New Zealand approvals process glossary

The many legal requirements involved in a home renovation means there are lots of terms that need clarification. We take a look at some of the vocabulary used throughout the building consent process.

Expert helping couple with their building plans
ARTICLE Patricia Moore with the help of renovation specialists Steve and Lee Roper

A number of legal requirements must be taken into account when planning a renovation project. The Building Act 2004 and the Building Amendment Act 2008 control every type of building, but a number of consents and certificates also apply. It’s important to understand these and their significance, so we are laying out some of the foundations for you to get your head around it all when speaking to your renovation specialist. 

Building consent

A building consent is approval granted by a building consent authority (BCA) under the Building Act, to allow building work to be carried out in accordance with approval plans and specifications. ‘Building work’ covers work related to the construction, alteration (of some renovations), demolition or removal of a building, and includes, but is not limited to, site works, retaining walls, fences and decks above certain heights, plumbing and drainage.

Building consent authority

BCAs are Territorial Authorities, Regional Authorities or private bodies that have been registered by the Department of Building and Housing. BCAs issue building consents, undertake inspections during construction and issue code compliance certificates, notices to fix, and compliance schedules.

Building code

The national mandatory standards for building work. All building work in New Zealand must comply with the Building Code, even if it does not require a building consent.

Codes compliance certificate

Code Compliance – or Consent Completion – certificate, is a certificate issued by the local authority of council (BCA) after construction is complete, notifying and confirming that building work has been completed in accordance with building consent.


Compliance occurs when building performance, according to the standards in the Building Code, has been achieved. 

Certificate of acceptance

A certificate issued by a BCA to retrospectively approve un-consented work or approve work where a BCA is unable, or refuses, to issue a code compliance certificate in respect of building work, for which it granted a building consent. The certificate confirms that, to the extent an inspection was able to be carried out, the work complies with the Building Code.

Exempt building work

Building work not requiring building consent, as defined in Section 41 and Schedule 1 of the Building Act 2004. Exempt building work must still comply with the Building Code.

Geotech report

Local councils may require a Geotechnical report or Soil report for a building development as part of the Building Consent process. This is to ensure that the project proceeds without the risk of foundation problems or stability concerns. A Geotechnical report also provides the structural engineer or architect with information to help in the design process.
A Geotech report may indicate while construction is possible the cost of building may increase. Geotechnical investigations and assessments can also estimate the likelihood of liquefaction for a specific site.

Resource consent

A consent issued by a Territorial Authority to use the land in a way that is not a permitted activity under a council or district plan. Resource Consent will be needed when a building project will contravene a permitted activity – for example, wishing to locate a building closer to the boundary than permitted on the District Plan.

Restricted building work

This is building work that requires a building consent and relates to an element of a building that is critical to the integrity of the building and the health and safety of its occupants and includes, without limitation, work on the building envelope and the structural support of a building. Restricted building work must be carried out or supervised by a licensed building practitioner.


A change to the approved plans and specifications for a building project occurring during construction. If a variation requires an amendment to the building consent or resource consent it needs to be formally advised and justified to the building consent authority then checked, approved and recorded by the building consent authority.

Also learn about the different kinds of Design Specialists that can help you with your renovation. 

Get in touch with Refresh to discuss your home renovation project

If you would like to discuss options for your home renovation, please use the enquiry form on this page to provide us with your contact details. We will get in touch with you at a time that suits you to discuss your project. If you would like to provide us with more information about your project, we have a more comprehensive enquiry form on our "Get in touch" page too.
*All information is believed to be true at time of publishing and is subject to change.

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