The concept for Tenure Solutions’ Registry project started in Papua New Guinea where there are eight million people but only three percent of the land area has any formal land title. The rest is known as customary land (or native title). The challenge is that customary landowners do not have land titles that are recognised by banks and therefore the land can’t be used as security for borrowing.
In recent years, Ian Mathieson and Bryan McLennan, Directors of Tenure Solutions, have spoken with the major banks in Papua New Guinea and received assurances from them that a privately-owned land Registry that would record ownership and interests not recorded in government registries could be worth developing. It was then recognised that a non-government registry could operate across different jurisdictions and potentially provide titling services anywhere in the world where there is a need. Tenure Solutions was established to develop a private Registry that would record ownership and interests not recorded in government registries was included as a major plank in the business plan.
In Australia there are a lot of interests in land and property that government Land Registries don’t or inadequately record such as licenses and native title.
The Tenure Solutions group has been looking at ways to provide opportunities for people to record their interests in a property differently from the normal land titles process. Planning legislation covering rural areas in Australia is generally very restrictive with regard to what can or can’t be subdivided. For example, for land zoned Rural in South East Queensland the minimum size of a subdivision is 100 hectares which doesn’t allow a landowner to sell off a smaller parcel.
Ian and Bryan explain their Registry in more detail:
“We have been looking at the concept of applying company title over a wider range of situations than is currently the case, such as rural land and urban properties that can’t be strata or community titled. An example of company title in Brisbane is Torbreck, a large unit complex in Highgate Hill. The complex and the land are owned by a company; unit owners buy shares in the company and gain exclusive use to their apartment. Other examples include the Jetty complex at Noosa and the Starlight Community in Yandina, as well as many apartment and office suite buildings in Brisbane. The concept is also very popular in Sydney around the Harbour.
So our company is looking at different ways that people can have their interests in a property recognised so that a lending institution will allow that interest in the property to be used as security for lending.
And secondly, we are setting up a private registry to record those interests. This Registry won’t have the restrictions that a government land registry has. For example, if a company owns the property, you can have greater freedom to make changes within the boundaries. Much wider datasets can be recorded.
In terms of developing our services, the provision of company title services is up and running. For effective and efficient operation of company title we took a leaf out of how Community Title works and we married those with an analysis of the operation of existing company title properties, plus the rules of ASIC (probity and governance). This has been done in conjunction with top property lawyers.
It is now time to think about the second leg of our plan which is the Registry. The Registry will register a broader range of interests than what is captured under a government Titles Office. It will encompass different levels of spatial accuracy. Titles offices are very precise about the level of accuracy for surveying. Ours will encompass such precision as well as broader definition using GPS and physical descriptions among others.
Our Registry will encompass diffused notions of ownership and ownership flexibility. Generally, Titles Offices recognise only one level of ownership and some interests. However in some areas it is not settled as to who owns the land, or there is an overlap of claims. Our Register will help identify where competing claims exist to allow for negotiation. We will also include a wide range of supporting documentation including sketches, lines drawn on aerial or satellite images, audio or, in the case of customary ownership, videos of traditional owners recounting family history. Because we can encompass a wide range of support data and make it accessible our Registry will provide a platform for resolution of issues in any jurisdiction where there are sets of mixed interests.
In Australia some Titles Offices don’t, or inadequately, recognise Native Title. We believe our variety of tenure options together with our Registry will fill that gap.”
Tenure Solutions is undertaking three stages to build the Registry:
The Registry will meet a wide variety of needs. It will be useful to anyone who wants to engage with a financial institution to borrow money while offering the security of their entitlement. They would get solid documentation from the Registry.
The Registry will allow surveyors to generate a lot more intellectual property both nationally and internationally. It will create an income stream for organisations like The Surveyors’ Trust to reinvest in the spatial industry.
The Registry will also create a broader scope of work for surveyors.
Antony Schmidt, Chairman of The Surveyors’ Trust has congratulated Ian and Bryan and the Tenure Solutions Board for their vision to improve how land ownership is recognised and recorded.
“In the future, the Tenure Solutions Register may well reduce ambiguity over land ownership and create commercialisation opportunities for land stakeholders,” he said.
For more information visit www.tenuresolutions.com.au.
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