be considered a suitable boundary fence.

Previous member
22 Nov 2016
Re: Living Fence

Hi Rob,

Yes, a hedge can be a suitable boundary fence. A hedge is a live (or living) fence.

The Fencing Act defines a fence as “a fence, whether or not continuous or extending along the whole boundary separating the lands of adjoining occupiers; and includes all gates, culverts, and channels that are part of or are incidental to a fence; and also includes any natural or artificial watercourse or live fence, or any ditch or channel or raised ground that serves as a dividing fence."

The suitability of a fence depends on its intended purpose. The Act defines an adequate fence as “a fence that, as to its nature, condition, and state of repair, is reasonably satisfactory for the purpose that it serves or is intended to serve”.

Kind regards,
Fonda - Consumer NZ staff

Carla McDougall
18 Jul 2016
Insurance claim on fence

We have had a fire and the fence was partly burned. Our insurance company says they will only pay our for half the fence repair. The neighbour doesn't see the point of repairing a dated fence only wants to claim to his insurance for his half if they can upgrade it to something much more modern fancy with us possibly paying the difference. He says if he doesnt get to see a better fence why should he have to contribute...he didn't burn it down. Possibly he may be right ? (and we will look at costs etc that we have asked the neighbour to get for his ideas of what the new fence should look like....thats certainly not rules out). My question is - Why cant the insurance company pay out on the full fence....after all it says in here if we damage the fence we are responsible for replacing it ? Some help would be appreciated. Thanks

Previous member
25 Jul 2016
re: Insurance claim on fence

Hi Carla,

Insurance doesn’t necessarily cover you for all the damage you do or for all the loss that you have suffered. It sounds as if the fence is shared, rather than being your responsibility in full. You would need to check the terms and conditions of your policy — note that some insurance policies changed their cover for fences after the Christchurch earthquakes.

If you have a complaint, then every insurance company has an internal complaints process you can go through, followed by an external dispute resolution scheme if necessary.

Regards,

Maggie
Consumer NZ staff

Bev V.
07 Jan 2016
Boundary fence

my neighbour is planning a fence which will totally take away my beautiful sea view I have enjoyed for 17 years, has anyone had any luck fighting this sort of thing?

Kate N.
12 Jan 2016
Re: Boundary fence

Hi Bev, this is one to ask your local government about. The latest case was in Wellington in October last year: http://www.stuff.co.nz/life-style/home-property/73289051/Wellingtons-view-blocking-fence-could-change-rules-for-capital-homeowners Kind regards, Kate - Consumer NZ staff