I recently looked at the latest review of the Building Act 2004. Part of those reforms widened the range of building work that does not require a building consent, but before looking at the exemptions there are a couple of important points to clarify.
A building consent should not be confused with a resource consent. Just because a building may not need a building consent does not mean it may not need a resource consent, which regulates planning issues.
The second important point is that even exempt building work must be done to Building Code standard. So it's not a case of just banging something up - the job needs to be done properly. Not all building work needs to be done by a registered builder, but whoever does the work does need to do it to Code.
Part 1 of Schedule 1 of the Building Act lists those items that can be done without a building consent. It's a long list with lots of ifs, buts, maybes, and hereinafters, but here's a rough summary. The follow work is exempt:
- General repair, maintenance, and replacement where the replacement is like-for-like and in the same position, where the change does not affect structural integrity.
- Any work where the local authority has granted an exemption - more on that later.
- A single-storey detached building with a floor area no more that 10m2, that does not have a toilet or cooking facilities.
- Unoccupied detached buildings that house fixed plant or machinery and are entered only on intermittent occasions, or is used only by people engaged in building work (e.g. a builders’ shed).
- Tents, marquees, and similar lightweight structures no bigger than 100m2 and up for less than 1 month.
- Awnings no greater than 20m2.
- Enclosing porches and verandas no greater than 20m2.
- Carports no greater than 20m2.
- Shade sails not exceeding 50m2.
- Retaining walls less than 1.5m high (but required where the ground behind the wall is intended to carry additional weight, like machinery).
- Fences (but excluding swimming pool fences) and hoardings no higher than 2.5 metres (so the ones they put really high to avoid graffiti will need a building consent unless the council grants an exemption),
- Dams (excluding large dams), pools (excluding swimming pools), and tanks under a certain size and height.
- Decks, platforms, bridges, boardwalks, less than 1.5m above ground level.
- Height-restriction gantries.
- Temporary storage stacks.
- Private household playground equipment, providing it is no higher than 3m at the highest point.
- Repair or replacement of an outbuilding not intended for human habitation, providing it is single story and the footprint remains the same. These include buildings such as carports, garages, greenhouses, machinery rooms, sheds, private swimming pools and farm buildings.
- Stand alone interior fit-out of commercial buildings.
- Closing in an existing veranda or patio where the floor area is no more than 5m2.
- Work carried out by network utility operators or other similar organisations.
- Demolition or removal work where the building is no more than 3 storeys.
The Department of Building and Housing has produced a very handy guide which is available from www.dbh.govt.nz. Search for "building-work-consent-not-required-guidance". For the definitive word have a look at Schedule 1 of the Building Act.
The most interesting exemption is the one relating to exemptions granted by a local council. Consenting authorities have wide powers of discretion to exempt situations where there is uncertainty as to whether a building consent is required, or where there is no practical benefit in obtaining a building consent. In general terms, the exemptions are likely to be for work that complies with the building code and unlikely to endanger people or pose a threat to any other building.
In 2011 the Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment found many councils were not using their exemption powers and was clearly of the view that people are being required to obtain building consents when they should be exempted from doing so.