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Building consents — frequently asked questions

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  1. What happens to an application for a building consent that was made before 31 March 2005, but where the building consent was not issued by that date?
  2. What happens to a building consent granted before 31 March 2005 under section 34 of the Building Act 1991?
  3. What’s the difference between granting and issuing a building consent?
  4. When a building consent application is lodged that includes building over two allotments (section 77)...
  5. Will a form be provided for building consent amendments?
  6. When does the building consent applicant become liable for the building levy?
  7. Where drawings differ from the specification, which takes precedence?
  8. Does a building consent have a limited life?
  9. How long must a territorial authority hold copies of building consent applications?
  10. Can a territorial authority waive access and facilities for people with disabilities?
  11. What will the New Zealand Fire Service Commission provide advice on?
  12. Some people think that the New Zealand Fire Service Commission often requires more than the Building Code requires. Will this continue?
  13. If the building consent authority requires a change to a building consent application as a result of the New Zealand Fire Service Commission memorandum, does the building consent authority need to send the application back to the New Zealand Fire Service Commission?
  14. What is the difference between a fit-out and an alteration as identified in the Gazette notice?
  15. Does the building consent authority have to act on the New Zealand Fire Service Commission’s advice?
  16. What information does the New Zealand Fire Service Commission expect to receive?
  17. What are the contact details for the New Zealand Fire Service Engineering Unit?

1. What happens to an application for a building consent that was made before 31 March 2005, but where the building consent was not issued by that date?

From 31 March 2005, an application for a building consent must be treated as an application under section 45 of the Building Act 2004 (see section 432(2)(b)).

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2. What happens to a building consent granted before 31 March 2005 under section 34 of the Building Act 1991?

From 31 March 2005, such a building consent must be considered as if it were a building consent granted under section 49 of the Building Act 2004 (see section 433(1)). However, the timeframes in which to decide whether to issue a code compliance certificate in section 93 do not apply (see section 433(2)), and the code compliance certificate should be issued against the Building Code at the time the consent was granted (see section 436).

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3. What’s the difference between granting and issuing a building consent?

A building consent is granted when the decision is made that the application complies with the requirements of the Building Code and the building levy is paid. Issuing occurs once the building consent authority has granted the building consent, produced the relevant documentation and attached other relevant information such as the PIM and development contribution notice (refer to section 51 of the Act).

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4. When a building consent application is lodged that includes building over two allotments (section 77),when can the building consent authority issue the consent? Must the building consent authority wait for the certificate to be issued or until it has been lodged with the Registrar-General of Land before issuing the building consent?

A building consent authority should not issue a building consent until a certificate has been issued by the territorial authority. The certificate must have been authenticated by the territorial authority and signed by the owner. It would also be good practice not to issue a building consent until a copy of the certificate has been lodged with the Registrar-General of Land and accepted. However, if this cannot be done within the 20-working-day timeframe for processing the building consent application, then the building consent authority should issue the building consent. In such a case, it would be good practice for the building consent authority to notify the applicant when issuing the building consent that the section 77 certificate has not yet been lodged and/or accepted by the Registrar-General.

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5. Will a form be provided for building consent amendments?

No. Section 45(5) requires that an application for an amendment must be made as if it were a building consent. This means that the building consent application Form 2 should be used for the amendment.

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6. When does the building consent applicant become liable for the building levy?

The applicant becomes liable for the levy where the building consent is granted and must pay the levy no later than at the time the consent is granted (section 53(1) of the Act). Many territorial authorities take the levy at the time of application. The Act does not prevent this, although such levy payments would need to be returned if the consent were not granted.

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7. Where drawings differ from the specification, which takes precedence?

There should not be any significant inconsistencies between the drawings and specifications. Where inconsistencies do exist, the building consent authority may need to suspend the building consent and ask that the inconsistencies be clarified.

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8. Does a building consent have a limited life?

