Building work that does not require a building consent
A guide to Schedule 1 of the Building Act 2004
This document provides information about building work that does not require a building consent under the Building Act 2004 (the Building Act).
This document is mainly for building practitioners, architects, engineers, building surveyors, building consultants and building owners who are considering undertaking or providing advice about building work.
The information provided in this document should also be of interest to building consent authorities, and territorial authorities, who provide advice about consent and exemption requirements or consider discretionary exemptions under paragraph (k) of Schedule 1 to the Building Act.
This guide supersedes previous guidance about exempt building work published by the Department in 2008 and covers the amendments to Schedule 1 made by the Building (Exempt Building Work) Order 2010.
The Building Act (section 41) exempts certain building work from the requirement to obtain a building consent. This includes the exemptions listed in Schedule 1.
Exemptions under Schedule 1 recognise that minor and low-risk building work should not be subject to the requirements of the building consent process. That is because such low-risk work presents little danger to people or property, and the compliance costs associated with consenting such work are not outweighed by the benefits obtained from the consent process.
Undertaking building work that is not exempt without a building consent, is an offence under section 40 of the Building Act. A person who commits such an offence may be liable to a fine not exceeding $100,000 and, in the case of a continuing offence, to a further fine not exceeding $10,000 for every day or part day during which the offence continues.
Important note: Even if building work does not require a building consent, it is still a requirement of the Building Act that all building work must comply with the Building Code (refer to section 17 of the Building Act).1 For this reason, skilled building practitioners will often need to be engaged to carry out the work.
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Seeking advice on exempt building work
Building owners are responsible for:
- determining whether proposed building work is exempt from requiring a building consent
- ensuring exempt building work complies with the Building Code.
Building practitioners are also responsible for ensuring their work complies with the Building Code even when that work is exempt.
It is important to get good advice before deciding that building work is covered by the exemptions set out in the Building Act.
Where the owner is unable to determine conclusively for themselves that the building work they wish to undertake is exempt, they should seek advice from an appropriate person or organisation, such as a:
- building consent authority2 (which has a wide range of building control expertise and information about exemptions and the building consent process)
- registered architect
- chartered professional engineer
- registered building surveyor
- building consultant
- licensed building practitioner (relevant licence class)
- certifying plumber or drainlayer, or
- some other person with appropriate knowledge and expertise in building controls.
All building work, regardless of whether a building consent is required, must comply with other relevant legislation,3 including the:
- Plumbers, Gasfitters, and Drainlayers Act 2006
- Electricity Act 1992
- Resource Management Act 1991
- Fire Service Act 1975.
Important note: All building work, regardless of whether a building consent is required, must comply with the New Zealand Building Code. Often this will require the engagement of a skilled building practitioner to undertake the building work.
An exemption does not, of itself, permit building work if that building work would be in breach of any other Act.
In dealing with licensed building practitioners, it is important to ask the licensed building practitioner if they hold the relevant licensing class before accepting their advice (eg, carpentry, site supervision).
Any work on a building that is required to be licensed under the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act 1996 is not exempt from the requirement for a building consent.
Your local council needs to protect public assets and public amenity such as public drainage systems and building height and location restrictions. This is administered under your local council's district plan and the Resource Management Act 1991. To ensure that your proposed building project complies with these requirements the Department strongly recommends that you seek advice from your local council when proposing to do exempt building work that includes extending the footprint of a building or adding a new building to your property (such as a carport). One option, that the Department recommends, to obtain this information is to apply for a Project Information Memorandum (PIM). A PIM will inform you about any district plan requirements and identify other authorisations and information that may be useful in the design and construction.
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Section 41 of the Building Act: Building consent not required in certain cases
Section 41 of the Building Act, reproduced below, describes when a building consent is not required, including any building work described in Schedule 1.
Building consent not required in certain cases
- (1) Despite section 40, a building consent is not required in relation to-
- (a) a Crown building or Crown building work to which, under section 6, this Act does not apply; or
- (b) any building work described in Schedule 1; or
- (c) any building work in respect of which a building consent cannot practicably be obtained in advance because the building work has to be carried out urgently-
- (i) for the purpose of saving or protecting life or health or preventing serious damage to property; or
- (ii) in order to ensure that a specified system in a building that is covered by a compliance schedule, or would be covered if a compliance schedule were issued in respect of the building, is maintained in a safe condition or is made safe; or
- (d) any energy work that, under section 43, does not require a building consent; or
- (e) any building work that a territorial authority is authorised to carry out under this Act.
- (2) The Governor-General may, by Order in Council, add any building work or class of building works to Schedule 1 as being building work for which a building consent is not required.
While section 41 of the Building Act provides exemptions for building work other than work listed in Schedule 1, this guidance focuses on Schedule 1 exemptions.
Important note: Where a building consent was required, but not obtained because the building work had to be carried out urgently to save or protect life or serious property damage (section 41(1)(c)), the owner must apply to the territorial authority for a certificate of acceptance under section 96 of the Building Act as soon as practicable after completion of the work. Not doing so is an offence under section 42 of the Building Act. Such offences may be liable to a fine not exceeding $5,000.
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