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Building consent and inspections process

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The same basic consent and inspection process applies whether building a new home, commercial building or structure, or for renovations, additions, alterations or demolition.

If the proposed building work requires a building consent but is straightforward, the process is simple. More complex building work will require more planning to ensure it is safe and complies with the law.

Most buildings that are commercial, public or multi-unit residential have additional requirements to ensure they remain safe to use once the building work is complete.

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What requirements apply to building work?

Requirements that apply to all but exempt building work
Building consent
Inspections
Code compliance certificate
Additional requirements that apply to buildings with specified systems. These are mainly commercial, public, or multi-unit residential buildings Compliance schedule
Building warrant of fitness

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Why go through the process?

The purpose of the law is to ensure that building work is safe, durable and does not endanger health, both for the current users of the building and to protect those who may buy and use the property in the future.

Building without a building consent where one is required is an offence in New Zealand that could result in fines and possibly the removal of the building work. It may also make it difficult to sell the building, or even to get insurance.

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When is a building consent required?

The Building Act (Schedule 1) sets out certain building work that does not require a building consent. This is often referred to as ‘exempt work’. However, it is important to note that all building work, whether or not it requires a consent, must be done to meet the standards of performance set by the Building Code.

Some basic building, such as laying a patio or installing kitchen cupboards, does not require a building consent. Most building work, however, does. The lists below provide a summary, but check with your local council [External website].  (territorial authority) to be sure. Plumbing and drainage are likely to require a building consent. Some earthworks may also require a building consent or other approvals.

Examples of work that does require a building consent:

  • Structural building - additions, alterations, re-piling, some demolitions
  • Plumbing and drainage (except repair and maintenance of existing (using comparable) components) where additional sanitary fixture is created
  • Relocating a building
  • Installing a woodburner or air-conditioning system
  • Retaining walls higher than 1.5 metres (3.0 metres in rural area if designed by CPEng)
  • Fences or walls higher than 2.5 metres, and all swimming pools and their associated fences
  • Decks, platforms or bridges more than 1.5 metres above ground level
  • Sheds greater than 10 square metres in floor area

Examples of work that does not require a building consent:

  • A patio or deck at ground level
  • Garden trellis less than 2.5 metres high
  • Maintenance of your house, for example, replacing spouting or a piece of weatherboard
  • Building a small garden shed (provided it is no closer than its own height to the boundary, is under 10 m², and less than one storey high)

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Building consent and inspections checklist

If the project requires a building consent, consider the following.

1. Find out about the site before making a detailed building consent application

Consider making an application for a project information memorandum (PIM)

A PIM identifies:

  • whether a resource consent is required
  • whether other laws affect the site, for example, heritage requirements, territorial authority bylaws
  • whether the land has special features, for example, erosion, or is affected by hazardous materials
  • details of surface water and wastewater
  • whether a development contribution fee is required.

Applying for a PIM:

  • Application forms for PIMs are available from territorial authorities.
  • Make sure the form is correct for the district where the proposed building will be situated.
  • State the address and legal description of the site, and provide drawn details about the kind of building that is proposed.
  • A PIM will be issued within 20 working days, and territorial authorities will charge a fee for this service.

2. Prepare the building consent application and accompanying plans and specifications

 An appropriately qualified professional should normally be engaged to help with this. If the building is residential, some of the work may be Restricted Building Work and this affects who is allowed to do the design work.

The plans and specifications must also include details of the owner's proposed inspections throughout construction, if the building consent authority requires it.

A building consent authority issues a building consent if it is satisfied the application, together with detailed plans and specifications, demonstrate how the proposed work would comply with the Building Code. If Restricted Building Work is involved then applications must include certain documentation from a licensed building practitioner  with an appropriate design licence.

Building consent documentation needs to fully detail the building work proposals as well as show how the building work will comply with the Building Code. At the end of the project, the building work will be signed off if it has been carried out according to the approved building consent documentation.

