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Public Works Act

Public works and infrastructure projects require expert advice and insight into the different legal, political, financial, and strategic issues involved. The Public Works Act processes allow property rights to be acquired, managed, and ultimately disposed of when no longer required.

Kensington Swan has the experience and expertise to guide public agencies and affected private landowners through public infrastructure projects.

Government agencies

Government agencies are bound by many legal obligations relating to the acquisition, exchange, and disposal of land. This includes Treaty claims settlement processes. These issues have significant public policy implications and risk adverse public exposure if not managed well.

Property acquisition

Careful consideration must be given to how and when property rights are acquired, and whether compulsory acquisition is necessary. Our public works and infrastructure specialists understand the political and strategic issues that overlay this often controversial process.

The Public Works Act sets out a detailed compensation regime. We have expertise in applying its provisions and assessing fair compensation in different situations.

Property management and disposal

Once land has been acquired, public agencies are subject to strict controls on how it can be used. We can advise you on all the issues around this. Government agencies need to know the scope of their powers to manage land for maximum return; the challenge is finding the balance between effectiveness and compliance.

Roading and other public infrastructure

Kensington Swan has particular expertise with roading issues. We act for NZTA in relation to the state highway network, and for Auckland Transport and a number of councils in relation to local roads.

We have advised on the full range of roading and transport issues faced by roading authorities, including the Government Roading Powers Act and the Local Government Act.

We have extensive experience advising on major infrastructure projects, including industry-specific legislation and codes of practice, electricity generation and transmission, and airport authorities.


Because we understand how both government and business works, our collaborative and practical approach will help you to minimise costs as well as legal and political risks.

We act for a number of central and local government agencies, including NZTA, Auckland Council, Auckland Transport, Auckland Council Property Limited, CentrePort Limited, Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE), Land Information New Zealand, and many councils around New Zealand.

We also act for private landowners who are affected by public works or infrastructure projects, and have acted for electricity generators and airport operators.

Our lawyers work with established experts in the property industry to provide a seamless service, including valuers who can assist with valuation and rent review disputes. We can also assist in resolving any objections, litigation, or other disputes.

Recent experience


Members of our team have acted for NZTA on a number of state highway projects in Auckland, Waikato, and Wellington. We played a key role in the Waterview Connection project, one of the largest public works projects in Auckland.

Other notable projects have included the Waikato Expressway, Newmarket Viaduct, Victoria Park Tunnel, Wellington Urban RoNS, and the Northern Busway project. We provided property, Public Works Act, resource management, construction, and general strategic advice on a wide range of issues in these projects, often under significant time, financial, and political pressure.


We advised Wellington’s CentrePort on its obligations under the Public Works Act and on whether there were any barriers to its Harbour Quay’s Office Park development. We undertook a full investigation of titles to the port land to determine if it was subject to offer-back obligations, or required for Treaty settlement purposes.

Our advice covered the scope of the Act, the relationship with the Port Companies Act, the title chain from the original Maori owners, and Maori customary rights. The legal issues relating to acquisition of foreshore and harbour land, reclamation law, port company vestings, and clearance procedures were complex and unique.


Related legal services

Property and real estate law
Buying and selling a house
Commercial leasing

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