Okay, first things first let’s try to get the elephant out of the room here and explain what exactly is Riparian rights? The term was coined back in the Victorian era when the land was still being surveyed and divided by the Commonwealth. “The Queens Chain” -yes an actual chain was used in this case to reserve areas for access to coastlines, rivers, and natural landscapes for the general public. Basically “Riparian Rights” is a term for a land owner’s rights to have access to these mentioned areas specifically to a body of water adjacent or part of their property. Now to get a little bit technical about this “Riparian” actually pertains to bodies of water that have a flow or direction such as streams or rivers. Then what about Oceans or lakes you ask? The term “Littoral rights” Would then be used in this case. Thank goodness for mnemonics this would be easy to remember “Riparian” for River, “Littoral” for Lakes.
Now as much as it’s easy to remember, understanding these concepts is quite tricky as it varies from every country. The definition is mostly the same, but the correlative application varies. In Aotearoa, these rights apply to a landowner’s access to these bodies of water and its resource but do not entitle any form of ownership. Also, a lot of factors could also play along with these rights such as forces of nature resulting in the physical change of the property whether in appearance or in size. Accretion for example is when soil is deposited by the natural action of water that can result in increased size of the land property- consider this as nature’s gift to the landowner. Avulsion on the other hand is nature’s way of telling you to bugger off as it’s a sudden tear of the land by forces of nature- Talk about bad luck.
Now after that lengthy description let’s dive into how it affects Real Estate- Finally! Properties with these Riparian or Littoral rights are sought after and definitely a hit in the market as these rights go along with the property and are passed down from owner to owner- Talk about a deal!
Now you have to keep in mind that although unimpeded access to that body of water is given, the rights are still limited by any council bylaws which would apply and also the Resource Management Act especially to properties that is considered to be part of “The Queen’s chain” that is now by the way is generally defined as areas of conservation. Meaning building a small wharf to get that jetty going would still require consent from the local council.
These properties that are definitely hot on the market are surely worthwhile to look out for and if your property has this make sure to give us a call so we can get an appraisal right off the bat. Who knows? You might just get yourself a deal of a lifetime!