Local authorities glossary

Depending on the scope of a build or renovation project, different local authorities may have to be involved. Learn more about their power, duties and responsibilities.

Team including a construction worker works around plans for a renovation
ARTICLE Patricia Moore

New Zealand’s local government system is made up of two complementary sets of local authorities, regional councils and territorial authorities (city and district councils). In all there are 78 local authorities across the country and depending on the scope of a build or renovation project, different authorities may be involved. 

Building consent authority

A building consent authority (BCA) issues building consents, inspects work for which it has granted a consent, issues notice to fix, code compliance certificates, and compliance schedules. Under the Building Act, only registered BCA’s may perform consenting and certifying. The Act provides for Territorial Authorities and private organisations to apply for registration as a BCA.
Registration of BCAs is carried out by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE). Most territorial authorities are also BCAs. To enable the processing of your building consent and any required resource consents, you need to know which of these covers the area where you wish to build. 

District and city councils

District and city councils are territorial authorities and both carry the same powers and responsibilities; the difference is that city councils serve a population of more than 50,000 in a predominantly urban area. 
As well as the responsibilities of a BCA, councils cover a wider range of building-related issues, including keeping records of all properties in their area, and providing PIMs – project information memoranda on special features of the land and regulatory requirements relevant to building. District and city councils can also address breaches of the Building Act.
It’s important to note that both district and city councils may also have bylaws, such as those around heritage premises and sites, that can affect building and renovations projects. 

Local authorities

A local authority is a regional or territorial authority, according to the Local Government Act 2002. Local Authorities comprise 11 regional councils, 61 territorial authorities and six unitary councils, which are territorial authorities with regional council responsibilities. 
Local government is independent of, but subordinate to, central government and gives consents under the Resource Management Act.

Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE)

The MBIE – which includes the former Department of Building and Housing – provides the overall leadership of the building and construction sector, managing the system that regulates building, monitoring its effectiveness, and reviewing the Building Code. The MBIE also monitors the performance of district and city council and can investigate complaints and make determinations on certain building matters.

Regional councils

New Zealand has eleven regional councils which are charged with managing the environment and public transport within their region. Because natural resources and their use may cross local boundaries, these need to be managed for the benefit of a whole region. The same applies with transport planning; thus, regional councils may cover several cities or districts.

Standards New Zealand

Standards NZ is a business unit within the MBIE that specialises in managing the development of standards, such as NZS3604:2011 (design and construction of timber-framed structures not requiring specific engineering design).

Territorial authorities

District and city councils are collectively referred to as territorial authorities; there are a total of 67 made up of 12 city councils and 54 district councils, plus the Auckland super city. A territorial authority is required to perform the functions of a BCA for its own city or district, including issuing consents, relevant certificates, and project information memoranda. While also following up and resolving notices to fix, administering annual building warrants of fitness and performing functions relating to earthquake-prone buildings.
Because territorial authorities are based on communities of interest and road access, they are not subdivisions of regions and may in fact fall within the boundaries of more than one region.

Unitary authorities

A unitary authority is a territorial authority that has the responsibilities, duties and powers of a regional council on it, either by the provisions of any act, or by an order in council giving effect to a reorganisation scheme. The six unitary authorities are Auckland Council, Nelson City Council, Gisborne, Marlborough, Tasman District and the Chatham Islands Council.

Remember you also need to know what kind of design specialists you need for your renovation.

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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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