Sketch by Jessop Architects

Building Regulations

New Building Regulations Introduced January 1, 2015 – Important for You to Know

New regulations were introduced on January 1, 2015 that are a major change to the way you have interacted with your building professionals.

These include mandatory contracts for work over $30,000, financial and history disclosures from your builder, a clear understanding of the scope of work to be carried out and that the builder has to ensure that you, the client, be ‘informed’ about building. Read about the Building Amendment Act 2013 below…

If you’re building or renovating, we strongly recommend you work your way through this site.

We have:

More information on building practitioner licensing and restricted building work is available on the LBP website here…

Do You Have a Complaint Against a Licensed Building Practioner? Here’s Where To Do It…

The Building Act

Building work in New Zealand is controlled by the Building Act 2004 and the various Building Regulations which includes the building code.

The legislation is administered nationally by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment – Building and Housing Group and on a local basis by Building Consent Authorities using a building consent process.

The purpose of the Act is to ensure that buildings:

  • Are safe, sanitary and have suitable means of escape from fire; and
  • Contribute to the physical independence and well being of people who use them
  • Are designed, constructed and able to be used in ways that promote sustainable development.

The regulations prescribe the Building Code with which all building work must comply. Performance standards that must be met include building:

  • Durability
  • Fire safety
  • Sanitation (services and facilities)
  • Moisture control
  • Energy efficiency
  • Access

You must have a Building Consent to carry out “building work” except work exempted under Schedule 1. Even exempted work must comply with the Building Code.

A Resource Consent and other authorisations may also be required before building work can commence. One or more of each consent type may be required for the same project.

Note: Building Consents authorise “building work” not land use, and Resource Consents authorise land use and not building work.

What is a Building?

Not as stupid a question as you might think.

A building is any temporary or permanent, movable or immovable structure and its service connections, so it includes temporary structures such as marquees. Please note this list is not exhaustive and you should check with your BCA prior to commencing work.

The Council’s role under the Act

Council is both a building consent authority (BCA) and a territorial authority (TA) under the Building Act. Its function is to:

  • Administer the Building Act 2004 in its territorial district
  • Enforce the Building Code
  • Receive and consider applications for Building Consents
  • Approve or refuse building consent applications within the prescribed time limits
  • Issue Project Information Memoranda (PIM)
  • Issue Code Compliance Certificates
  • Receive and consider applications for Certificates of Acceptance (COA)
  • Receive and consider applications for Certificates for Public Use (CPU)
  • Issue Notices to Fix
  • Issue Compliance Schedules
  • Record building Warrant of Fitness details
  • Determine whether applications for waiver or modification of the building code, or documents for use in establishing compliance with the provisions of the building code should be granted or refused
  • Maintain a building records system available for public access for the life of the building to which it relates

The Building Amendment Act 2013

Passed at the end of November 2013, it made some critical changes to the things you have to do if you’re building new or renovating or doing any DIY work.

Changes introduced in November 2013:

They include changes to the types of work that do not require building consent. More low-risk work is exempt from building consent and there are limits on potentially high-risk work.

  • You will be able to demolish a detached building that is not more than three storeys high without building consent.
  • It’s also possible to remove a potential earthquake hazard without building consent, such as the upper part of a brick chimney that is protruding above the roof.
  • Some existing outbuildings, such as carports, garages, greenhouses and sheds, can be repaired and replaced without building consent, whether they are damaged or not.
  • The building work may be exempt from building consent if the new outbuilding is the same size or smaller than the original, and is on the same footprint and is a comparable outbuilding to the original. You can’t, for example, replace a carport with a garage without building consent, nor can you shift a shed to another part of your property and add an extension without building consent.

The do’s and don’ts of exempt building work are listed in Schedule 1 of the Act, which has been reformatted to make it easier to navigate.

Schedule 1 has been split into three parts:

  • The first part contains building work that anyone can do (including the home handyman).
  • The second part deals with sanitary plumbing and drainlaying, which must be carried out by people authorised under the Plumbers, Gasfitters and Drainlayers Act.
  • The third part covers building work which requires input from a chartered professional engineer.

All building work must comply with the Building Code and any alterations or additions to an existing building must not adversely affect the building’s compliance with the Building Code.

Other changes to the Act include higher penalties for work done without the proper consent.

Building Consent Amendments (and Minor Variations)

Once building work has commenced as a result of the issue of the building consent, any desired changes to the building work which vary from the issued Building Consent need to be carefully considered to assess whether there is a requirement to apply for an amendment building consent, or whether the changed work can be considered to be a “minor variation”.

