Click on the headings (below) to access these common topics more quickly
Acceptable and Alternative Solutions
Acceptable Solutions and Verification Methods are developed by MBIE and are available for free from their website. These are like standard recipes on how to comply with the performance standards of the Building Code. If other designs or building methods are used to achieve performance with the Building Code, these other methods are known as Alternative Solutions. At Building Consent application the designer must supply sufficient information to show how they will achieve compliance (see MBIE advice on how to show compliance). This information will be assessed by the Building Officer who will make a decision as to whether or not compliance with the Building Code will be achieved. These ‘stand-alone’ solutions are considered and approved on their individual merits. See also Specified Systems, Compliance Schedules & BWOFs.
Alterations and Additions
If you are considering undertaking alterations or additions, discuss your plans with your local Council’s Building Unit. They can review these to ascertain if you require Building Consent, or if you are exempt under Schedule 1 of the Building Act. Some examples:
- Structural building alterations – a Building Consent will be required.
- Building additions – a Building Consent will be required.
- Internal wall removal – if the wall is a structural, load bearing or a bracing wall, a Building Consent will be required.
- Replacing windows – ‘like-for-like’ does not require a Building Consent. See Schedule 1
- Installing French Doors – see French Doors Installation
Amendments/Variations to an Approved Building Consent
For all design changes, it is important that these changes are approved in writing by the owner and the designer before submitting the altered plans to Council and before any changes are made to the building. You need to check with your local Council as to whether or not Council approval is needed for these changes (section 45(4) and section 45A Building Act 2004). This depends on whether the change is minor or major:
- If the change is considered MINOR all that may be required is a handwritten and signed letter saying what you plan to do and a copy of the plans or specifications with these changes written/drawn on them. If the changes involve restricted building work you will also need to supply a Certificate of Design Work from the designer. See also MBIE definition of restricted building work.
- If it is a MAJOR change then you will need to fill in a new Building Consent Application and provide the associated plans and documentation.
- For examples of minor and major amendments, see the Building System Performance (MBIE) website.
Amusement devices include any mechanically-powered unit that is used for rider entertainment but also include bouncy castles (and the like). Here are a few other examples:
- Bumper boats,
- Bumper cars,
- Bungee jumping (when a mobile crane and platform are used),
- Can-Am cars,
- Fairground machinery, e.g. merry-go-rounds, Ferris wheels, roller coasters, etc.,
- Indoor go-kart operations,
- Jet skiing,
- “Magic carpet riding”,
- Minibikes (three and four wheel all-terrain vehicles),
Amusement Devices must be registered with WorksafeNZ and must be permitted for use with your local council. For registration and permit application forms go to the WORKSAFE website. See also Amusement Devices.
Appraisal Certificates and Product Certification
- Appraisals are independent assessments of building products, materials, systems or methods of design or construction. Products are assessed for Building Code compliance and fitness for purpose.
- BRANZ appraises building products and their suitability for the job intended. Some of these products, not all of them, meet the criteria for Acceptable or Alternative Solutions.
- It is important that you check that the products you intend to use for a building project are approved by Council’s Building Unit, even if they have a BRANZ Appraisal Certificate.
- An MBIE initiative providing a product certification scheme.
- Manufacturers, importers, suppliers, and marketers can have their building products or methods of construction assessed and certified to demonstrate they meet the performance requirements of the Building Code.
Refer to the Asbestos page (a hazardous substance) for further information and the process on how to dispose of it in a safe manner.
As Laid Drainage Plan
This is the sketch/plan of the drainage as it has been laid. The as-laid drainage plan is the document Council uses to assess Building Act / Building Code compliance of the drainage systems. This is completed by the plumber/drain layer and is necessary as there are frequently differences between the planned design and the as-laid drainage. Use this template to show drainage as it has been laid.
Balustrade and Hand Rail Heights
To comply with F4 Safety from Falling of the New Zealand Building Code, a balustrade needs to be 900mm high for stairs or ramps, 1 meter high on all decks above 1 meter in height on residential properties, and 1.1 meters high for commercial properties and all other locations.
Booking an inspection
It is the owner’s or the agent’s responsibility to book the inspections indicated in their Building Consent from the Council. Inspections must happen after each stage of the building project is completed so that the Building Officers can check the compliance of the build with the approved building consent plans and documentation. Please book an inspection several days ahead of when you will need it so that you will not have to wait in line. If you are not ready for the inspection then please cancel it so that the officer’s time is not wasted. Please call your local council to book inspections. Go to Inspections, for more information. See also Inspections Checklists.
Boundaries, Setbacks to boundaries
How close can I build to my boundary?
This depends on your local Council’s District Plan. Please contact the Planning Unit of your local Council for this information.
Why do boundary/surveyor pegs need to be visible on the site?
