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Building work and exemptions

Building work and exemptions What building work requires building consent?

All building work requires consent before the work is started. Building work refers to work that is for or in connection with a building’s construction, alteration, demolition, or removal.  
You will require consent if you want to:

  1. Change your building’s layout
  2. Add to an existing building
  3. Renovate
  4. Build new.

Note: This also includes: plumbing, drain-laying, pool fencing/barriers, retaining walls, etc.

However, some exceptions to this requirement do exist. These are known as exemptions under Schedule 1 of the Building Act 2004.

Building work exempt from consent requirements

Exempt building work is building work that can be done without first obtaining a building consent. Council suggests discussing your plans with your design or building professional who will be able to tell you if the proposed work is exempt. You can find more information on finding a design or building professional here.

Please note however, exempt building work must always comply with the Building Code.

The work may also need to comply with other requirements such as the District Plan and resource consent or bylaw requirements. Your competent design or building professionals are best placed to advise you on this.

See MBIE guidance for more information on exempt building work.

What work can I do without a building consent?

Schedule 1 of the Building Act states consent is not needed for some types of work, such as: minor alterations, sleepouts, carports, farm buildings and some minor plumbing and drainage work.
Owners relying on these exemptions must meet certain provisos, including:

  • some work must be performed by licensed individuals such as plumbers, drainlayers, engineers or Licenced Building Practitioners
  • footprint size:
    Building exemption
  • height in relation to boundary and other buildings:
    Building exemption 2

How do I decide if my work meets exemption criteria?

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) provides a useful guide for exemptions: Building work that does not require a building consent. You can use this guide to decide if the work you want to do meets exemption criteria.

It’s best to consult with a competent design or building professional if you are unclear whether your work meets criteria. 

See MBIE's BuildIt Tool for more useful information.

Recording exempt work

You should keep records of any exempt building work you have done that show who did the work and any documentation they provided. It’s important this information is available to future purchasers should you ever wish to sell your property. Council do not hold records of work that has been done without a building consent.

Discretionary exemptions

The Building Act states Council may allow for additional work to be done without a building consent, beyond that already described in law.
To apply for a discretionary exemption, you will need to:

  • fill out an application
  • provide supporting information and
  • pay a fee.

These are considered on a case by case basis.

Prior to lodging your exemption application, please call Council and make an appointment with the Duty Building Technician on: 871 5000. At that appointment you will need to pay the non-refundable fee. (Please see Fees and Charges for more information).

You will receive written confirmation if Council is satisfied that the work meets the discretionary exemption criteria, and this information will be added to the property file.

Building consents

If the work is not exempt you must apply for a building consent before starting your building work. If you don’t, you will then have to apply for a Certificate of Acceptance. This is a complex process, so it’s much simpler for you to get your building consent before starting work.


When building work can begin (including Resource Management Act requirements)

You should read your building consent carefully upon receiving it as it may have restrictions imposed that will prevent you from starting work, e.g. you may need a resource consent. However, if no restrictions have been identified on your consent then you can start work as soon as your consent is issued.

Managing changes on site

Matters can become complicated if changes are made on site without Council approval. You need to discuss any changes you wish to make to a design with both the designer and Council before making the change. In some cases you may need to apply for an amendment to the consent . This takes 20 working days to approve. In other cases the work may be a minor variation. Changes could hold up your project if not managed appropriately.

Restricted building work

You can find information on restricted building work here.


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