New Zealand recognizes and enforces secured interest in property, both movable and real. Most privately owned land in New Zealand is regulated by the Land Transfer Act 2017. These provisions set forth the issuance of land titles, the registration of interest in land against land titles, and guarantee of title by the State. The Registrar-General of Land develops standards and sets an assurance program for the land rights registration system. New Zealand’s legal system protects and facilitates acquisition and disposition of all property rights.
The Land Transfer Act 2018 repealed law from 1952 but maintains the Torrens system of land title in which land ownership is transferred through registration of title instead of deeds, a system which has been in operation in New Zealand since the nineteenth century. The Act aims to improve the certainty of property rights, modernize, simplify and consolidate land transfer legislation. It empowers courts with limited discretion to restore a landowner’s registered title in rare cases, in the event of fraud or other illegality, where it is warranted to avoid a manifestly unjust result. The Act includes new provisions to prevent mortgage fraud, to protect Maori freehold land, and to extend the Registrar-General’s powers to withhold personal information to protect personal safety.
Land leasing by foreign or non-resident investors is governed by the OIO Act. About eight percent of New Zealand land is owned by the Crown. The Land Act of 1948 created pastoral leases which run for 33 years and can be continually renewed. Rent is reviewed every 11 years, basing the rent on how much stock the land can carry for pastoral farming. The Crown Pastoral Land Act 1998 and its amendments contain provisions governing pastoral leases that apply to foreign and domestic lease holders. Holders of pastoral leases have exclusive possession of the land, and the right to graze the land, but require permission to carry out other activities on their lease.
Foreign and domestic lessees can gain freehold title over part of the land under a voluntary process known as tenure review. Under this process, specified land areas of the lease can be restored to full Crown ownership, usually to be managed by the Department of Conservation. However, in February 2019 the government announced an end to tenure review because it has resulted in more intensive farming and subdivision on the 353,000 hectares of freehold land which has been affecting the landscape and biodiversity of the land. With tenure review ending, the remaining Crown pastoral lease properties, currently 171 covering 1.2 million hectares of Crown pastoral land which is just under 5 percent of New Zealand’s land area, will continue to be managed under the regulatory system for Crown pastoral lands. In April 2019 there had been 2,500 submissions for feedback to the government on the future management of the South Island high country.
The types of land ownership in New Zealand are: Freehold title, Leasehold title, Unit title, Strata title, and cross-lease. The majority of land in New Zealand is freehold. LINZ holds property title records that show a property’s proprietors, legal description and the rights and restrictions registered against the property title, such as a mortgage, easement or covenant. A title plan is the plan deposited by LINZ when the title was created. Property titles do not contain information about the value of the property.
No land tax is payable, but the local government authorities are empowered to levy taxes, termed as “rates,” on all properties within their territorial boundaries. Rates are assessed on either assessed annual rental value, land value or capital value. There is no stamp duty in New Zealand.
Mortgages and liens are available in New Zealand. There is no permanent government policy as such that discriminates lending to foreigners. However, the Reserve Bank of New Zealand (RBNZ) introduced a macro-prudential tool as a means to curb rising house prices. In October 2013, the RBNZ introduced temporary loan-to-valuation ratio restrictions on banks’ lending to (domestic and foreign) investors and owner-occupiers wanting to purchase residential housing. During 2018 and 2019 the RBNZ began easing these lending restrictions on banks.
In April 2020, the RBNZ announced a 12-month suspension of these restrictions on banks’ lending to investors and owner-occupiers to apply from May 1, in order to improve the equity positions of mortgage borrowers, so that fewer borrowers will have to sell their house or default on their mortgage as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.
A registered memorandum of mortgage is the usual form used to create a lien on real estate to secure an indebtedness. There is no mortgage recording or mortgage tax in New Zealand. However, since October 2018 all non-resident purchasers must complete a Residential Land Statement declaring they are eligible to buy residential property in New Zealand, before signing any sale and purchase agreement.
