When Do You Need Building Consent in New Zealand?

April 15, 2024
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Before you even begin laying a foundation, you have to navigate a myriad of sometimes complex legal requirements. In New Zealand, one crucial aspect of this process is obtaining building consent. 

But when exactly is building consent necessary? 

As an Architectural Design studio, building consent is something we frequently have to consider which is why we put this article together to delve deep into the details of the building consent and if and when it applies to you. Read on to explore when and how building consent is required in New Zealand.


What is Building Consent?

Before we start, let’s cover the basics. What exactly is Building Consent? 

A building consent is essentially a confirmation that your proposed building work or architectural project complies with the Building Code and will be safe and fit for purpose.

Building consent MUST be obtained before any building work can start.

Failing to obtain building consent may result in a fine of up to $200,000 and, if work continues you may incur further fines of up to $20,000 per day for every day or part day that the offence continues.

While some architectural or building projects are exempt, all work must still comply with the Building Code.


When is Building Consent Required?

New Construction: If you’re planning to build a new house or commercial building, building consent is mandatory. 

Structural Building – Alterations, Additions & Demolitions: 

  • Building a deck more than 1.5 meters above ground level
  • Building a garage
  • Building a structure closer than the measure of its own height to any residential building or legal boundary. Eg. If you are building a sleepout that is 2 metres high, you must obtain building consent to build it closer than 2 metres from your house.
  • Extending a room, 
  • Installing insulation to external walls, woodburners or air conditioning system
  • Substantially repiling
  • Demolitioning a structure
  • Relocating a building or structure

Plumbing & Drainage Work: Undertaking plumbing or drainage work beyond simple plumbing repairs, building consent is required. Eg. If you are building or renovating a bathroom or are adding a shower, bath or other sanitary fixture.


Retaining Walls & Fences: If you are building a retaining wall that’s load-bearing or over 1.5 metres, a pool fence, or a fence that is higher than 2.5 metres, you will require building consent


When Don’t You Need Building Consent

While many types of building work require consent, there are exceptions for minor projects or specific circumstances.

For example, garden sheds below a certain size or decks built below a certain height above ground level may be exempt from building consent.

Our advice as experienced architectural designers is to never assume you’ll be exempt, always do your research to find out if your planned building works fall under the exemption.

For a comprehensive list of building works that do not need building consent, please refer to the guide available on the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment website.

Our House Architectural recommends you also check out New Zealand Government’s – Can I Build It interactive tool to find out if your project requires building consent.


To Sum Up

Building consent is a fundamental aspect of architectural, construction and renovation projects in New Zealand.

Knowing when it’s required, and complying with the process, is essential for ensuring the safety, durability, and legality of your building work.

If you are not sure whether your project requires consent, or just need some advice, reach out to our Our House Architectural team. We have years of experience dealing with the Building Consent process and are always happy to guide you through the process and answer any questions you have.

For more details about the Building Consent Process, check out the Step-by-Step Guide from www.building.govt.nz