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Upcoming changes to the Resource Consent Process

Changes to Building Regulations to Help with Housing Issues

It is no secret that residents of New Zealand have been experiencing a housing crisis in recent years. After much advocacy for the government to act, changes to building regulations were passed in late 2021. These changes will go into effect in August (2022). Known as the Medium Density Residential Standard, they aim to provide relief for the nation’s housing industry. 

What Changes Occur in August? 

Essentially, the major change to the building regulations is that landowners can build residences of up to three storeys (11m max height) on their land without necessarily needing to obtain resource consent. Owners may build on up to 50 percent of their land. This is a shift from the prior guidance which only permitted one home of a maximum of two storeys (8m max height). 

These changes also pave the way for homeowners to construct additional units on their property. Homeowners may now build up to three different units on their property. This means that townhomes and granny flats can be constructed without a resource consent as long as the total footprint for buildings does not exceed 50 percent of the property and all other district plan rules comply, this includes compliance with the new Medium Density Residential Standards.

Typically, rules and regulations for construction vary from area to area. This seeks to standardize them for all Tier 1 cities. As such, these new regulations will pertain to Auckland, Christchurch, Hamilton, Tauranga, and Wellington. 

These changes represent a strategy aimed at forcing local councils to allow more dense housing within their boundaries. The standardisation of these building regulations takes some control away from local councils, providing an easier process for landowners to develop their land without unnecessary bureaucracy and hassle. While local councils can make these regulations more permissive, they cannot make them less permissive. 

Will Building Consent Still Be Required? 

Yes, under the new guidelines, the building consent process will not be changing and is still required. The guidelines simply remove the requirement of resource consent for residences of up to 11m in height. However, this should reduce the time and cost of building for landowners. 

For those who do not know the difference, a building consent applies to the architectural and structural plans required for a project. This is opposed to the resource consent which applies to design aesthetics and assessing a project for compliance with an assessment of environmental effects outlined in the district plan. 

Typically, it is the resource consent that creates delayed timelines for building projects at the start of the building process. Resource consents can often be non-notified, which means council assesses your project independently, however, these can often require public notification, where the community can voice concerns about the plan and design of a structure. 

How Will These Changes Help? 

As noted earlier, these changes greatly increase the density of housing that is allowed in most residential areas of Tier 1 cities. Additionally, the removal of the resource consent will decrease the upfront consultant costs of projects and improve the speed at which they can be built. 

Additionally, these changes are expected to greatly improve the number of new construction projects in New Zealand. When paired with other coming changes to building regulations, it is estimated that these changes will generate up to 105,000 new dwellings within the next eight years, which will make a big difference to the country where housing is currently in extreme demand. 

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