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Comparative study of e-conveyancing - 4

22 September 2011

4.3   New Zealand

Land Information New Zealand (LINZ) has developed a partial end-to-end e-Conveyancing solution known as LandOnline.

4.3.1    Key Drivers and Scope of the Solution

Land Information New Zealand (LINZ) is the authority responsible for the development and management of the e-Conveyancing solution in New Zealand and has created LandOnline to act as the interfacing entity with the users.  LINZ is a government owned and run department that is in essence an amalgamation of the Land Registry and the Ordinance Survey department.  The present solution encompasses only some modules of an end-to-end e-Conveyancing solution such as property registration, searching facilities and survey submission facilities.  LINZ originally examined the possibility of developing an end-to-end e-Conveyancing solution but came to the conclusion that it would be too ambitious given the number of stakeholders involved and the volume of information that would require digitisation.

Legislative changes were required to enable a transition from the traditional manual conveyancing process to an e-Conveyancing environment such as the amendment of the 1952 Land Transfer Act and changes to facilitate the commencement of remote electronic lodgement for conveyancers and surveyors in 2003.  Future legislative changes may include making the use of the system mandatory in order to increase usage.

The New Zealand Government has been the key driver for the development of the partial e-Conveyancing solution.  A move towards e-Government solutions coupled with a strong political interest from the relevant Ministers has provided a drive towards a partial e-Conveyancing solution.  Current and future strategies for the solution and LINZ are still shaped by government policy.

An organizational restructuring which saw the former Land Registry and Ordinance Survey departments merge into LINZ, also provided an opportune time for a move towards electronic registration and modules of an e-Conveyancing solution such as e-Searches and e-Surveys.

The LINZ system offers four modules providing searching facilities for titles and spatial survey data, title registration, digital submission of surveys and local authority certification of surveys, as follows:

  •  Service A: “eSearch” provides access to the titles register, survey data and supporting documents, while
  •  “eSearch Plus” provides users with the added ability to search and view spatial survey data.  Both search facilities save time and money and provide easier, more convenient access to the national database.
  • Service B: “eDealing” offers instantaneous registration enabling authorised users to update the land titles registry directly and instantly without waiting for LINZ to process documentation manually.  Electronic lodgement can save up to three weeks in comparison to manual lodgement, as “eDealing” does not require you to complete any paper lodgement forms. “eDealing” also offers a pre-validation tool that significantly reduces error rates by having the “eDealing” information validated before it is lodged with LINZ.
  • Service C: “eSurvey” allows a surveyor to digitally prepare and submit cadastral surveys directly from their own office taking away the requirement for paper. “eSurvey” allows surveys to be processed significantly faster in comparison with paper plans. A pre-validation tool also significantly reduces error rates by enabling the survey to be validated before it is lodged with LINZ.
  • Service D: “Territorial Authority e-Certification” allows Local Authorities to certify cadastral surveys online.  Local Authorities and Councils can certify online regardless of whether the survey has been submitted manually to LINZ or online using “eSurvey”.

 

Aspects of the e-Dealing service

They seem to be going great guns with their registration - "e-Dealing" service.  The following summary of e-Dealing points comes from this link and should serve to flesh out its nature, processes, legal background and points of interest.  While this link to a  300 page manual walks users through the system.

 

o        Land Transfer Act 1952

The majority of privately owned land in New Zealand is subject to the Land Transfer Act 1952, as amended.  The Act and the Land Transfer Regulations 2002:

  • set out how title to land must be issued
  • provide for the registration of interests in land against land titles
  • give a guarantee of title by the State.

The Registrar-General of Land, part of LINZ's Regulatory Group, develops standards and sets an assurance programme for the land rights registration system.

 

o        Registration process

There are two aspects of the process - electronic (e-dealing) and manual.  The electronic system (e-dealing) is accessed by conveyancing professionals, who deal directly with each other and with LINZ through the internet using LINZ's Landonline service.  The manual system relies on the physical submission of instruments ('lodgement') to LINZ.

The process requires the lodging and examination of instruments and other documents before recording their effect on the appropriate computer registers of title to land.

The entries in the computer registers are known as 'memorials' (where the record is of an instrument), 'notifications' (where the record is of a document, which is not an instrument), or 'entries' (where the document is required to be entered).

 

o        Instruments

Instruments are printed or written documents, including maps or plans, relating to a dealing with land (e.g. transfers and mortgages).  Instruments:

  • must be in the forms set out in Schedule 2 to the Land Transfer Regulations 2002, or in a form required by some other relevant Act or Regulation;
  • may only be registered in the manner provided by legislation;
  • take effect according to the date and time of registration.