There are some statutory controls imposed on the amount of interest which may be charged on a loan secured by real property (and private and government agencies that monitor and report on interest charges) that ensure that interest rates and costs are not excessive or illegal. There are no laws that that restrict the ability to make a borrower or guarantor personally liable for indebtedness secured by real property.
Property legally purchased but unoccupied can generally not revert to other owners. The Land Transfer Act 2017 repealed an Act from 1963 which previously outlined the process for cases of “adverse possession” or “squatters’ rights.” Under Section 155 of the Act, a person can apply to the Registrar-General of Land for a record of title in that person’s name as owner of the freehold estate in land if: a record of title has already been created for the estate; the person has been in adverse possession of the land for a continuous period of at least 20 years and continues in adverse possession of the land; and the possession would have entitled the person to apply for a title to the freehold estate in the land if the land were not subject to the Act. The section applies to diverse instances, such as the case where an entire section is being occupied by someone unconnected to the registered owner, or in the case of a “boundary adjustment” between two properties. Section 159 of the Act lists instances when applications may not be made, such as land owned by the Crown, Māori land, or land occupied by the applicant – where the applicant owns an adjoining property – because of a mistaken marking of a boundary.
Intellectual Property Rights
New Zealand has a generally strong record on intellectual property rights (IPR) protection and is an active participant in international efforts to strengthen IPR enforcement globally. It is a party to nine World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) treaties and participates in the Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Council.
In March 2019, New Zealand entered into force the WIPO Copyright Treaty, the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty, the Budapest Treaty and the Berne Convention. It implemented the Madrid Treaty in December 2012, allowing New Zealand companies to file international trademarks through the Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand (IPONZ). Since 2013, an online portal hosted on the IPONZ and IP Australia websites has allowed applicants to apply for patent protection simultaneously in Australia and New Zealand with a single examiner assessing both applications according to the respective countries’ laws.
The New Zealand Government announced its intention to join the Marrakesh Treaty in June 2017 and the Copyright (Marrakesh Treaty Implementation) Amendment Act entered into force January 4, 2020. It amends the Copyright Act 1994 and the Copyright (General Matters) Regulations 1995 to implement New Zealand’s obligations under the Marrakesh Treaty. The legislation is administered by MBIE.
There are a number of statutes that provide civil and criminal enforcement procedures for IPR owners in New Zealand. The Copyright Act 1994 and the Trade Marks Act 2002 impose civil liability for activities that constitute copyright and trademark infringement. Both Acts also contain criminal offences for the infringement of copyright works in the course of business and the counterfeiting of registered trademarks for trade purposes. The Fair Trading Act 1986 imposes criminal liability for the forging of a trademark, falsely using a trademark or sign in a way that is likely to mislead or deceive, and trading in products bearing misleading and deceptive trade descriptions.
The government is reviewing the Copyright Act 1994 in light of significant technological changes since the last review in 2004. New Zealand had agreed to tougher IPR and copyright protections under the TPP agreement, but the CPTPP suspended some of the original TPP copyright obligations, such as increasing rights protection from 50 years to 70 years; requiring stronger protection for technological protection measures (TPMs) which act as “digital locks” to protect copyright work; nor alter its internet service provider liability provisions for copyright infringement.
In November 2018, MBIE, which administers the Act, released a 135-page Issues Paper which summarizes the operation of the New Zealand copyright regime, its shortcomings, and the wide range of issues that need to be addressed. MBIE is reviewing the issues raised from the public consultation which closed in April 2019. For more see: https://www.mbie.govt.nz/business-and-employment/business/intellectual-property/copyright/review-of-the-copyright-act-1994/
New Zealand has amended some legislation to comply with obligations under CPTPP. Customs New Zealand has authority to temporarily detain imported or exported goods that it suspects infringe copyright or trademarks and to inspect and detain any goods in its control that are suspected of being pirated. The New Zealand High Court has been empowered to award additional damages for trademark infringement, and unless exceptional circumstances exist, the courts must order the destruction of counterfeit goods. This is in addition to the existing availability of compensatory damages under the Trade Marks Act 2002.
