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Applying for building consent

How to apply and what to include in your application for building consent.

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Who issues building consents?

Building consents are issued by Building Consent Authorities (BCAs). Most territorial authorities (councils) are also BCAs. The diagram below explains the structure and functions of local authorities in New Zealand.

You need to know which territorial authority covers the area where you intend to build, as they will process your building consent and also any required resource consents. For more information see the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment's (MBIE) Building Performance website.

Building Consent Authorities (BCAs)
All councils automatically became BCAs on 31 March 2005, however, private building certifiers will need to apply for registration if they want to become BCAs. Registration of BCAs will be carried out by MBIE.

When to get a building consent

You need to apply for a building consent before building a new house or before doing any building work such as structural work, plumbing work, drainage work or site work for new houses or alterations, or before shifting an existing building onto a new section.

Usually your architect or designer will put in the application as your agent when the final plans are drawn, maybe before you have a contract for the construction. If the builder is designing and building, the builder may apply on your behalf. Or you can apply yourself, although you will need to know how to comply with the Building Code to do so. It will depend in each case what type of arrangement you enter into for design and construction.

Building consent is essentially permission to carry out the building work in accordance with the plans and specifications for which you have obtained consent.

Before you apply for a building consent it is a good idea to get a Project Information Memorandum (PIM). A PIM is a report issued by the local council. It includes information that the council considers relevant to the proposed building work. Information in the PIM may affect your planning which is why you need it before applying for the building consent.

Note that the consent will lapse if you don’t start work within 12 months of it being issued (or any other time agreed by the BCA). If the work is not going to start within 12 months, ask the council to allow you further time.

How to apply for building consent

The application forms are available from any council office, or you can ask for them to be posted out to you and they are sometimes available on councils’ websites.

When you are ready to lodge your application, you generally need to make an appointment with the BCA. At the appointment the receiving officer will check your application form, plans and specifications to make sure all the details have been covered and calculate the fee. The fee may be based on the cost of processing the application, or on a scale based on the value of the project. Fees vary from BCA to BCA and there may be additional charges.

Your application will then be assessed for compliance with the Building Code. The BCA may use specialist consultants to assist in this assessment.

The BCA has to process your application within 20 working days, dependent upon you providing all the information they require. Many people experience much longer waiting times but you are within your rights to have it processed within the right timeframe.

Building consent checklist

If your building consent application includes changes to your home’s primary structure (i.e. any load-bearing structural elements), or your home’s external envelope (any building elements which prevent moisture entering your home, e.g. cladding) it’s likely to be classed as restricted building work. This can only be carried out or supervised by Licensed Building Practitioners (LBPs), and requires LBPs to provide documentation as part of the consenting process. The licensed designer (or Registered Architect or Chartered Professional Engineer) that draws the plans for RBW must provide a Memorandum (Certificate of Design Work) to be submitted with the building consent application. Visit MBIE's Building Performance website for more information.

Each council may have different requirements for submissions for a building consent. Generally you are required to provide the completed building consent application form including an estimated value of the building work, with the following information attached:

  • Certificate of title or a copy of the Sale and Purchase Agreement verifying ownership if you’ve only just bought the land and don’t have the title yet.
  • Specifications providing a clear description of the materials and building elements that cannot be shown on the drawings. For example, durability issues, such as timber treatments, would be shown here.
  • Engineer’s reports and calculations.
  • The owner’s intended inspections of the building work in progress. Any special arrangements that you have made for inspection during construction such as checking by an engineer.
  • Producer statements - where the application is relying on a statement to certify compliance of the plans, specifications or completed works with the Building Code, a copy of that producer statement and the calculations it is based on must accompany the application.
  • Solid fuel heaters – these may need separate building consent application and must include the manufacturer’s specifications and installation instructions and a floor plan of the building that clearly shows the proposed location of the heater unit and adjacent rooms, doors and windows.
  • Water supply details - where the property will not be connected to the council reticulated water supply. The location and size of tanks, the location of bores, test results, etc must be included.
  • Alternative Solutions should be fully documented.
  • List of specified systems - such as a cable car (if applicable).

You will also be required to provide drawings with the following information attached:

  • Site plan which includes the street details, boundary dimensions, existing and proposed ground contours/levels, the site area, the outline of all buildings and distances to the boundaries, the points from which height control planes are taken, vehicle access-ways and car park(s).
  • Foundation plan (with dimensions) which provides details of footings, reinforcing sizes and layout, foundation elements, sub-floor ventilation and engineering information.
  • Drainage plan showing building outlines, the location of all fittings, connections, inspection eyes and vents. On-site disposal systems must be accompanied by an engineer’s design.
  • Floor plans (with dimensions) providing details of the wall layout, windows, doors, fixtures and fittings, stove, plumbing, floor dimensions, and smoke detector layout.
  • Bracing plans showing detail of wall layout with windows, doors, roof layout, bracing type, the location and fixing details of bracing panels and calculations for all floors.
  • Elevations showing accurate ground lines, levels, height recession planes, location of doors, windows (with opening windows clearly shown), floor levels in relation to finished ground levels, exterior claddings, roof covering, down-pipes, spouting, sub-floor ventilation and flues.
  • Sections and details showing details of the foundations, reinforcing, damp-proof membrane, stud heights, floor levels, wall structure (including proprietary wall-bracing element details), roof structure, roof covering, wall cladding, flashings, insulation, fire-rated systems, lintels and beams.

For any project that requires licensed building practitioners, the designs will have to be certified by the licensed design practitioner that carried out the design and documentation

Amount of detail required

Each BCA may have different requirements for how many sets of plans you have to submit. Some require that plans are drawn to a particular scale. Check with your BCA.

The details provided in the documents listed in the checklist must be good enough to show that what is being proposed will meet the performance requirements of the Building Code. For example, the documentation should clearly show how the house will keep water out by giving ground clearances, balcony and deck details, information about claddings, including flashings and guttering.

Each aspect of the Building Code requirements has to be covered in detail in the documents. If the documents are not full enough, the BCA will have to come back to you for further information. When this happens the 20-day clock stops and doesn’t restart until you return with the amended documents. This delays the whole process

Determinations

If you are refused a building consent, you can apply to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment for a legal ruling known as a Determination.

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