Instruments are used in the manual system.  In the electronic system, Landonline generates computer screen formats, which conveyancers populate with the information equivalent to that contained in instruments.  Nearly all instruments are lodged electronically through Landonline.  Features of this system include:

 

o        Pre-lodgement check

Before a manual application can be 'lodged', the registration process requires instruments to be listed on a Survey and Titles Lodgement Form, with which the instruments must be lodged.

 

o        Preview and pre-validation

In the electronic system (e-dealing), one or all of the e-instruments can be checked by Landonline, before the conveyancers submit the dealing.

 

o        Lodgement

It became mandatory to lodge all e-capable instruments through Landonline on 23 February 2009.

 

o        Registration fees

Electronic transactions are charged to the respective conveyancers, who hold credit accounts with LINZ.  Fees for lodgement, licences, searches and other matters are set by the Land Transfer Regulations and the Land Information New Zealand (Fees and Charges) Regulations 2003.

 

o        LINZ processing centres

LINZ's five processing centres process survey and title transactions.

 

o        New titles

New titles are created after LINZ approves and 'deposits' a survey plan produced by a surveyor. LINZ approves a survey plan when it is satisfied that the plan meets the required standards of accuracy.  The plan is 'deposited' when an Order for New Title is lodged with LINZ.  The existing title is then cancelled and a new computer register created for each new parcel of land shown on the deposited plan.

 

o        Completion of registration

Upon completion of a manual registration, LINZ will send a registration confirmation notice. For an e-dealing, Landonline will confirm that the registration has taken place.

On 23 February 2009 it becamemandatory to lodge all e-capable instruments through Landonline.  Currently over 800 000 survey transactions are facilitated per annum.  It took over five years to convert seven million records from paper to digital versions.  Manual lodgement will only be appropriate or permissible in rare circumstances.

LINZ is owned and funded by the New Zealand Government.  Operational costs are covered through a revenue stream generated through fees from the various services provided such as an annual licence fee, annual maintenance fee, search fees, lodgement fees and other fees.

 

4.3.2    Lessons and implications drawn by the Report at page 94

Conducting process redesign and simplification is an essential first step

LINZbegan the development of the solution by simplifying forms, documents and simplifying the internal processes of the Land Registry and this approach appears to be key, given the fact that such a step was also taken in the Ontario development.

 

Ensuring stakeholder buy-in at an early stage is critical

A key step taken by LINZ was to get heavy stakeholder involvement early on in the development of the business case and to get stakeholder buy-in before going to government sources to present the case for funding and development of the project.  LINZ have also stressed the importance of getting stakeholders on board early on and involving them in an ongoing steering committee to ensure stakeholder satisfaction and continuing support for the solution.

 

Getting the balance between public and private involvement in the development of the solution is an important decision

The LINZ solution highlights how a natural break occurs between core conveyancing functions that are publicly funded and then the natural value-added services that can be financed and developed by private industry. LINZ is of the belief that the best role for the New Zealand government to take was to enable the areas that it has direct control over (e.g. the Land Registry) for an e-conveyancing environment as these areas are the ones that it can be most effective in.  According to LINZ, this is the best way that any government can establish momentum for an e-conveyancing solution.

 

Avoiding low take-up rates through education, marketing and training

LINZexperienced disappointing results in terms of uptake of the solution with only 20% of what could be done electronically actually being done on the LINZ system.  LINZ believes that the low uptake levels were due to the low levels of training, marketing and support services offered by LINZ.  LINZ have emphasised the importance of training and marketing in order to boost adoption of the solution and boost uptake figures in the development of any e-conveyancing solution.  It is also felt that the low uptake levels were also due to the operation of dual systems (paper and electronic) with no indication of a timescale for the complete movement to a purely electronic system.

4.3.3    Future plans

Since most law firms rely on third party software packages for workflow and file management aspects of the conveyancing process, future developments in New Zealand will likely focus on a single national e-conveyancing platform for settlement, funds transfer and title registration via a stand-alone corporate entity.  To this end the  Conveyancing 2020 Project was launched as a key component of the “Shaping a View of Tomorrow’s Land Development” initiative.  

 

In consultation with their professional organisations, internal reference groups and other participants in the conveyancing/land development  sector, the working group is in the process of: 
  • Proposing a view of the future conveyancing and land development environment. 
  • Identifying the challenges in moving from ‘today’ to ‘tomorrow’. 
  • Providing a report with recommendations on strategic priorities and a programme of joint and/or individual initiatives for moving into the future (consistent with those priorities and broader LINZ and government outcomes). 

 

 

 

 

 

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