The CPTPP will require New Zealand to provide a 12-month grace period for patent applicants. Under this requirement, inventors will not be deprived of a patent issuing in New Zealand if an inventor makes their invention public, provided the inventor files the patent application within 12 months of disclosure. In addition, pharmaceutical patent holders (who have provided their details to Medsafe) will have to be informed of someone seeking to use their drug’s clinical trial data before marketing approval is granted.
The Copyright Tribunal hears disputes about copyright licensing agreements under the Act and applications about illegal uploading and downloading of copyrighted work. The Copyright (Infringing File Sharing) Amendment Act 2011 implements a three-notice regime which gives alleged infringers up to three warnings before issuing a ruling that infringement has occurred. The legislation enables copyright owners to seek the suspension of the internet account for up to six months through the District Court.
The Smoke-free Environments (Tobacco Standardized Packaging) Amendment Act 2016 and from June 2018, all tobacco packets are required to be the same standard dark brown/green background color as Australia from June 2018. It requires the removal of all tobacco company marketing imagery. The Smoke-free Environments Regulations 2017 standardize the appearance of tobacco manufacturers’ brand names.
New Zealand meets the minimum requirements of the TRIPS Agreement, providing patent protection for 20 years from the date of filing. The Patents Act 2013 brought New Zealand patent law into substantial conformity with Australian law. Consistent with Australian patent law, an ‘absolute novelty’ standard is introduced as well as a requirement that all applications be examined for “obviousness” and utility. The Patents Act stops short of precluding from patentability all computer software and has a provision for patenting “embedded software.”
In June 2019, MBIE released a discussion paper regarding a proposed Intellectual Property Laws Amendment Bill. The omnibus bill intends to make technical amendments to the Patents Act 2013, the Trade Marks Act 2002, the Designs Act 1953, and their associated regulations. The Bill is not intended to be a full policy review of these Acts, or to review the criteria for granting patents, or registering trademarks and designs. For more see: https://www.mbie.govt.nz/business-and-employment/business/intellectual-property/proposed-intellectual-property-laws-amendment-bill
New Zealand currently provides data exclusivity of five years from the date of marketing approval for a new pharmaceutical under Section 23B of the Medicines Act 1981. Data protection on pharmaceuticals applies from the date of marketing approval, regardless of whether it is granted before or after the expiration of the 20-year patent.
From July 2017 New Zealand wine and spirit makers can register the geographical origins of their products under the Geographical Indications (Wine and Spirits) Registration Act 2006 allows New Zealand wine and spirit makers to register the geographical origins of their products. The 2006 Act and its amendments are administered by IPONZ and aims to protect wine and spirit markers’ products, to allow the registration of New Zealand geographical indications (GIs) overseas, and to enforce action for falsely claiming a product comes from a certain region.
In 2019, MFAT released a discussion paper on proposed changes to New Zealand’s regulatory framework for protecting GIs as part of New Zealand’s free trade agreement negotiations with the European Union (EU). The EU has proposed that New Zealand adopt a regulatory framework for protecting GIs that is similar to the existing EU framework. The discussion paper, jointly prepared by MFAT and MBIE, outlines the EU’s proposals for protecting GIs and seeks public submissions until March 27, 2020. IF the EU framework is accepted it would require significant changes to New Zealand’s existing laws protecting GIs. For more see: https://www.mfat.govt.nz/en/trade/free-trade-agreements/agreements-under-negotiation/eu-fta/geographical-indications/
The most commonly intercepted counterfeit items by Customs New Zealand are fake toys according to an Official Information Act request. Electronics were the second most intercepted item, followed by clothing and accessories. Most items originate from China, the United Kingdom, Vietnam, and Hong Kong.
New Zealand is not on the USTR’s Special 301 report list.
For additional information about national laws and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/details.jsp?country_code=NZ