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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about new building consent exemptions from August 2020

When did this change happen?

In May 2020, the government announced that some new types of building work will no longer need a building consent.

What does this change mean?

More building consent exemptions are being added to the Building Act 2004.

The new exemptions will save you time and money, by not having to come to us for consent for common, low-risk building work.

But don't break out the hammer yet. Although the work may not need a building consent, it still has to meet Building Code standards and other legislation requirements such as our District Plan, so it pays to check with us first before you start.

Some work can be done by you, but some must still be done by a Chartered Professional Engineer or a Licensed Building Practitioner.

For instance, if you're putting in a single storey, detached building (including kitset buildings) it must have been designed by chartered professional engineers and in in most cases, construction must be checked or supervised by a Licensed Building Practitioner (LBP).

Kitchen and bathroom facilities are not included in the exemption. Any plumbing work to a new or current building still needs a building consent, and any electrical work will still have to be carried out by a registered electrician.

When do the new exemptions take effect?

The new exemptions come into effect on 31 August 2020.

What new work is exempt from requiring a building consent?

If you've been dreaming about a new sleep out, or escaping to you own man cave/she shed, you won’t need a building consent for projects up to 30 square metres, provided they meet our planning rules and comply with the Building Act. The new exemption increases the size of a single-storey detached building that can be constructed without a consent from 10 square metres to up to 30 square metres.

Height to boundary considerations

The new exemptions do not apply to the building work of a building that is closer than the measure of its own height to any residential building or to any legal boundary.

Building close to boundaries?

If you are building close to boundaries, you need to consider the Building Code requirements regarding protection from fire, particularly in relation to the external spread of fire to neighbouring property. Check with our building team if you are unsure.

Boundary or residential building

Sleep outs need access to potable water from the existing dwelling

If you are providing sleeping accommodation in such a detached building, note that the facilities (eg potable water) of an existing dwelling must be readily available and used for sanitation, and the building cannot include cooking facilities because of the risk of fire.

There are five categories for single storey, detached buildings, each with their own conditions:

Before you begin, please read the notes for single-storey detached buildings.

Sections 2.1-2.5 of Schedule 1 covers five separate exemptions for single-storey detached buildings.

  • Buildings up to 10 square metres in floor area
  • Single-storey detached buildings exceeding 10, but not exceeding 30 square metres in floor area, constructed of lightweight materials
  • Buildings up to 30 square metres in floor area using a kitset or prefabricated building where a manufacturer or supplier has had the design carried out or reviewed by a Chartered Professional Engineer
  • Buildings up to 30 square metres in floor area where a Licensed Building Practitioner is to carry out or supervise design and construction
  • Unoccupied detached buildings.

Occupied detached buildings:

Single-storey detached buildings up to 30sqm in floor area with prefab or kitset components where a manufacturer or supplier has had the design carried out or reviewed by a Chartered Professional Engineer.

Single-storey detached buildings not exceeding 30 sqm in floor area, where a Licensed Building Practitioner is to carry out or supervise design and construction.

Single-storey detached buildings between 10 and 30sqm in floor area, using lightweight material can be built by a non-professional, where only lightweight materials with structural components built in accordance to Building Code compliance B1/AS1 are used.

How 30 square meters is measured:

The net floor area of a single storey, detached building is limited to a maximum of 30 square metres.

The net floor area in a building is measured to the inside of the enclosing walls or posts/columns.

net floor area


Other exemptions include:

  • carports up to 40 square metres
  • outdoor fireplaces and ovens
  • ground-mounted solar array panels – urban and rural conditions apply
  • ground floor awnings up to 30 square metres
  • ground floor verandas and porches up to 30 square metres
  • flexible water storage bladders
  • small pipe supporting structures that only carry water, on private land
  • short span (small ) bridges on private land
  • single storey pole sheds and hay barns in rural zones
Where can I find a summary of the proposed new exemptions?

Here's a summary of all the exemptions and their conditions.

