This page contains information on many areas that have a potential effect on the property you may purchase or already own. For more information on property see below
What is asbestos?
Asbestos is the name used for a Hazardous Substance covering a group of six naturally occurring fibrous minerals: chrysotile, crocidolite, amosite, anthophyllite, tremolite, and actinolite. Among these, chrysotile has been the most commonly used type of asbestos.
Hazards and risks
Asbestos fibres are microscopic and if inhaled, become lodged in the lungs. Prolonged exposure and inhalation of the fibres can cause serious and fatal illnesses including
Asbestos-containing material or ACM means any material or thing that, as part of its design, contains asbestos fibres. Asbestos fibres are extremely durable, resistant to fire and most chemicals. For this reason asbestos was in the past used in the manufacture of a wide variety of commercial and domestic construction products from the 1940’s through to the 1990’s:
Identifying the presence of Asbestos
The Health and Safety Work (Asbestos) Regulations 2016 require that the person carrying out or managing the work, identify if there is any asbestos present before beginning work.
Identification of asbestos presence can only be carried out by an IANZ accredited Laboratory. The building will need to be inspected by a competent person who is licensed to carry out this work.
Mitigating risk of materials left in place
If the external cladding/roofing containing asbestos is undamaged, the presence of asbestos should not cause any concern. Even if the cladding is deteriorating, the cladding should be sealed rather than removed or replaced, as the later poses greater health risks through the disturbance and release of high-risk concentrations of fibres into the air. If left in place, the amount of fibres released is not considered to be a health risk. Seal the surface with an approved commercial sealant or coating to stop fibre release. Check with the manufacturer that the coating will not increase fire risks. Surface preparation: do not water blast as this will result in a high level of fibre release which will become a hazard when dry.
Caution: Where the roofing material containing asbestos, especially weathered or brittle roofing, the ceiling space under the roof may have high levels of asbestos dust.
Risk management plans
Where there is the possibility, due to the age of the building, that there may be asbestos present in some of the building products, the person in charge needs to determine if or where asbestos exists and how associated risks will be managed in the future if there is any alterations, additions, refurbishment or demolition work carried out:
Before any refurbishment or demolition work on the building begins, have a refurbishment and demolition plan. If demolition work, identify and remove all asbestos products that could be disturbed by the demolition work. Exemptions to removing asbestos before demolition include:
Removal of asbestos-containing materials
From 4 April 2016, only a licensed asbestos removalist has the legal authority to remove asbestos if
A licensed asbestos removalist can be a person holding a current Certificate of Competence until April 2018, after which they must hold an approved licence as an Asbestos removal License or Asbestos assessor licence. Once the asbestos is removed an independent licensed asbestos assessor must carry out a clearance inspection and provide a signed clearance certificate.
If you still intend to do the work that is allowable, make sure you follow the advice at
Working with asbestos
Under the Resource Management Act (section 2, interpretation), contaminated land means land that has a hazardous substance in or on it that
A site is considered contaminated when a hazardous substance, or a mixture of substances, is present in the site soil, groundwater or surface water at concentrations above guideline levels, or that pose a threat to human health, animal health, or the environment. The threat may arise through direct contact, through ingestion or from vapours that the substance may give off.
A site may become contaminated when hazardous substances are spilled, leaked or dumped, or migrate from adjacent sites. Contamination may occur accidentally or it may occur as part of normal site use because of poor operational, material storage or waste disposal practices on the site. Contamination may be from many years ago because many hazardous substances do not break down or break down only slowly. Examples of sites that may be contaminated are:
If you are considering purchasing a section or building on a contaminated site, it is advisable that you obtain a Land Information Memorandum (LIM) from your local Council and/or request information from the Regional Council. A LIM can provide information about the extent of contamination of a site if the information is available. For further information, you should contact the Environmental Health or Planning Unit at your local Council.
The Ministry for the Environment has published extensive information about contaminated land on their website. This includes information on:
Waikato Regional Council also has published information about contaminated sites in the Waikato region.
