This article is focused on New Zealand law and explains issues from a Common law perspective.

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How to obtain a New Zealand building consent


You will need to apply to your local council for a building consent if you intend to carry out any building or construction work, as defined in the BUILDING ACT 2004.

When is a building consent required?

Building or construction work that requires a building consent includes the following:

  • constructing a new building
  • changing the structure of an existing building
  • plumbing work
  • drainage work
  • installing heating, ventilation or air-conditioning systems
  • installing lifts
  • site works associated with the building
  • demolishing a building
  • relocation of second-hand buildings
  • building a retaining wall over 1.5 metres above its foundation (including footing)
  • building a deck that is 1.0 metre or more above ground level
  • building a wall (other than a retaining wall), fence (other than for a pool) or hoarding that is 2.0 metres high or more
  • constructing a shed, glasshouse or conservatory that is more than 10 square metres in area

How do I apply for a building consent?

You can obtain an application form from your nearest council office. You will need to pay the relevant fee.

You should also obtain a Project Information Memorandum from the council (see below), preferably before you apply for the consent.

Project Information Memorandums (PIMs)

A Project Information Memorandum provides information about the work site that may have an effect on the work, including identifying any weaknesses in the land (such as erosion or subsidence), the location of storm or sewerage systems that relate to the site, and details of the various approvals that you will need to get from the council.

You can apply for a PIM either at the same time as you apply for the building consent or before. However, it is best that you obtain a PIM in the earlier planning stages rather than waiting until after plans and drawings have been finalised.

If you apply for a building consent without applying for a PIM (either earlier or at the same time), your application for a consent will be treated as including an application for a PIM.

How will the council deal with my application?

The council will assess your application to make sure that it complies with the New Zealand Building Code. The council may engage a specialist consultant to do this.

The council must decide within 20 working days whether or not to grant your application.

The council can, within that time limit, require you to provide it with further reasonable information to do with your application. The time limit is suspended until you give the council the information.

If the council rejects your application, it must notify you in writing, giving the reasons. If it grants your application, the building consent will allow you to carry out the building work associated with it.

When can I start work?

You may not start the work until the consent has been granted and any other necessary approvals (such as resource consents) have been given.

The consent will lapse if you do not begin work within 12 months after the consent is granted, or within any further time that the council allows.

The council will inspect the work while it is being carried out to ensure that you are complying with the consent.

What happens when the work is completed?

When the work is completed, you must notify the council promptly. The form for this notice should have been attached to the building consent that the council issued you.

The finished work will be inspected to make sure that it complies with the Building Code. This inspection may be carried out by the council or, if you wish, by an approved Building Certifier. If satisfied that the work does comply, the council or the Certifier will issue you with a Code Compliance Certificate.

Notice to rectify

If after an inspection the council is not satisfied that the work complies with the Building Code, the consent and other relevant requirements, it may issue you with a notice to rectify, requiring you to correct the non-complying work.

Cautionary notes
  • You should ensure that all the necessary information is included with your initial application for the consent. If the council requires additional information from you, this will delay the whole procedure.
  • It is likely that additional charges may accrue during the different stages of the process. All the possible fees and charges are listed in a schedule available from your local council office.
  • The information given here is only a summary of the relevant parts of the BUILDING ACT 2004. You should read the Act itself for more details. You may also wish to consult a lawyer, who will be able to explain the full effects of the Act.

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