The pegs need to be visible on-site when the Building Control Officer completes the siting and excavation inspection. This is necessary so they can ensure that a building is being positioned within the boundary with the correct setbacks/measurements as in the approved Building Consent documentation. It is also necessary so that the Building Officer can ensure that they are on the correct lot. If you do find any survey pegs, ensure that you do not move them.
What should I do if I can’t find my boundary pegs?
The position of boundary pegs is shown on the survey plan that created your property. A Certificate of Title or Deposited Plan of Subdivision will have information about the location and dimensions of boundaries. Both of these documents are available from Land Information New Zealand. If you are unable to find the boundary pegs from references on these documents you will need to employ a registered surveyor. Please refer to the Land Surveyors on the Yellow Pages website.
An organisation providing independent product and product systems appraisal services to the building and construction industry in New Zealand, Australia, and Asia. BRANZ opinions or advice have no status in law but are generally held in high regard by the industry. Services include testing and research, education, product appraisals, and technical advice. Visit the BRANZ website to find out more.
Building Act 2004
The Building Act regulates the construction, alteration, demolition, and maintenance of new and existing buildings throughout New Zealand. It sets the standards and procedures for people involved in building work to ensure buildings are designed and built right the first time. It covers how work can be done, who can do it, and when it needs to be inspected. The Building Act 2004 and Building Amendment Act 2005 are available from the New Zealand Legislation website.
The New Zealand Building Code is a set of national, mandatory regulations that define the minimum performance standards that buildings must meet. All building work in New Zealand must comply with the Building Code (regardless of whether or not a Building Consent is required). The New Zealand Building Code (schedule 1 of the Building Regulations 1992) is available for free online at the New Zealand Legislation. You may decide to exceed those standards, but you cannot do less than the Building Code requires. To ensure your project goes smoothly, it is important that the person who draws your project plans understands the Building Code requirements and how to meet them, and that the builder follows the approved plans. Council can require that the property owner(s) fix work not complying with the Building Code or a building consent’s approved plans.
A Building Consent is the formal approval that the proposed building work meets the requirements of the Building Act 2004, Building Regulations and Building Code. A Building Consent is only obtainable from an accredited and registered Building Consent Authority (BCA). The Building Unit of your local Council has been accredited by International Accreditation New Zealand and registered by the Building System Performance branch of MBIE. As such, they are authorised to process your application for a Building Consent, inspect the building project at various stages, and to certify the work at project completion. If a building consent is required, no physical work can be started until the Council has issued the Building Consent, and Resource Consent (if applicable). If you start any site or building work before this, you are liable for a fine. See Building Consents, Application Forms & Checklists, Building Forms & Guides for Homeowners.
Building Consent Authority (BCA)
Building Consent Authorities play a key role in the building controls process. Most City and District Councils are BCAs and will be registered by MBIE’s Building System Performance after being assessed and accredited by International Accreditation New Zealand. BCA’s assesses Building Consent applications for compliance and undertake inspections during construction. They issue Code Compliance Certificates, Notices to Fix, and Compliance Schedules. Each of the eight Councils in the Waikato Building Consent Group is an accredited and registered Building Consent Authority. Also, refer to the Roles of councils and MBIE.
Building guides for decks, pergolas, retaining walls and other projects are often available from your local timber and building supply merchant or on their website. Other useful websites to search for those considering building or renovations include:
- Beacon Pathway – offers information on sustainable building practices.
- Build Waikato – a range of guides for homeowners including building and renovating, buying a home and maintaining a home.
- Consumer and MBIE’s Building System Performance, Weathertightness‘ site provide general building information and advice. Consumer also has a list of trade and professional groups.
- Refresh Renovations – offers advice, articles, and information.
Building System Performance branch of MBIE (Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment)
The Building System Performance group of MBIE manages the system that regulates building work in New Zealand and monitors its effectiveness. This includes reviewing the building legislation and producing documents to show how to comply with it. MBIE also monitors the performance of Building Consent Authorities (BCAs) and District and City Councils and can investigate complaints.
Building Warrant of Fitness (BWOF)
A Building Warrant of Fitness is a statement supplied by a building owner (or manager), confirming that the requirements of their building’s Compliance Schedule have been met in the previous 12 months. A Buildings Warrant of Fitness must be renewed annually before the expiry date. Failure to do so becomes a breach of the Building Act 2004. Also see Specified Systems, Compliance Schedules and BWOFs, IPQs and Commercial Buildings.
Building without Building Consent:
Can I get a retrospective Building Consent for work done without Consent? No. If non-exempt building work has been done without a Building Consent, it is illegal building work and you may:
- Receive an infringement notice and be fined; or
- Receive a notice to fix to make the work compliant with the building code, or to make an application for a Certificate of Acceptance; or
- Have to remove all illegal work; or
- Have trouble selling the property or getting insurance payouts
However, the Building Act 2004 does allow you to apply for a Certificate of Acceptance (COA). For more information on Certificate of Acceptance read the FAQ for COA or the Certificate of Acceptance page.