Hazardous Substance is defined as, (unless regulations say otherwise) any substance –
Whether used in private residential homes or as part of commercial or industrial activities, hazardous substances require special controls in relation to the manufacture, use, and disposal of these substances. The Hazardous Substances and New Organisms (HSNO) Act 1996 governs the controls of hazardous substances, which is determined by the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA). These controls are to protect the environment and health and safety of people and communities. Risks can be minimised if substances are stored, used, and disposed of, correctly.
If you deal with hazardous substances you must comply with the HSNO controls and any local rules set out in your local Council’s District Plan. Different classifications of substances determine the specific controls required. For lists and classifications of hazardous substances, check out the EPA website.
If you are planning to store, use or dispose of hazardous goods, you will need approval from EPA. The Council will check Building Consent applications, and may require that an EPA approved Test Certifier issue you with a Test Certificate or relevant license to confirm that you are compliant with the requirements of HSNO Act, as a condition to a Building Consent. You can find local Test Certifiers EPA website.
Bylaws in the District Plan may also outline hazardous substance controls within different zones of your area. If you are planning to change the use of a building that involves hazardous substances i.e. factory manufacturing a new type of product, check with the planning unit and the environmental health unit of your local Council in regards to the storage, use, and disposal of the hazardous goods. It is your responsibility as an owner to take steps to comply with the HSNO Act, including obtaining a Test Certificate or license where required. More information can also be found at the Waikato Regional Council website.
Everyday items and many household products can also be classed as hazardous substances and need to be managed safely. Always follow instructions on the label and packaging for storage, use, and disposal of your household products. Swimming pool chemicals, LPG gas bottles, fuels, paint, and dive tanks at residential properties require careful risk management.
Natural hazard means any atmospheric or earth or water related occurrence where the action of the hazard adversely affects or may adversely affect human life, property, or other aspects of the environment. Natural hazards include:
A building consent authority must refuse to grant a building consent for construction of a building, or major alterations to a building, if—
But this does not apply if the building consent authority is satisfied that adequate provision has been or will be made to—
The building consent authority must assess the risk, and if after assessing the risk, it is satisfied that actions can be taken to remove or mitigate the risk, a building consent can then be granted. If the Council does decide to grant a waiver or modification that will allow a building consent to be granted, it must notify the Register General of Land of the building consent granted.
A risk is determined by assessing the likelihood and consequences of a natural hazard event occurring. Council manages the risk through placing conditions on the issued Resource Consent. The property owner MUST comply with these conditions.
Building Consent Authorities have to register notices when development is proposed on land that is subject to natural hazards; the risk must be managed or mitigated to tolerable levels. Where the risk is high but cannot be managed or mitigated council will not allow building. The risk is determined by a combination of likelihood and consequences. Council manages the risk through the application of conditions on the issued resource consent. These conditions must be met by the property owner.
Refer to the following appropriate legislation:
With natural hazards Councils are required to:
Weathertightness refers to the weatherproof resistance of a building to the natural weather elements. In New Zealand, the issue of building weathertightness (or ‘leaky building syndrome’) has affected many houses where the poor design and use of building materials resulted in severe building damage. The problem occurs when water and moisture penetrate the building, accumulating behind the cladding. The water build-up is prevented from evaporating, providing a perfect environment for mould to grow, and eventually rotting the timber framing. The mould also presents a health risk to occupants. Untreated timber framing is especially susceptible to rot and was commonly used as framing in residential houses built during the early 1990’s.
During the design phase of building a new home, ensure that the design, materials and construction methods used present a low weathertight risk. Many factors such as location and weather effects, materials, building shape, and style will impact on this.
It is advisable to discuss the weathertight building options with your designer in the early stages of the design process. It is important that you, the homeowner, understand what the minimum standards set out in the New Zealand Building Code are for a weathertight home.
The Building Code sets out the minimum performance standards that must be met. The Acceptable Solution E2 / AS1 provides solutions that can be used to minimise and manage the risk of leaky building problems. It also provides ways to assess risk and address compliance with the Building Code. Table 1 on page 29 assigns risk scores to each risk factor of a building. The acceptable solution is used by designers and engineers to assess potential weathertightness risks, and whether any specific design features need to be used. Your designer should be familiar with this matrix and you should discuss this with them.