Contact can be made with the building section of your local council to ascertain whether the desired changes are only a “minor variation”.

To assist in working through the question for yourself, there is a helpful guide produced by the DBH titled “Minor variations to building consents: Guidance on definition, assessment and granting” Feb 2010 available here…

The Building Act 2004

Replaced the Building Act 1991 and primarily affected the building consent process. The main changes to the consent process came into affect on 31 March 2005, when the 1991 Building Act was repealed.

New material covers ‘Restricted Building Work’ and the role of Licensed Building Practitioners in getting building consents. Please read both these items – they directly affect you if you’re undertaking building work.

Main Changes in 2004 Building Act

  • There are new forms which are required by the Act, including application forms.
  • More detailed information is required with a Project Information Memorandum (PIM) application, particularly site levels and contours.
  • All building consents and PIMs have a 20 day statutory time frame for processing (see note below).
  • Some building consent applications will be sent to the Fire Service for comment.
  • Building projects need to be completed within two years, and a formal application for a code compliance certificate made.
  • There is a 20 day timeframe to issue a code compliance certificate at completion.
  • Owners are able to apply for amendments to their compliance schedule, or the Council may initiate an amendment.
  • Owners must provide copies of licensed building practitioner (LBPs formerly known as independent qualified persons or IQPs) certificates with the building warrant of fitness.

If work that required a building consent has been completed without first obtaining one, owners cannot apply for the building consent retrospectively. Instead, owners can apply for a Certificate of Acceptance.


The BCA (your local council) will often request additional information to that supplied in your Building Consent Application – producer statements, additional detailing, etc. The 20-day clock with stop at this point and won’t ‘restart’ until the new information is provided to the BCA.

Minor Building Work Changes – Effective October 16, 2008

We strongly recommend you consult your local council before doing any work. Any work done must conform to the Building Code.

Multiproof Approvals

The MultiProof service, launched in 1 February 2010, enables volume builders to obtain a MultiProof or National Multiple-Use Approval for standardised building designs that are intended to be replicated several times.

MultiProof approvals are issued by the Department of Building and Housing. A MultiProof is a statement by the Department that a specific set of building plans and specifications complies with the New Zealand Building Code. Under the Building Act 2004 (as amended in 2009), Building Consent Authorities must accept a MultiProof as evidence of Building Code compliance.

A building consent is still needed for a building with MultiProof approval. The role of Building Consent Authorities is to:

  • approve site-specific details, including foundations and utilities
  • ensure that any MultiProof conditions have been met, and undertake normal inspections during construction

There’s more information here…

Building Consent Amendments (and Minor Variations)

Once building work has commenced as a result of the issue of the building consent, any desired changes to the building work which vary from the issued Building Consent need to be carefully considered to assess whether there is a requirement to apply for an amendment building consent, or whether the changed work can be considered to be a “minor variation”.

Contact can be made with the building section of your local council to ascertain whether the desired changes are only a “minor variation”.

To assist in working through the question for yourself, Go here: Minor variations to building consents

Owner Occupier Building Permission

If you want to build your own house and you are not a licensed builder you are actually allowed to, including doing Restricted Building Work, but you have to do the work yourself or use friends or family (who can not be paid), and you are not allowed to have done this anytime in the previous three years.

If you do use a licensed professional for something like roofing, then from our reading of the rules it would appear that you will need to use a licensed builder for all the work – and pay them.

For more information, check out the Ministry’s website here…


It is an offence for a residential property developer to:

  • complete the sale of a household unit, or
  • allow a purchaser to enter into possession where the contract for sale and purchase was entered into from 30 November 2004

unless either:

  • The CCC has been issued, or
  • The parties have agreed otherwise in writing using the developer/purchaser agreement form provided by the Ministry. (Note: The Council advises you to seek legal advice before signing this form.)

Earthquake-prone Buildings

The definition of earthquake-prone buildings has changed with the Building Act 2004 Section 122. The provisions apply to all buildings except those used wholly or mainly for residential purposes unless they are two or more stories high and contain three or more household units. The main changes from the Building Act 1991 are:

  • the definition is no longer restricted by building construction type or materials
  • the threshold strength has been effectively raised to a third of the current structural design code.

For more information visit the site here…

For inspiration check out our Design Guide (stories from our latest issued shown above) – Full of great information, insights and ideas for people designing their home; some of New Zealand’s leading architects and designers share their knowledge with you.

High density suburban house Wellington; architect: Gerald Parsonson; photo: Paul McCredie