Building work in New Zealand is governed by one piece of legislation - the Building Act. It was passed in 2004 as "an Act to consolidate and reform the law relating to building and to provide for better regulation and control of building".
The Building Act established a simple, three part framework of building controls.
The Building Act 2004 describes what is covered by building controls and sets down the law for Building work in New Zealand. The Building Regulations 1992 contain the mandatory New Zealand Building Code and particular details about the processing of building approvals. The Approved Documents are non-mandatory documents written by the Department of Building and Housing to assist people in complying with the building code.
The Act applies to the construction, alteration, demolition and maintenance of new and existing buildings throughout New Zealand and includes Government building work.
The Act is not involved with planning and resource management, the finish and appearance of a building, nor protection of capital investment. These are the owner's responsibility. Gas and electrical work are also not covered by the Act.
The intent of the Act is:
- To safeguard the health, safety and amenity of people, protect other property from damage and facilitate efficient use of energy.
The New Zealand Building Code
All building work must comply with the building code. The building code is a performance based code. It sets out objectives to be achieved rather than prescribing construction methods. The emphasis is on how a building and its components must perform as opposed to how the building must be designed and constructed.
The building code is divided into clauses and each clause begins with an objective. For instance, one objective is to "safeguard people from injury caused by falling", another one is to "safeguard people from illness caused by contaminated water." Specific performance criteria for each clause describe the extent that buildings must meet the objectives.
The Act spells out the functions, powers and duties of territorial authorities which are city or district councils. Day to day, the building legislation is administered by councils. Councils administer the Act and Regulations within their territories by:
- Issuing project information memoranda
- Approving or refusing building consent applications within prescribed time limits
- Granting or refusing waivers or modifications of the building code
- Issuing code compliance certificates
- Issuing compliance schedules and recording building warrants of fitness
- Enforcing the provisions of the Building Act, the Building Regulations and the New Zealand Building Code
- Maintaining records of building information and making them available to the public
Councils are not permitted to make building bylaws, but may waive some building code requirements.
Department of Building and Housing
The Department is a Crown agency established by the Building Act to manage the building control system. The aim of the Department is to promote effective and efficient building controls throughout New Zealand. The Department's key functions are funded by a levy on building consents. They are to:
- Administer and review the New Zealand Building Code
- Monitor the performance of councils in the Administration of the Act within their territories
- Produce Approved Documents that provide methods of complying with the New Zealand Building Code
- Provide information and advice on building controls to all sectors of the building industry and public
Additionally, the Department offers specific services on a user-pays basis. These are:
- Accreditations (approval of specific products, systems or methods as complying with the building code)
- Determinations (technical rulings on matters of interpretation or dispute relating to compliance with the building code)
The Department of Building and Housing Levy
A levy on building consents funds the work of the Department.
The levy is payable by every person who obtains a building consent for building work with an estimated value of $20,000 or more (including GST). In most cases, it is the owner of the building who pays the levy.
The levy is calculated on the total value of building work not just the amount over $20,000. If work is done in stages under a series of building consents, then the levy is calculated on the total estimated value of all stages, not on the individual value of any particular stage.
The rate of the levy is reviewed annually by the Minister of Internal Affairs. Your council will advise you of the current rate. The levy includes GST.
The council collects the levy on behalf of the Department of Building and Housing as part of the fees it charges for issuing a building consent.
The Department of Building and Housing levy is not the same as the Building Research levy. The latter funds BRANZ (the Building Research Association of New Zealand) which is an entirely different body. The two levies are quite separate and are imposed by different Acts of parliament.
The Building Act applies only to the physical aspects of building work. Other legislation may also apply to building proposals. For example, the Resource Management Act 1991 affects planning matters, the health and Safety in Employment Act 1992 affects management of people in buildings.
The Building Act does not alter the laws that require electrical work, plumbing, gas fitting and drain laying work to be done by registered people.
Definitions of Key Terms and Procedures
Acceptable solution: a solution approved by the Department of Building and Housing as a way of complying with the Building Code. Acceptable solutions are published in the Approved Documents and often quote familiar documents such as New Zealand standards.
Accreditation: a certificate of accreditation issued by the Department of Building and Housing states that a specific product, system or method meets nominated provisions of the building code.
Alternative solution: a design solution which differs totally or partially from solutions given in the Approved Documents yet complies with the building code.
Amenity: attributes of a building which contribute to the health, physical independence and well being of the building's users but which are not associated with disease or a specific illness, e.g. lighting, ventilation, access for people with disabilities.
Approved documents: documents issued by the Department of Building and Housing. They provide methods of compliance with the building code. The methods are not mandatory.
Building consent: a consent for building work to begin in accordance with the approved plans and specifications. It is issued by the council and includes plumbing and drainage work. It is not a resource consent.
Building warrant of fitness: a document provided annually and signed by the building owner, confirming that compliance schedule requirements have been satisfied.
Code compliance certificate: a certificate issued by the council at the completion of building work, confirming that the building work under the building consent complies with the relevant provisions of the building code.