I wish to build a house on my rural property. What do I need from Council?

You need both a building consent under the Building Act and a resource consent under the Resource Management Act to establish a residential activity. The Council may process these in parallel, but will not allow the building consent to be exercised until you have obtained your resource consent.

  • Can I build anywhere I like on my land?

    In general terms yes, you can. However, this is subject to the following criteria:
  • You must be 25m from any boundary in the rural general zone and 10m from a boundary in the rural residential zone (10m from a road boundary).
  • You must be more than 50m from any existing or consented dwelling on an adjoining property.
  • Your house must not breach the skyline when viewed from a public place within 2km.
  • If part of a recent subdivision, it is possible your title may be subject to a consent notice that you have to build on an identified “building platform”. However, it is still possible to apply for consent to build outside the designated platform.


Are there any Council controls on the appearance of my house?

The Council has restrictions on the colour and types of cladding listed in the District Plan. In general, colours must be dark and recessive with low reflectivity.   Most types of cladding are allowed with the exception of unpainted zincalume and unpainted corrugated iron.    You will need to supply Council with a site plan, floor plans and concept elevations of your proposed house.   Detailed working drawings are not required.

I do not have concept plans available of my house and do not intend to build for some years. What are my options?

You can apply for a landuse consent for an identified building platform. Apart from the appearance of the future house, all of the same issues need to be dealt with, as for a full dwelling application.

What then are the advantages of a building platform?

You, or a future owner of your land, will have a guaranteed right to build on the platform, although there is nothing to stop a future owner applying to build off the platform. A resource consent is still required to build on the platform, but Council cannot refuse consent.   This can be quite a marketing advantage when selling a rural title.   There will be a time limit on a platform consent (typically 5 years, but it is common to request a longer period).

Can I go “off grid”, or do I need to be connected to reticulated power and telecommunications?

Yes, particularly with telecommunications where there are alternatives in the form of cellular and satellite services and long distance wi-fi. However, unless there is no other alternative, most people opt for a reticulated power supply.   If you are buying into a recent rural subdivision your lot will almost certainly have reticulated power supply at the boundary, but not necessarily reticulated telecommunications.   For re-sale considerations, there is a strong buyer preference for rural dwellings to have reticulated network power and telecom connections.

What about a water supply?

You must have a supply of potable drinking water available, either from a local community supply or from a bore on your property. The Council will require a recent water test to prove that the supply is potable.   If treatment is required, a household UV filtration unit is possible.   If you are connected to a local community supply the Council will require you to demonstrate that you have a legal entitlement to the scheme and that the supply is legally secured by way of easements.

What if I do not have a suitable bore or am not supplied by a community scheme?

The Council may accept a supply from a spring, creek or water race if there is no other possible alternative. You will need to demonstrate that the supply is reliable all year round, provide a water test and a report from a suitably qualified person that details how the water is to be treated

Are there any requirements for firefighting?

You will be required to install a 30,000 litre storage tank located within 90m of your house that has hardstand access for a fire appliance. A firefighting reserve of 20,000 litres must be maintained at all times.   Other forms of water storage, such as irrigation storage dams are acceptable alternatives, but require the written permission of the NZ Fire Service to be supplied to Council.

Are there any special requirements for wastewater treatment?

You will need to supply Council with a report from a suitably qualified professional that your site is suitable for on-site treatment of wastewater (i.e. septic tank and disposal field). If the disposal field is closer than 50m from a water body or water supply well, it will need an additional resource consent from the Regional Council.

Are there any other issues I need to be aware of?

Depending on the extent and volume of excavation and filling involved, you may need an earthworks consent for the construction of your building platform and driveway access.

If you are constructing a new entrance onto a public road, you will need the permission of Council’s Roading Department or the NZ Transport Agency in the case of a State Highway.   Both agencies have criteria in terms of suitable sight lines, access separation and minimum construction standards.

If your new house is located on a property currently or formerly used as a vineyard, orchard, market garden, has been subject to historic mining or is close to an old sheep dip or stockyards, then your consent application will be subject to the National Environmental Standard for Assessing and Managing Contaminants in Soil to Protect Human Health.   A preliminary site investigation report by a suitably qualified professional environmental engineer will be required to assess the risk.

There may also be other planning issues involving the risk to the site of flooding, land instability, archaeological and historic sites and clearance of native vegetation.

Sounds complicated. Can Paterson Pitts help me?

While planning applications for rural dwellings can be relatively straight forward, many have complex issues that involve multiple rule breaches. The issue that causes the most problems for many applicants is that of skyline breaches.   Paterson Pitts is well experienced in this regard and has successfully obtained many consents for rural dwellings that breach this requirement and other rules in the District Plan.   We are well placed to advise you on all the issues involved with rural dwelling consents.

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