Land Tenure in Tasmania

The Development of Land Titles in Tasmania

The first inhabitants of Tasmania were the aboriginal people who occupied the land for more than 40,000 years prior to European colonisation. Since 1995, the government has shown recognition to the indigenous peoples being the first inhabitants of the State by handing back to the Tasmanian aboriginal community sites of cultural significance to the indigenous peoples.

After John Bowen established a camp at Risdon Cove in 1803, James Meehan, a convict surveyor who had been sent down with the party from Port Jackson, was dispatched to map the surrounding lands suitable for habitation. This extensive survey, primitive by contemporary standards, most likely formed the base cadastre, from which colonial settlement grew and spread.

In 1770, Australia had been claimed by Captain Cook as dominion land in the name of the sovereign, King George III. In the two hundred years since then, all land has been granted by the Crown under the hand and seal of the governor in the name of the sovereign.

Land granted by the Crown was described by survey. The original crown land surveys are filed in the Central Plan Office (formerly the Lands and Surveys Department) under the custodianship of the Surveyor General.

Land granted by the Crown was subsequently held and dealt with under the English general law system of land tenure, which had been brought to Tasmania with European settlement. Under this system, the owner of land controls a chain of deeds which recite the circumstances under which successive landowners bought and sold the property.

A copy of each deed (a memorial) was also deposited in the Registry of Deeds and records in that office date back to around 1827. All general law deeds, general law surveys and associated land documents are deposited in the Registry of Deeds.

In 1862 the Tasmanian government enacted the Real Property Act, a land tenure system devised by Robert Torrens which was based on the shipping register of Lloyd's of London. Land ownership was proven by registration in a title register maintained by the Recorder of Titles. Under this system the land owner is given a certificate of title.

The Land Titles Office maintains the title register, plan register, power of attorney register and the Registry of Deeds whilst also formulating policy in relation to these different registers. Present government legislation and policy is ensuring that both remaining Crown land and general law land are gradually being brought under this system of land tenure.

The recordings on a Torrens title are guaranteed by the Recorder of Titles under the Land Titles Act 1980. The Tasmanian government maintains an assurance fund under the Act and any person deprived of an estate or interest in land may claim against the fund.

Boundaries of land in a title are not covered by the assurance fund. Mis-described boundaries are re-instated using a set of rules laid down over several centuries by the courts and the location of a boundary is at any time subject to judicial decision by the Recorder of Titles or a court. Generally speaking, the location of established boundary evidence on the ground will prevail over the measurements in a title plan.

When examining the boundaries to land, a person must look at all the evidence including the title, the description plan of survey, former and adjoining plans of survey and any established markings on the ground.

Any person purchasing land are advised to seek professional advice from a solicitor to advise legal obligations and to have a land surveyor confirm that the boundaries of the land under sale conform to the boundaries in the plan of title.