Building consent is needed for a range of different building and renovation projects around your house – find out when you need it and how to get it.
Palmerston North City Council is an accredited building consent authority and manages, monitors and processes building consent applications.
A building consent is a formal approval that is granted by Council, which confirms that the building work you're proposing in your application complies with the New Zealand Building Act 2004 and the building code.
A building consent authority must grant a building consent if it’s satisfied on reasonable grounds that the provisions of the building code would be met if the building work were properly completed in accordance with the plans and specifications that accompanied the application. Granting a building consent is conditional on enabling the building work to be inspected.
Depending on your project, you may also need to apply for resource consent before you can start work.
If you’re planning any construction or alteration work, you’ll need building consent before work can begin. Building consent may be needed for tents or marquees, pools, fireplaces, solar panels and some demolition work. There are some exceptions, such as exempt or restricted building work. If in doubt, talk to us or refer to the exemption guidance in the next section.
Swimming pools and spas
As per the Building (Pools) Amendment Act 2016, any work to do with swimming pool fencing requires building consent – regardless of whether a pool already exists or is being installed.
Hair salons and barber shops
When applying for building consent for a hairdressing salon or barber shop, in accordance with the New Zealand Building Code, you must ensure that water from within the property must not be able to return (backflow) into the city water network. Backflow can be especially dangerous if there is a cross connection between a drinking water supply and a source of contamination or pollution.
Best practice: Backflow protection for hairdressing salons(PDF, 166KB)
Retaining walls and inground tanks
It's important to make sure you read the specific guidance for how retaining walls and inground tanks should be designed for surcharge.
Guidance for retaining walls and inground tanks(PDF, 202KB)
If you’re planning to install, move or replace a solid fuel heater, wood burner, freestanding or inbuilt fireplace you’ll need to apply for building consent through our online system. If your property is less than two hectares in lot size, you’ll need to choose a wood burner from a list approved by the Ministry for the Environment.
Solar water heating
If you’re planning to install solar water heating you will need building consent.
A vehicle crossing is the area of driveway between the road and your property boundary. It usually replaces part of the footpath.
If you want to build, modify or repair a vehicle crossing, you need to apply to Council. Complete the application form, select a Council approved concrete contractor, and provide a site plan showing the size and location of the proposed crossing. Submit your paperwork in person at our customer service centre or by email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Approved concrete contractors(PDF, 77KB)
Vehicle crossing application form(PDF, 85KB)
There are some instances of building work that are exempt from needing a building consent. Projects that usually don't require building consent can include general repair and maintenance, or projects that could be considered low risk, so long as the building's structure or fire safety aren't compromised.
A discretionary exemption may be applied where the work is considered close to that of an existing exemption but does not necessarily meet the exemption criteria in its own right.
Additional Building Act exemptions commenced on 31 August 2020. Before carrying out any exempt work it is important that you follow the MBIE guidance. We also recommend that you come into Council or contact a Building Officer to confirm your proposed work will be exempt. There are a number of checks that should be carried out before commencing any exempt work including locating existing services, easements, power and gas lines etc.
Please be aware that the Planning rules of the District Plan still apply such as separation distance from boundaries, height, site coverage and onsite amenity. We strongly advise that a site plan and elevations are submitted to us, so we can confirm compliance with Planning rules and keep a record of any exempt work that is undertaken on your property.
Exempt building work is not assessed or inspected by Council and it's the owner's responsibility to ensure that work is exempt by seeking advice from a suitably competent person. For Council to log exempt building work on a public property file as a public record, you need to apply for a building work exemption or complete a record of exempt building work.
If you have any questions please contact us.
Government guidance: New building consent exemptions
Building work exemption application form(PDF, 26KB)
Record of exempt building work form(PDF, 188KB)
Documents submitted with a building consent application sometimes contain information that does not relate to building code compliance, but is still relevant to Council.
Details in the specifications and plans may, for example, be included to show they comply with:
A building consent may be issued with a “Section 37” certificate attached. This certificate prohibits work commencing until resource management issues have been resolved. The reasons for any restrictions will be identified on the certificate.
A national multi-use approval, known as MultiProof, allows builders and companies who replicate the same or similar standardised building design to benefit from a streamlined building consent process.
Where a building design is intended to be replicated several times, a builder or company can apply to have the design preapproved for Building Code compliance by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment. This avoids the need for the design to be assessed and re-approved by individual building consent authorities each time it is proposed for a different site.
You’ll still need a building consent each time you want to build a design that has been issued with a MultiProof approval. This is so we can check that the design, with any permitted variations, is the same as the design approved in the MultiProof, that the proposed site meets the conditions of the MultiProof, that any site-specific features of the design, such as foundations, comply with the building code, and we can establish the required inspections.
As Council only needs to assess the building code compliance of site-specific features excluded from the MultiProof, the statutory timeframe for a MultiProof building consent is 10 working days instead of the usual 20 days.
A property information memorandum (PIM) provides information about land and about the requirements of other Acts that may be relevant to proposed building work, such as resource consents, development contribution levies, vehicle crossings or other issues that may affect the design and/or construction of the proposed structure.
You may apply for a PIM as a voluntary part of the building consent process or at any other time if you are considering carrying out building work where a building consent is required. A PIM provides information relevant to a property and can include things such as the location of services, likelihood of flooding, subsidence and ground stability.
A PIM will be issued within 20 working days of receiving an application.
Unauthorised building work is work carried out with no evidence it was approved by Council. The information in the guide below will help you determine what to do.
For building work carried out without a building consent before the introduction of the Building Act 1991, a third party report may be placed on the property file as a public record. Council does not accept any responsibility for checking or validating these reports, nor does it accept liability for the content, as current legislation does not allow for the lawful establishment of such work.
For building work carried out from 1 July 1992, you can apply for a certificate of acceptance.
Unauthorised building work(PDF, 148KB)
Third-party property information lodgment form(PDF, 184KB)
Certificate of acceptance application form(PDF, 349KB)
All building work related to a building consent must be done according to the plans, specifications and detail provided with the building consent. If you want to change your plans before or during construction, you need to let Council know.
You may need to apply for an amendment to the building consent or, for a small change, you may be able to follow the minor variation process.
Government guidance: Making changes to your plans
Amending a building consent
The process of requesting an amendment is similar to the original consent. You need to provide full construction detail of any changes, so we can assess them and Council needs to approve the amendment before you can carry out any work.
To apply for an amendment to a building consent where the building consent application was submitted before 28 June 2017, please use the amendment to building consent application form(PDF, 75KB) .
To apply for an amendment to a building consent where the building consent application was submitted from 28 June 2017 onwards, please apply online.
Amendments guidance: Building Performance
If the change is not significantly different from the approved building consent plans and specifications, you can request approval for a minor variation. These are usually able to be carried out on-site by your building inspector. Some examples of minor variation include:
- substituting similar products, for example, one internal lining for a similar internal lining minor wall bracing changes
- minor construction change, for example, changing the framing method used around a window
- changing a room's layout, for example, repositioning fixtures in a bathroom.
Building inspectors may approve minor variations that arise in the course of building work. These are changes that do not affect compliance with the building code. Minor variations are recorded on the inspection record.
If you're requesting a minor variation, this must be done before the work is undertaken. You'll need to provide Council with details of the changes you plan to make.
Onsite application for minor variation to approved plans(PDF, 113KB)
Minor variations guidance: Building Performance