Article: Speak Easy

Can I Take The Lim Off The Shelves? with Michael BoturCan I Take The Lim Off The Shelves? with Michael Botur

Can I Walk Into My Local Council Office And Take The Lim Off The Shelves?

To get a Land Information Memorandum (LIM) on your residential property costs $270 up north, $285 in Kaipara and $368 in Whangarei.

A friend recently opined on Facebook that her mum, when in need of her own LIM and wanting to save a few hundred bucks, brashly strode into her local council building and took the LIM from the shelf of records. “They are public records,” my friend said. “They can’t stop you from getting it yourself. My mother said [council staff – not in Northland] were very rude but they let her do it herself. A friend of mine who is a teacher/librarian also did it themselves. You get charged an arm and a leg just to search the shelves for the right file.”

Now, my beautiful wife Sarah is Records Manager at Northland Regional Council. The only thing she hates worse than me acting like a bigshot columnist chatting up females on Facebook is when people get things wrong around archives. Yes, the only thing worse than infidelity is infidelity to records.

So here is the NRC Records Manager’s response on Facebook to what may be an urban legend regarding taking your LIM off the shelves: 

“You can view the land features/hazards free on your council’s GIS viewer. You can often request the property file for free or quite cheaply - those two things will contain nearly everything that a LIM would.

“The free access to public records applies to open access archival records. A property file/ LIM information is a current record (ie - not archival) so falls under the Local Government Information Management Act, which is allowed to be charged for.”
After her Facebook response to the chick I was chatting to, Sarah didn’t even put a smiley face emoji. Mess with records, and that woman goes ice cold.

Anyway, here’s what you need to know about your LIM from the Whangarei District Council:
- A LIM is a report that is prepared for a customer that applies for one (rather than a
file that is ready to go, just sitting on the shelves ready to be handed out).
- Copies of the summary pages of a LIM are kept on record but until recently WDC
did not keep the full LIM report as it belongs to the applicant that pays the
application fee. 

The information going into a LIM covers approved building and resource consents, land hazards and utility information if known, current rates and rating valuation, District Plan information, heritage or archaeological items and anything else useful and relevant. Illegal and unconsented works cannot be included in a LIM.

WDC’s Customer Services offer property search services for $45, covering the time taken to collate any site plans, floor plans, drainage plans and any Code Compliance Certificates on the property. A large number of WDC’s property files are now scanned and may in the future be available to the public – but not yet.

I seem to recall from a brief stint working as a temp at Auckland Council’s Manukau Service Centre being told that if the fee for a LIM were lowered, developer-sharks would waste a lot of staff time by ordering stacks of LIMs. 

So, the upshot:
• A LIM for a residential property costs $368. A restraining order if you barge into the
council’s records room and start flicking through the papers may cost even more.
• A LIM takes up to 10 working days to receive back from your council.
So sorry, Facebook friend: your council can’t and won’t give you a LIM for free, but you can get a similar product if you do your homework.

Michael Botur has published journalism in NZ Herald, Herald on Sunday, Sunday Star-Times and Mana and he writes a lot of fiction. He moved to Whangarei in 2015 and was ecstatic to be able to afford a house here.

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