A building consent lapses and is of no effect if the building work to which it relates does not commence within 12 months after the date of issue of the building consent, or any further period that the building consent authority may allow. If building work does commence within 12 months, then the owner has 2 years from the date of the granting of the building consent to complete the building work before the building consent authority will follow up on the building consent and decide whether or not to issue a code compliance certificate. A building consent authority can agree to an extension to the 2-year period.

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9. How long must a territorial authority hold copies of building consent applications?

For the life of the building.

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10. Can a territorial authority waive access and facilities for people with disabilities?

No. Section 67(3) has been amended (refer to Building Amendment Act 2005) to clarify that access and facilities for people with disabilities cannot be waived by a territorial authority. Under section 69, the Chief Executive may issue a waiver or modification for access and facilities for people with disabilities in relation to building work on existing buildings, but not new buildings.

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11. What will the New Zealand Fire Service Commission provide advice on?

The Fire Service can only provide advice on provisions for means of escape from fire and the needs of people who are authorised by law to enter the building to undertake fire-fighting (section 47(1)(a) and (b)).

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12. Some people think that the New Zealand Fire Service Commission often requires more than the Building Code requires. Will this continue?

No, the Act is clear that the New Zealand Fire Service Commission cannot do this when giving advice (section 47).

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13. If the building consent authority requires a change to a building consent application as a result of the New Zealand Fire Service Commission memorandum, does the building consent authority need to send the application back to the New Zealand Fire Service Commission?

No, but a building consent authority could choose to do so.

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14. What is the difference between a fit-out and an alteration as identified in the Gazette notice?

An alteration will cover any building work to rebuild, re-erect, repair, enlarge or extend the building, and a fit-out may involve a similar type of building work. However, each term is used in a different way in the Gazette notice. The reference to alteration in clause 1(c) of the Gazette notice means that building consent applications for alterations that affect the fire safety systems will need to be reviewed by the New Zealand Fire Service Commission. The reference to fit-out is an exemption provision and means building consent applications for that work will not have to be reviewed by the New Zealand Fire Service Commission. Fit-outs are internal building work and are only exempt where they are the subject of a separate building consent that is associated with staged building consents. For example, if a building consent is obtained to build a new building but the floor fit-outs are to be covered by a separate consent, these will not be required to be reviewed by the New Zealand Fire Service Commission. If the fit-out work is covered by the same building consent as other building work that is required to be reviewed by the New Zealand Fire Service Commission, then the fit-out exemption will not apply.

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15. Does the building consent authority have to act on the New Zealand Fire Service Commission’s advice?

No. However, it must consider that advice and be able to explain why it did or did not take action as a result of that advice.

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16. What information does the New Zealand Fire Service Commission expect to receive?

The New Zealand Fire Service Commission website suggests the following.

To expedite the review process the New Zealand Fire Service Commission recommends that at the time of application for a building consent, the applicant or more preferably the fire engineering consultant clearly identifies the pertinent information. This information should be comprehensive and include how the means of escape from fire is achieved and the needs of the Fire Service to undertake fire fighting and rescue operations within the building. This could include:

  • 1 x copy of the fire engineering drawings, dated, clearly indicating drawing number, version, author and originating company. Plans will not be returned but retained on file by New Zealand Fire Service Commission.
  • 1 x fire report.
  • 1 x New Zealand Fire Service Commission checklist, dated and signed by New Zealand Fire Service Commission Chief Fire Officer.

Paper or electronic formats are acceptable to the New Zealand Fire Service Commission. However, this is left to the discretion of the building consent authority so as to align with their document control procedures.

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17. What are the contact details for the New Zealand Fire Service Engineering Unit?

New Zealand Fire Service
Engineering Unit
2 Poynton Terrace
PO Box 68-042
Newton
Auckland 1010

Email: reviews@fire.org.nz
Website: www.fire.org.nz  
Phone: (09) 354 5105 
Fax: (09) 309 04831