Building consents and tenders
Will your renovation require council approval, or can you avoid that cost? Plus, how does the tender process work?
Knowledge of necessary consents is usually (and thankfully) left in the hands of your designer or builder.
But it still pays to understand what you can and can’t do.
A building consent makes sure you’re knocking together something that won’t topple over or leak – it ensures your plans conform to the Building Code. Consents are administered by your local council, and you’ll need one to provide proof your design is up to scratch.
If council isn’t satisfied, your application will be rejected and your reno will be dead in the water until you can prove otherwise.
Your best bet is to leave the applications to your designer or builder, they’ve seen it all before and know the process. At the very least you’ll need to provide four separate things to the council:
That’s the bare bones. On top of that, there might be extra requirements based on the type of work you’re proposing. These might be calculations to show the building will cope with the proposed changes, or if it’ll stay standing if you’re in a specific high wind zone.
If your reno doesn’t involve any restricted building work, you might not need to go down this track. Things like ripping out the old kitchen and replacing it like for like with a new one should sail through. New regulations came into effect last year that reduced the scope of what work needs building consents.
There’s an online resource (buildit.govt.nz) that can show you if your project will need one.
If your job is major and structural, go in assuming you’ll need to apply for a building consent. A new woodburner seems innocuous, but it’ll be subject to the consent process. Same goes for a fancy tiled shower rather than a plug-and-play unit you buy from a plumbing supplier. Plumbing and drainage changes can sneak through, but installing an additional bathroom or toilet will put you over the line.
You’ll get charged a fee based on the total cost of the project. These fees tend to run into the thousands for big projects. Be sure to budget for it at the beginning of your job.
Once issued, a building consent is valid for 12 months, but you can apply for an extension. If you don’t apply for it, the consent will be reneged and you’ll start the process again. You have two years to complete the job from the date of issue.
Your council has rules in place to stop you constructing things on your property willy-nilly.
The district plan contains all the rules you need to comply with. They cover what you can use your home for, through to size and shape of any buildings. If your design breaks them, your reno could be scuppered. However, you can still apply for resource consent and if approved, things will look rosy again.
It’s easy to look up your district plan online. Type “[your local council] district plan” into a search engine and it’ll bring up a link that’s relevant to you. Most have an interactive map that’s colour coded so you can see how your property is zoned. If you live in the suburbs, it’s likely “residential”. From there you can look up the rules for that property type in the plan.
The rules all depend on your council and the zoning of your property. There are some common threads across councils. These include:
If your design oversteps the rules by getting too close to the boundaries or is outside the recession plane, you can try to get it over the line by applying for a Permitted Boundary Activity. Often, you’ll need to get approval from your affected neighbours, which isn’t guaranteed – it might negatively impact their investment after all.
If you find yourself on the wrong side of some of the other rules in the District Plan, you’ll need to apply for a resource consent. If you don’t, you’ll be building an illegal structure and can face criminal prosecution when you’re caught out.
Your easiest route is to stay within the rules. It’s a good idea to peruse these restrictions so you can temper your plans before you even contact a designer in the first place.
Most councils aim up to 20 working days to turn around your consent applications (should everything be OK). If there’s a bit of go-between to sort out any required information, it’ll take longer.