A beginner's guide to resource and building consent processes
Under the Resource Management Act 1991 and the Building Act 2004
Two Acts to follow
Every building project must comply with the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA) and the Building Act 2004 (the Building Act). These laws define the situations in which you need a resource consent and/or a building consent; and what you need to do to get them.
The process for getting your consents will be easier if you know how the RMA and the Building Act affect your project, and what you need to do to have your consents approved.
This guide will take you through key questions to consider, the steps to follow in applying for your consents, and who you need to see at each step. The flow chart sets out 14 steps, some of which may not apply depending on the nature of your project. This guide also refers you to more detailed guidance and other sources of advice.
Tom and Mary are expecting twins. Mary's parents have offered to come and live with them, to help with child care. Tom and Mary want to modify their small cottage to meet their changing circumstances. They know they will need to keep to the rules about planning and building. To find out their idea is feasible, they need more information and advice
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The Resource Management Act 1991
The RMA protects land and the environment. Just because you own a piece of land doesn’t mean you can do what you want on it or with it. The RMA recognises that our neighbours and others in our communities can be affected by our ideas for using land and other resources – just as we can be affected by the plans of others. By protecting the environment, the RMA also ensures we consider the
interests of the community and future generations of Kiwis.
Under the RMA, regional councils prepare regional plans that focus on the management of our air, water, land and soil. City or district councils prepare district plans that focus on managing aspects of subdivision and land use that can affect the environment, such as the height, appearance and location of buildings and signs, and the noise, glare and odour associated with the activities that take place in and around buildings. Every district or regional plan is different and reflects the desires and aspirations of the local community.
What is a resource consent?
The plans councils prepare set out which activities will require a resource consent. A resource consent is a formal approval for such things as the use or subdivision of land, the taking of water, the discharge of contaminants in water, soil or air, or the use or occupation of coastal space. It’s not just new buildings that may require resource consent. A new use of an existing building may also require a resource consent. Just as council plans vary, the need for resource consents varies from one area to another. If the activity you want to carry out isn’t clearly identified as either a permitted or prohibited activity in the plan, then you must obtain a resource consent. If you need certainty, councils can issue certificates of compliance for permitted activities confirming that the activity is lawfully established.
The Ministry for the Environment has a series of 14 booklets called An Everyday Guide to the RMA. Getting in on the Act explains the purpose of the Act, and provides some examples of how it works. You can find copies at your local council, or on the Ministry for the Environment’s website.
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The Building Act 2004
The Building Act covers the construction, alteration, demolition and maintenance of new and existing buildings throughout New Zealand. It sets standards and procedures for people involved in building work (including licensing of building practitioners) to ensure buildings are safe, healthy, and built right first time. It covers how work can be done, who can do it, and when it needs to be consented and inspected. The Building Act as it relates to buildings is implemented by local district and city councils.
Under the Building Act, the Building Code defines the minimum standards buildings must meet (to the extent required by the Building Act). In contrast to the plans prepared under the RMA, the Building Code provides a common set of minimum rules for the whole of New Zealand.
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What is a building consent?
A building consent is a formal approval granted by your local council under the Building Act that allows a person to carry out building work. Building work includes work in connection with the construction, alteration, demolition or removal of a building. A council will issue a building consent only when it is satisfied the proposed building work will meet the requirements of the Building Code.
You cannot carry out any building work unless you have a building consent. There are a few minor exceptions to this set out in Schedule 1 of the Building Act. For example, decks under 1m in height; and retaining walls less than 1.5m high that do not support any surcharge or any additional load such as vehicles on a road.
All building work must meet the minimum requirements of the Building Code even if no building consent is required.
Note: Make sure you read more about the resource and building consent processes before you start detailed planning. Spend time on shaping your ideas gathering information, and talking to the right people early to save time and money for years to come.
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A beginner’s guide to resource and building consent processes
- Initial preparations
- Preliminary design
- Get a Project Information Memorandum (PIM)
- Confirm consent requirements
- Prepare assessment of environment effects
- Seek written approval from affected parties
- Apply for resource consent
- Final design
- Apply for building consent
- Engage a builder and start construction
- Ensure inspections are carried out
- Building is complete
- Get a code compliance certificate
- Ensure ongoing compliance
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