What do you need a building consent for?

To apply for a building consent most building consent authorities have developed checklists and instructions on how to assemble your application. This will help you lodge the correct information for the councils to work from.

Discover what types of renovations need building consent
ARTICLE Tom Edhouse, BRANZ technical advisor

Most renovations will need a building consent. You will need to apply to a building consent authority (BCA) which is usually your local council and demonstrate that the planned renovation will comply with the New Zealand Building Code (visit Building Performance). When you apply for consent, you’ll need to demonstrate how that performance is going to be achieved. The building consent authority will assess the plans and other information you provide and determine whether the Code’s performance requirements will be met if the building work is carried out as planned.
Even if you don’t need a building consent, the building work will still need to comply with the Building Code. BRANZ has a new website www.renovate.org.nz which provides great information on how houses of the different periods were built, to assist when renovating them. A whole section is dedicated to topics of Compliance and Regulation.

In addition, www.consumerbuild.co.nz provides information on building, buying, renovating and maintaining houses.
Before you begin your project, contact your building consent authority first to check if you need a building consent for your renovation. Under the Building Act 2004, building work (relevant to alterations and renovations) which requires consent includes:
- Alterations, additions and structural repairs to existing buildings, for example, removing or changing structural load-bearing walls. In some cases you will need consent to replace all wall linings at once as they may serve a structural purpose. Any alterations to inter-tenancy walls, for example those separating units in a multi-unit development, will need building consent.
- Repairs to leaking buildings also require a consent as does the installation of insulation to existing external walls.
- The demolition of existing buildings and structures.
- The removal or relocation of existing buildings.
- Sitework, for example, earthworks for a new extension.
- The construction of decks where a person can fall more than 1.5 metres or more in height above ground level. (A barrier is required for decks where it is possible to fall one metre or more).
- Retaining walls that retain more than 1.5 metres in height above ground level, or have surcharges (retain driveways or structures) – note that the 1.5 metre height limit does not apply in this case.
- Changing building use, for example, converting your garage into a bedroom.
- Plumbing or drainage work (other than routine maintenance).
- Installing or replacing an inbuilt, free-standing log and solid fuel burner, heater or open fire place.
- Putting in a swimming or spa pool.
- Installing communications aerials for television repeaters, mobile phones or radio (but not standard home television antennae).
- The construction of fences of two metres or higher.
The Department of Building and Housing has a guide to building work that does not require a building consent. Consent fees vary from council to council and the cost and complexity of the project (a more complex project will require more inspections during construction and therefore will cost more).
To apply for a building consent most building consent authorities have developed checklists and instructions on how to assemble your application. This will help you lodge the correct information for the councils to work from. You will need to engage a design professional (an architect for example) to supply the required drawings and information and to apply for a building consent on your behalf.
You can also contact your local building consent authority for more information. In addition, can also useful information about applying for a building consent and download publications from the Department of Building and Housing website, www.dbh.govt.nz.
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This article was kindly supplied by New Zealand Renovate magazine, New Zealand's first and only magazine dedicated solely to home renovations.

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