top of page

Changes to the Building Act… do I still need consents?

We’ve seen a lot of excitement on social media in recent weeks, about changes to the Building Act relating to some exemptions coming into play soon. Many people are looking into building sleep-outs, tiny houses, garages or sheds. But what do the changes actually mean in terms of the consents you might need? First let’s have a refresher on the types of consents, because there’s more at play than just building consents.

What is a building consent?

Whether you’re renovating, demolishing or building new in New Zealand, you will save your future self a lot of time and money by understanding the legal requirements. This often means getting a building consent from your local Council.

In simple terms, a building consent gives you permission to start building and is more specific to actual construction details and building regulations on your site. A building consent ensures that the proposed work is safe, durable and doesn’t endanger the health and safety of anyone using the building. A building consent is granted if the Council is satisfied on reasonable grounds that the building code provisions would be met if the work is properly completed in accordance with the plans and specifications in the application.

Building work that is considered low risk may not need consent under the Building Act. You should discuss this with advisory staff at your local Council to be sure.

Building consent vs resource consent

Planners often get asked how building consents and resource consents vary. It's important to know the difference because the need for building consents and resource consents can be triggered in different circumstances due to the different legislative requirements. Something that doesn’t need a building consent can still require a resource consent.

They are also managed by different departments in Councils, so make sure you speak to both departments as part of your investigations. Generally, staff don’t have expertise in both, so it really important to make sure you’re getting the right information.

In general, resource consents cover issues that may affect the environment and people (and relate to district and regional plans) whilst building consents address matters related to design and construction of buildings and structures (and refer to the Building code). While resource consent requirements vary in different areas of New Zealand, building consents are general throughout the country.

Building Consent Exemptions in August 2020

Exemptions to the Building Act are being introduced in August 2020, meaning that some low risk building work will no longer require building consent. The building consent exemptions will provide time and money savings by not having to go to your local council for building consent approval. This reduction in building consents will also allow Councils to focus on building work that is higher-risk.

As a result of the new exemptions, low risk works will utilise the Licensed Builder Practitioners scheme and will use chartered professional engineers. The changes recognise the competence of these practitioners in delivering building work in accordance with the New Zealand Building Act. The changes to the building consent requirements are expected to boost the building and construction sector in the Covid-19 climate.

You do however still need to investigate resource consent requirements under your local planning frameworks (district and regional plans) as the need for a resource consent can still be triggered despite the changes to the Building Act. This could mean that the need for resource consent for a second dwelling or minor dwelling for example is triggered. Other requirements such as yard setbacks, maximum impermeable areas and site coverage controls of the district plan still apply.

So, what are the new exemptions?

The exemptions that come into force in August 2020 will exclude building consent requirements in the following situations, provided the design has been carried out or reviewed by a Chartered Professional Engineer or a Licensed Building Practitioner.

The following exemptions are to be introduced:

  • Single-storey detached buildings (e.g. sleep outs, sheds and greenhouses) up to 30m2 do not require building consent.

  • Carports up to 40m2.

  • Ground floor awnings up to 30m2.

  • Ground floor verandas and porches up to 30m2.

  • Outdoor fireplaces or ovens with a maximum height of 2.5 metres, and maximum cooking surface of 1m2.

  • Short-span (small) bridges which the general public cannot access and does not span a road or rail area.

  • Single-storey pole sheds and hay barns in rural zones.

  • Flexible water storage bladders for irrigation and firefighting only, up 200,000 litres in storage capacity.

Starting a project that doesn't need building consent?

The proposed changes to the Building Act do not change resource consent requirements and you still need to investigate whether your project requires resource consent under your local planning framework. For example, if your sleep-out is self-contained (such as containing a kitchen and bathroom) this would usually meet the planning definition of a “dwelling” and generally resource consent will be required along with the payment of development contributions.

It’s the property owner's responsibility to check what consents are required. Investigation into resource consent requirements is recommended at the start, to avoid time and cost delays later down the track.

Need help?

If you need some advice about preparing a resource consent application, get in contact with our helpful team. At Planning Plus, we deal with this process every day and know it inside out. We can manage the application process for you, turning the complex into simple and taking away the stress from what can become a difficult process. Contact us on 09 427 9966 or


As with all our blogs, the information detailed here is general in nature and meant as a preliminary guide only. This should not be substituted for your own investigations or use of your own professional’s. Planning Plus is not liable for any errors or omissions.

1,663 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page