About building consents

What is a building consent?

If you are constructing, altering, demolishing or removing a building you probably need a building consent. 

A Building Consent is the authorisation for you to start building work. It is official consent from a Building Consent Authority (BCA) or Council, to undertake building work. The BCA is required to grant a building consent where the BCA is "satisfied on reasonable grounds" that the work, if properly completed in accordance with the plans and specifications, and other supporting information, will comply with the Building Code.

As well as a building consent, you may require approvals under other legislation such as the Resource Management Act 1991, local bylaws, or approval from Fire and Emergency New Zealand or Heritage New Zealand. For some activities you may also need a Resource Consent from Northland Regional Council (we will let you know if you need a resource consent when we’ve assessed your building consent application).

The Building Act describes building work as:

work—

for, or in connection with, the construction, alteration, demolition, or removal of a building; and

(ii) on an allotment that is likely to affect the extent to which an existing building on that allotment complies with the building code; and

(b) includes sitework

This also includes temporary structures such as marquees, grandstand seating and stages.

You need a building consent to:

  • build a new house or add on to your existing one (see Alterations to existing buildings)
  • move a house
  • do structural work, such as removing or altering load-bearing walls
  • carry out earthquake strengthening work
  • install a plumbing or drainage system
  • build a fence or wall over 2.5m high
  • build a retaining wall over 1.5m high
  • build a retaining wall that is subject to additional loading (any height)
  • build a shed more than 10m2 in area
  • build a deck or platform where it is possible to fall more than 1.5m
  • put in a swimming pool or spa pool (or put a fence/barrier around a pool that doesn’t already have one)
  • install a wood burner, solar panel or hot water heater
  • create an outside fireplace
  • install a cable car
  • put a sign on your property.

You may need a building consent for change of use of an existing building. See Change of use.

Some building work does not require a building consent. This is known as exempt work.

Building work that is exempt

There are some situations where a building consent is not required for building work. This includes low decks, pergolas, fences under 2.5m high, some signs and some retaining walls and some minor plumbing and drainage. For information on when you don’t need a building consent, check out Guidance: Building work that does not require a building consent.

Although a building consent is not required, the work must still comply with the Building Code. Even though building consent is not required you may need other Council approvals such as a Resource Consent or bylaw approvals. You can apply for an exemption of a building consent under Schedule 1, exemption (2). To apply, use the Notification of exemption from Building Consent(PDF, 469KB).

If you’re not sure whether you need a building consent for your project, you should discuss this with a building or design professional.

In some cases Council can allow building work to be undertaken without consent even though that work is not exempt from consent requirements. You will need to submit an application for exemption(PDF, 535KB) and provide reasons as to why you intend to seek an exemption, for example if the work is considered to be low-risk and is unlikely to cause a danger to anyone.

Restricted Building Work

Building design and building work can be complex. In many cases having design and building professionals doing the work for you can take away a lot of stress that can arise during a building project. If your building or renovation project relates to work on a residential building it's likely to include some restricted building work. Restricted building work is design and/or building work that must be performed or supervised by a licensed building practitioner.

Restricted building work is design or construction work that is structural, or affects the weather tightness of the building. It covers elements such as:

  • foundations
  • floors
  • walls
  • framing
  • roofing
  • cladding
  • external moisture-management systems
  • active fire safety systems (in small to medium-sized apartments)

License Building Practitioners (LBPs)

The Building Act places an obligation on the building owner to ensure (before you start the work) that the people you’re using to supervise or do restricted building work have the relevant licenses. 

You must use an LBP to design or carry out restricted building work. An LBP must do or supervise this work. They must work within the scope of their licence class. Licensed Building Practitioners (LBPs) are licensed by the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment. They include:

  • designers
  • carpenters
  • bricklayers and blocklayers
  • roofers
  • external plasterers
  • site and foundations specialists.

Each LBP, designer or engineer needs to supply a Memorandum (Certificate of Design Work) (Form 2A) to include in your building consent application. This memorandum identifies the restricted building work that they have either designed or supervised.

During construction, restricted building work must be carried out or supervised by a LBP. The LBPs doing the work should be named in the building consent application, if you know who they will be. If you don’t yet know which LBP you are using, you must tell us before work starts.

What you need to know about Restricted Building Work:-

  • The owner must notify the Council who the LBPs performing the work are; notification must be provided before the RBW begins
  • We cannot do any inspections until we have been notified which LBPs have been engaged
  • An LBP must issue a Record of Work (ROW) when they complete their work.
  • All LBPs who work on your project are required to issue a ROW, not just the main contractor.
  • The LBPs must supply the ROWs to both the homeowner and the Council.
  • Far North District Council will apply a build inspection block until LBP details are provided.

Owner-Builder Obligations

When you can do restricted building work yourself.

This exemption provides owner-builders or Do-It-Yourself builders (DIY) a mechanism to undertake restricted building work on their own homes, or use a friend or family member to either assist, or undertake the works on their behalf. 

You are an owner-builder if you:

  • Have a relevant interest in the land or the building on which the restricted building work is carried out (i.e. ownership)
  • Live in or are going to live in the home (includes a bach or holiday home)
  • Carry out restricted building work to your own home yourself, or with the help of your unpaid friends and family members, and
  • Have not, under the owner-builder exemption, carried out restricted building work to any other home within the previous three years.

You must either own (or jointly own with another person) or have a beneficial legal interest in the land and/or house the building work is being carried out on. A legal interest includes being a beneficiary of a trust, shareholder of a company, co-owner of Maori land, or having possession of a long-term lease.

To meet the criteria, you must also genuinely intend to occupy (or already occupy) the house and not be building (or altering) it only to sell it or rent it to someone else.  However, occupation does not need be permanent or exclusive, it is sufficient for you to reside on an intermittent basis e.g. a holiday home.

An owner-builder exemption does not cover works such as electrical, gas-fitting or plumbing and drainage work unless the owner-builder holds appropriate licenses for this type of work.

If an owner builder claims an exemption under the LBP scheme, you must complete a statutory declaration on Form 2B.  The statutory declaration must be held on the Land Information Register so that future owners are made aware that the design or construction of the dwelling has been undertaken by an owner builder.