Schedule 1 of the Building Act 2004 lists ALL building projects that are exempt and the conditions of each exemption.

Schedule 1 will be updated with these new exemptions by 31 August 2020.

Remember, most of these new exempt building projects MUST still be designed by a Chartered Professional Engineer and/or built or supervised by a Licensed Building Practitioner (LBP).

If you are unsure, speak to a building professional or check with us first.

Can I do the exempt building work myself?

Only buildings constructed of ‘lightweight materials’ such as greenhouses can be done without the help of a professional provided they meet structural Building Code standards (B1/AS1) so they are safe for people to use. 

Other builds will need the involvement of a Chartered Professional Engineer or Licensed Building Practitioner.

And remember, you can’t do plumbing or wiring work yourself unless you are certified to do it. So if you are planning to put a bathroom in a sleepout for instance, you’ll need a building consent and a certified plumber and electrician for that work.

What’s this ‘building code’?

The NZ Building Code lays out detailed structural requirements for all buildings. It also takes into account the differences in weather conditions around the country, for instance high wind zones; high rainfall or snow zones. Your build will need to meet the standards specific to your location, as well as building standards.

How to meet the Building Code standards can be found on the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) website building code compliance documents.

If my build is exempt, can I build anything anywhere?

No, otherwise you could end up with a disgruntled neighbour.

And your build could be deemed an illegal building.

There is important legislation that you must still comply with such as the Building Code and importantly for your neighbours, our District Plan rules.

There are a few other laws you may need to comply with as well. These include, but are not limited to:

  • The Resource Management Act
  • Our District Plan and Local Bylaws
  • The Plumbers, Gasfitters and Drainlayers Act 1976
  • The Electricity Act 1992
  • The Health Act 1956

You’ll also need to consult a building professional, or check with us first, to make sure you have the right professional for the job.

What district plan rules will apply?

Each council has their own set of rules that apply to their specific district plan. Our plan tells you how much of your land you can develop, how close you can build to a front and side boundary and sunlight control for neighbouring properties among other things.

So even if your project doesn’t need a building consent, it’s important to check with us first before you start building.

How do I know which rules apply to my property?

It’s best to have a chat to one of our planning specialists by booking a free appointment or phoning us to discuss your specific project. View the full District Plan and what it means for you and your property.

There are different development rules for each zone so it’s important to know which zone your property is in.

Check out the Zone Development Standards for the Rural, Residential and Low Density Residential Zones below. For the other Zones check out the Zone Development Standards table in the Zone section relevant to your property. Note that there may also be other rules in the District Plan applying to your proposal. Contact one of Council’s Planners to discuss your proposal at an early stage to ensure you have all the information you need.

Who checks if a building consent is needed?

It is the building owner's responsibility to check whether a building consent is needed.

If the work you are planning falls outside of the exemption specifications, you will need to get a building consent. If you’re not sure if you need a consent always check with us first before starting your project.

You can also check out the MBIE's guidance for exempt building work.

What happens if my exempt building work does not meet building code standards?

It doesn’t matter how minor the project is, all building work, including exempt work, must be carried out in accordance with the Building Act, the Building Code, and our District Plan.

Any exempt building work not completed in accordance with the New Zealand Building Code or the Resource Management Act may be subject to the enforcement provisions of either Act such as:

  • a Notice to Fix to make the work compliant with the Building Code or to remove the illegal work may be issued; or
  • the builder may face disciplinary actions from their LBP board; or
  • you may have trouble selling the property; or
  • insurance pay-outs may be a problem.
What happens if I do non-exempt work without a building consent?

If NON-EXEMPT building work has been done without a Building Consent:

  • an Infringement Notice and fine may be issued; or
  • a Notice to Fix to make the work compliant with the Building Code or to remove the illegal work may be issued; or
  • the builder may face disciplinary actions from their LBP board; or
  • you may have trouble selling the property; or
  • insurance pay-outs may be a problem.