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What is a building consent / PIM and how to apply

What is a building consent

A Building Consent is a formal approval from a building consent authority to carry out building workin accordance with the approved plans and specifications. A building consent authority must grant a building consent if it is 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. Building Act 2004, (section 7, section 49).

NOTE: A Building Consent can only be obtained from an accredited and registered Building Consent Authority (BCA), who are authorised to process your application for a building consent, inspect the building project during various stages and certify the work at the completion of the project.

If a Building Consent is required, NO physical building work can be started until the Council has issued a Building Consent, (and Resource Consent if applicable). If a resource consent is also needed but not yet obtained, the Council must issue a Section 37 certificate, that states that until the resource consent has been obtained –

  • no building work may proceed;
  • or building work may only proceed to the extent stated in the certificate.

Can I get a retrospective building consent for work done without a consent?

No. If you start any site or building work without a building consent, it is illegal building work and you are liable for a fine. In addition you may have issues selling your property and it may affect your insurance. If property is damaged or destroyed because of a fault occurring from the unauthorised work, an insurance company could legally refuse to pay you.

The owner will have to apply for a Certificate of Acceptance for any work where a building consent should have been obtained, and any consent fees will be additional to any fines. Certificate of Acceptance application forms are available here.

Where a Project Information Memorandum (PIM) identifies that the proposed building work may be affected by natural hazards, the applicant will be made aware that the application is being considered under Section 72 and should the hazard still exist after the proposed work has been completed, this may be registered against their title. (Section 73)

Occasionally natural hazards may not be identified in PIM's associated with building consents, and there may be a need for the BCA to determine whether or not natural hazard provisions apply. MBIE have recently produced a "Natural Hazards Decision Tree" associated with Determination 2017/048, which provides useful information in determining Natural Hazards responsibilities. Refer Appendix B, Determination 2017/048

What is Restricted Building Work (RBW) and Licensed Building Practitioners (LBP)

Restricted Building Work can only be undertaken by Licensed Building Practitioners. This work only applies to residential building work and does not apply to “dams”.

Is my dam exempt from building consent requirements?

The construction of any dam, that is not a large dam is “exempt” building work, and does not require a building consent (Schedule 1, clause 22), nevertheless the Act requires all building work on dams to comply with the Building Code, irrespective of the size of the dam. Refer Section 17.

Preparing the plans and specifications

The documentation must show how the performance requirements of the Building Code will be met. The clearer the documentation, the less likely problems will occur. If during processing the plans and specifications are found to be inadequate, further information will be requested and this will halt the application processing until the information is provided.

Specifications must be specific to the building project and be provided as part of the building consent application. Specifications that are not specific to the project will be rejected. If the requested information is not provided or the reviewer is not satisfied that the plans and specifications meet the performance standards of the NZ Building Code and the requirements of the Building Act 2004, they can refuse to grant and issue the Building Consent.

Good planning and documentation saves time and provides a solid foundation for everyone involved in the building process. We recommend the use of a Chartered Professional Engineer (CPEng) familiar with NZSOLD Dam Safety Guidelines, as all dam applications will be assessed using these guidelines as an alternative solution.

It is important that your engineer takes the time to check that all the necessary information is included on the plans. If the information is missing the application may be rejected or the processing of the building consent delayed (the 20 working day processing clock stops) until this information is provided by the applicant.

How to make applications for minor variations / amendments to a consent?

In any building project it may not be possible (for various reasons) to comply with the approved consent documentation and amendments may be required (for example foundations may require a different design where soil conditions are found to be different than those initially designed for).

WRC will consider whether any variations or amendments materially affects the approved building consent documentation, and decide on a case by case basis, whether they are minor or major amendments to the approved documentation. Depending on the scope of the changes, a notice to fix may be issued, limiting work, or stopping the work until the amendment has been submitted to the Waikato Regional Council and approved. Should it be a major amendment, an Amendment Application Form F37 [PDF, 127 KB], will be required;

Staged building consents.

Owners can make a series of building consent applications for stages of proposed building work (‘staged building consents’) under Section 44(2) of the Building Act 2004.

Staged building consents may be useful where the scope of each stage of your building work (new build or alterations) can be clearly defined and can be relevant where there are restricted or extended time constraints.

Since each stage is a unique building consent, a code compliance certificate will be issued for each stage once the building consent authority BCA is satisfied, on reasonable grounds, that the building work has been completed in accordance with the consented documents.

