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How is a resource consent different to a building consent?

Updated: Jun 29, 2023

Whether you are 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. And make sure you understand them before you even head to the drawing board. This blog is a “high level” overview of building consents and resource consents; as always we suggest you do your own investigations and engage professionals to help you.

The two main areas you should concern yourself with are resource consent and building consent. For many building jobs, you may need one or both of these before getting started. At Planning Plus, we help clients with resource consent applications. While we have contacts of people who can help you with building consent applications, we don’t provide clients with advice about the Building Act or assist with building consent applications.

So how do you know which one you need, and what is the difference?

In simple terms, a resource consent covers things that may affect the environment and people, and a building consent is more specific to actual construction details and building regulations. While resource consent requirements may vary in different areas of New Zealand, building consents are pretty general throughout the country.

Auckland Council has a handy “do I need consent tool” that can help you figure out if you need to get one of these consents.

There are a few more specifics to consider, so read on to familiarise yourself with each type of consent.

Building Consent

This is the seal of approval from a local authority that verifies any building work you plan to do adheres to the regulations and codes laid out by the New Zealand Building Act 2004. It relates to the way the building/ structure is designed and constructed, and ensures any work is done correctly and safely.

You will need to get building consent before you start any physical work. In a nutshell, it is your permission to go ahead and start building according to your plans and applies to both new work and renovations. Some work may not need consent, so do a bit of research before starting just to be on the safe side.

​You will likely need a building consent for the following types of work (and many other jobs):

  • Retaining walls over 1.5 meters high,

  • Swimming pools or fences,

  • Decking over 1 metre,

  • Solar panel installation,

  • Demolition or relocation work,

  • Plumbing and drainage work,

  • Additions or alterations,

  • Fences over 2.5 metres high.

You should check requirements for your project with your local Council or a building specialist.

Many peoples start their Council “consent process” by getting a Project Information Memorandum (PIM). PIMs include information on land types, waste and stormwater systems, erosion and other important data related to land use. If your PIM states you need a resource consent we suggest you contact a Planner to discuss this further.

If it is only a building consent you need, then often your architect will help guide you through that process.

Resource Consent

A resource consent relates to the Resource Management Act 1991 and you need a resource consent if you infringe a rule in a district or regional plan (and sometimes for breaching rules in other documents). A resource consent focuses on the use of resources and environmental effects (including effects on people). It does not look at how buildings/ structures are constructed.

A resource consent can relate to things like the type of activity (e.g. a house or new business), building heights, appearance, building location and even noise.

You may need it for the following tasks:

  • Cutting down trees or vegetation,

  • Subdividing or developing land,

  • Earthworks,

  • Water use,

  • Disposal of contaminants into water, soil or air,

  • Using coastal areas,

  • Some retail, commercial or industrial activities.

After you have some initial designs and ideas put together, you should speak to Planner. This is because a Planner will understand the relevant planning rules affecting your site and development and be able to give you advice about this before you spend a lot of money working up a full development design. Although it may seem like an extra expense to engage a Planner, it can be difficult to know what you need, how you can obtain the right information and if you’re likely to get resource consent; using a Planner at the outset can save you money in the long run. It is advisable to use the professional services of a Planner to investigate the resource consent side of your project, like the team here at Planning Plus.

Want more information on resource consents?

We can help you discover what kind of resource consent you need and help you obtain it. If you are at all unsure of the process, then don’t hesitate to get in touch with us at Planning Plus. We can help guide you on the steps you need to take to gain the relevant consent. You can contact us on or (09) 427 9966. We also have a lot of other blogs on our website that can help you with your resource consent journey.

Disclaimer 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.

© Planning Plus Ltd 2023

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