Making sure the paperwork is correct for the building consent application can cut costs and delays on a project. Having good paperwork:

  • helps any professionals on the project quote more accurately, make better purchasing and planning decisions and build according to the desired outcomes
  • ensures a better paper trail exists should something go wrong
  • ensures the building work carried out corresponds to the plans if you or a future owner need to carry out maintenance or further building work.

Applying for a building consent:

  • Application forms for building consents are available from building consent authorities for the district where the proposed building will be situated.
  • Completing the form is likely to require a certificate of title for the property and knowledge of the Building Code.
  • If the information provided is incomplete, the building consent authority can request further information which could lead to delays.
  • Building projects will need to include detailed plans and specifications as part of the application - these also need to demonstrate compliance with the Building Code and, to meet  Restricted Building Work documentation requirements where applicable.
  • Before making an application, go through the design in great detail - amendments once the building consent has been issued, and variations from the consented plans may lead to problems getting the work signed off. Variations require an amendment to the building consent. Unapproved variations will mean the work does not comply with the approved building consent documentation, which means a code compliance certificate cannot be issued.
  • The building consent authority will go through the plans to determine whether the proposals will meet the requirements of the Building Code and will charge a fee for this process.
  • The building consent authority has 20 working days to decide whether to grant or refuse a building consent. If more information is requested, this can cause delays.
  • Once fees have been paid, the building consent authority will issue the building consent.

There are additional requirements for multi-unit residential buildings, commercial or communal buildings, or buildings with premises that are intended for public use:

  • Identify any safety systems or features such as lifts, fire sprinklers, or fire walls that are new or that will be affected by alterations - and identify what will be necessary to keep these systems working correctly in the future. These safety systems and features are known as specified systems - they require a compliance schedule and are subject to ongoing maintenance through the building warrant of fitness regime.
  • If occupancy of the building will take place in stages, consider whether to make staged building consent applications - there are new offences relating to occupancy or use of premises intended for public use affected by building work, and new consumer protection measures around sale and occupancy.

3. Notify the building consent authority when work begins on a project

If Restricted Building Work is involved, there are certain notification requirements that must be met before the work begins.

A building consent lapses if the building work does not start within 12 months, unless you make arrangements with your building consent authority.

4. Organise inspections and ensure they are occurring as required

It is the building owner’s responsibility to organise inspections. If this has been delegated to a builder, architect or project manager, check to be sure they are taking place.

The building consent authority will set out the inspections that are necessary on the building consent. Most indicate any fees or charges for these inspections.

For a new building such as a house, inspections may typically be carried out (but not limited to) the following stages of construction.

  • Foundations.
  • Framing and insulation.
  • Plumbing.
  • Drainage.
  • Claddings and flashings.
  • The finished building.

5. At the end of the project, organise for a final inspection for a code compliance certificate (CCC)

A CCC is issued after the final inspection of the finished building project and confirms that the building consent authority is satisfied the completed building work complies with the building consent.

If Restricted Building Work is involved, make sure all the Licensed Building Practitioners who did the work have provided their Record of Work forms so you can provide them to the building consent authority.

  • Applications for a CCC is compulsory, and is the responsibility of the homeowner.
  • Provide all the relevant energy work certificates for the project. These are supplied by electricians, gasfitters, etc and ensure that fees and development contributions have been paid.
  • When building owners have not submitted an application for a CCC within 2 years from the date the building consent was issued, the building consent authority will follow this up with the owner (unless you have agreed an extension with them).

6. Owners of commercial, public or most multi-unit residential buildings have ongoing requirements through the building warrant of fitness (BWOF) regime

  • On completion of your project, the building consent authority will issue a compliance schedule covering the maintenance, inspection and reporting requirements for any specified systems in the building.
  • The building owner is responsible for ensuring the requirements of the compliance schedule are met.
  • On the anniversary of the compliance schedule building owners will need to supply the territorial authority with a BWOF.