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Buildings under exemptions may still need resource consent

By Anna Bensemann | Nov 10, 2020

Planning provisions and local district plans still apply to any new buildings on your property. Currently planning rules are triggered at the time you apply for building consents with a notice issued that you cannot build until you have obtained the necessary resource consents.

Under the new exemptions coming into effect from late August, that trigger will not automatically happen, but the responsibility to obtain any necessary resource consents will still apply.

You may think that because council are not checking if you need a resource consent, then you will get away without the required paperwork under the RMA. However, the legal obligation as the landowner and the potential effect on the resale value of your property of not having the legal requirements in place, may come back to get you when selling. And don’t forget it only takes a phone call to council from an aggrieved neighbour or passer-by and you’re in trouble.

So if you are thinking of building a new pole shed, an additional 30 m² sleepout with a sneaky kitchen included, or a new 40 m² car port, be aware you cannot simply slap it up and “she’ll be right mate”. Along with the planning rules there are requirements for construction supervision by a Licenced Building Practitioner (LBP) to meet the exemptions.

In many cases there are building setbacks from boundaries with other neighbours to ensure you do not create shade or reduce privacy for you neighbours, and often the resource consents process seeks that you get written approval from these neighbours for such breaches.

In many rural areas you are only allowed one residential dwelling per property or within set areas (e.g. every 20 ha). A second dwelling, usually defined as having kitchen facilities, can increase the number of vehicles and people using the rural area that might not be in keeping with amenity values anticipated. While it might not be a problem for you, your neighbourhood may find issue with the way the next owners use that second dwelling.

The size of a septic tank systems is derived from the number of bedrooms a dwelling has, so a new sleepout may increase the pressure on a septic system beyond its designed capacity. This often triggers a resource consent requirement for the discharge of wastewater via the disposal field. This process allows council to understand you have sufficient capacity in the system to accommodate the potential load on your septic system and avoid a bad smell.

If the new Building Act exemptions have you itching to get to the hardware store, take a deep breath and double check with Council or a planning consultant if a resource consent is needed and if you meet the criteria of the Building Act exemptions. It’s usually a 5-minute call. A she’ll be right approach will not do you any favours in the long term.

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