Risk factors include:
Your designer should be considering information in the following two documents, as risk scores need to be provided along with the building plans as part of the Building Consent application. Buildings with high risk scores may be required to supply further information to Council.
There are specific design and installation methods used in the past that contribute to leaky buildings, some of which you can easily identify. If you are planning to purchase an existing home it is in your best interest to have an inspection undertaken by an independent qualified and experienced inspector prior to purchasing, to identify any risk areas of weathertightness. If the property was built in the 1990’s or is built with monolithic cladding systems it would be important to get an inspection undertaken, as these homes are more susceptible to weathertightness problems. Ask the inspector to look for indications of water damage or potential leaks, especially in the high-risk areas. Refer to MBIE’s Guide on Diagnosis of Leaky Buildings and refer to the risk factors and scores above. Qualified independent building inspectors can be found in the Yellow Pages.
Further information is available from the Consumer website. A Land Information Memorandum may also provide information any weather tightness issues, but only if the owner has taken actions to have the matter addressed. You can request a LIM through your local Council.
If you own a property that has issues with weathertightness it is highly advisable to complete regular maintenance checks to help identify any further potential leaks. Information about what to look for is available online:
If you do observe any potential leaks it is important to engage a weathertightness consultant to assess the area, and then to follow with repairs as soon as possible. Visit the New Zealand Institute of Building Surveyors (NZIBS) website where you can find your local surveyor member.
If you suspect your home may be affected by weathertightness problems, get it checked immediately. Leaky homes need to be repaired promptly once the problem becomes apparent. If a leak remains, this may lead to extensive damage, and therefore more costly repairs. Other areas of the building will need to be inspected to check if there are any further potential problems. Refer to the Building Performance website for further information.
The repair must comply with a weathertightness standard of the New Zealand Building Code. You may be able to make a claim under the Weathertight Homes Resolution Services Act 2006, through the Weathertight Homes Tribunal, if your home was built or altered within the last ten years (from the date of lodging the claim). The Weathertight Homes Resolution Services (WHRS) Act provides owners of leaky homes with a low-cost assessment of the weathertightness problems, and access to dispute resolution services. Further booklets and information about the WHRS and Weathertight Services for homeowners are available from the Building System Performance website (MBIE). It is also advisable to seek legal advice from your lawyer.
A wind zone refers to the wind forces that affect a building (as determined in the Building Standard NZS 3604, 2011). The wind zone calculations consider the wind region the site is in, the terrain (built-up or open), topography (the slope of the land) and the degree to which the site is sheltered or exposed. The wind zone is usually calculated by the designer or engineer producing the building plans after a site visit to establish the above characteristics of the site.
Once the wind zone has been established, the designer uses this to determine the bracing and material requirements of the proposed building. For example, a house in a low wind zone will require less bracing than houses built in a very high wind zone. This information will also be required as part of the Building Consent application for the proposed buildings.
A map of wind regions and lee zones can be found in the building standard NZS 3604: 2011. Wind zones are categorized as:
The wind zone may also be stated in a Land Information Memorandum and Project Information Memorandum.
A wind zone is also a risk factor considered in the changes to External Moisture in Acceptable Solution E2/AS1 to the New Zealand Building Code. A risk score is determined for each risk factor to assess the weather tightness of a building.
Before you apply for a Building Consent, discuss wind zones and structural design with your architect. They should reference information gained from their site visit and building standards NZS 3604: 2011, or AS/NZS 1170 (if applicable to your project).
Sea-spray zones are areas where a property is located close to the sea and where building materials may be affected by the corrosive effects of sea salt. If building in this environment, the materials will need to meet the durability requirements of the New Zealand Building Code (clause B2) and are especially important for claddings and metal flashings. Fastenings are generally required to be stainless steel in a sea spray zone.
More information on environmental zones is available from www.level.org.nz.