Typically staged building consents are not associated with dam building consents, however if you are if you are considering a staged building consent, we recommend you engage with your BCA early in the design process. Refer also to MBIE Staged building consents

How and where to apply for a consent application?

You will need to obtain and complete an application form from the Waikato Regional Council. This form can be downloaded from the Waikato Regional Council’s website, Additional guidance on completing this form is attached to the form. Web address htpps://

Specific sections of the Act relevant to dam building consent applications include:-

Building on land subject to “natural hazards” of the Building Act) (Section 71-74)

Natural hazard include erosion, falling debris, subsidence, inundation and slippage.

Alterations to Existing Dams (Section 112)

WRC may not grant a building consent for the alteration of an existing dam, or part of an existing dam, unless it is satisfied that after the alteration the dam will:

  1. comply as nearly as is reasonably practicable with every provision of the Building Code that relates to:
    1. means of escape from fire;
    2. access and facilities for people with disabilities; and
  2. will continue to comply with the provisions of the Building Code to at least the same extent as before the alteration.

However, in certain circumstances as set out in section 112(2), WRC may allow alterations other than in compliance with the Building Code providing it has given the owner written notice to do so.

Specified intended life (Section 113)

WRC may only grant a building consent for a dam intended to have a life of 50 years or less if the specified intended life nominated on the application form is realistic, having consideration to determining whether the materials or systems specified will satisfy the durability provisions of the Building Code.

WRC can only grant a building consent in these circumstances if a condition is imposed requiring that the dam be removed, demolished or altered on or before the end of its specified intended life.

Change the use of an existing dam (Sections 114-115)

A dam owner may not change the use of an existing dam as described in section 114, unless they firstly give notice under section 114(2) to WRC and WRC gives written notice that the dam in its new use will comply with the Building Code including in relation to fire and disability access issues.

In this context, “change of use” refers to a situation in which the dam or its appurtenant structures are no longer used for the sole purpose of impounding fluid. A change in how the impounded fluid is used, say from irrigation to hydro-electric generation, does not constitute a change in use in this context.

Specified systems – inspection, maintenance and reporting procedures. (Refer sections 51 and sections 100 – 111)

This is only required if you need a compliance schedule and a building warrant of fitness for a dam / buildings that may be occupied and contain specified systems. A compliance schedule lists the inspection, maintenance and reporting procedures for systems within a building such as lifts, automatic sprinklers, automatic doors, air conditioning and fire alarms. (Note! These systems may have been installed in the past into large hydro-electric dams, and are rarely incorporated into large dams since those times)

Acceptance and management of professional opinion (eg producer statements)

Producer statements have no specific status under the Building Act 2004. However they can be used as a mechanism for helping establish compliance with the Building Act and the Building Code. Waikato Regional Council and external consultants acting for Waikato Regional Council need to have confidence that people providing producer statements have appropriate experience and competence in their field(s) and need to assess the content and accuracy of each producer statement that is supplied.

External Consultants acting for WRC can use producer statements as evidence to help them assess whether building work complies with the Building Code and must scrutinise the producer statement author, and the content and accuracy of the producer statement.

The final acceptance of any producer statements lies with WRC who are responsible for deciding on reasonable grounds that building work complies with the Building Act and the Building Code, having regard to technical advice provided by the external Consultant.

What is a Project Information Memorandum (PIM) and how do I apply for one

A PIM is a memorandum issued by your local and regional council in respect to your proposed building work. It contains information on planning and special features about the site that’s known to the territorial and regional authorities that must be taken into account in the design of the building (dam).

Applying for PIMs from the relevant councils prior to applying for a building consent may reduce the risk of delays during consent processing. To apply for PIMs, contact both your local and regional council and request their application forms. Applications should be forwarded, with the appropriate fees, to the two councils.

Content of a PIM

A PIM may provide you with information known to councils including:

  • the heritage status of the building or site
  • special land features (such as potential erosion, slippage, fault lines, subsidence, inundation/flooding)
  • details of any authorisations under other acts (such as the Resource Management Act)
  • information notified to councils by any statutory organisation (such as Heritage NZ, Fire & Emergency NZ (FENZ), Department of Conservation)
  • the presence of hazardous contaminants likely to be relevant to your building work,
  • any utilities that are relevant to the site
  • development contributions
  • confirmation that building work may be carried out subject to a building consent and other necessary authorisations being obtained, or notification that building work may not be undertaken.