Understanding the Legalities of Fence Sharing in New Zealand

When it comes to property ownership, there are often shared boundaries between neighbors that require some form of division. One of the most common shared boundaries is a fence, which serves to mark the separation between properties and provide privacy and security for both parties.

However, the question of who is responsible for the cost of building and maintaining a fence can often lead to disputes between neighbors. In New Zealand, there are specific laws and regulations in place to address this issue and ensure fairness for all parties involved.

The Fencing Act 1978

The Fencing Act 1978 is the primary legislation that governs fence sharing in New Zealand. This act outlines the rights and responsibilities of neighbors when it comes to building and maintaining a fence on a shared boundary.

Under this act, neighbors are required to share the cost of building and maintaining a fence that serves as a boundary between their properties. This means that both parties are responsible for paying half of the total cost, including materials and labor.

However, there are certain exceptions to this rule. If one neighbor wants a more expensive fence than what is considered reasonable for the boundary, they will be responsible for paying the additional cost. Similarly, if one neighbor wants a fence for their own benefit rather than as a boundary marker, they will be solely responsible for the cost.

What Constitutes a 'Reasonable' Fence?

The Fencing Act 1978 does not provide a specific definition of what constitutes a 'reasonable' fence. Instead, it is left up to interpretation and can vary depending on the circumstances.

In general, a reasonable fence is one that serves its purpose as a boundary marker and provides adequate privacy and security for both properties. It should also be in line with the aesthetic of the neighborhood and not be overly expensive.

If there is a dispute between neighbors about what constitutes a reasonable fence, they can seek mediation or take the matter to court for a decision.

What Happens if One Neighbor Refuses to Pay?

In some cases, one neighbor may refuse to pay their share of the fence's cost. This can lead to a stalemate and cause tension between neighbors.

If this happens, the neighbor who wants the fence can apply for a 'fencing notice' under the Fencing Act 1978. This notice will outline the proposed fence's details and the estimated cost, and it will be served to the other neighbor.

If the other neighbor still refuses to pay, the first neighbor can then apply for a 'fencing order' from the court. This order will require the other neighbor to pay their share of the fence's cost, and failure to comply can result in legal consequences.

What About Existing Fences?

The Fencing Act 1978 also covers existing fences on shared boundaries. If one neighbor wants to repair or replace an existing fence, they must give written notice to the other neighbor at least 21 days before starting any work.

If the other neighbor does not respond within 21 days, they are deemed to have agreed to share the cost of repairing or replacing the fence. However, if they do not agree, they can apply for a 'fencing order' from the court.


In summary, neighbors in New Zealand are required to share the cost of building and maintaining a fence on a shared boundary. However, there are exceptions and guidelines in place to ensure fairness and prevent disputes between neighbors.

If you are facing issues with fence sharing with your neighbor, it is always best to try and resolve the matter through communication and mediation. If that fails, you can seek legal assistance to ensure your rights are protected under the Fencing Act 1978.

If you need any assistance you can contact colemansfencing.co.nz