4. Unoccupied detached buildings

Storage building on an industrial site

Certain unoccupied buildings that don't normally pose a safety risk, or that are only used while constructing or maintaining another consented building, don't require a building consent.

What the law says

Subject to section 42A of the Building Act, Schedule 1 exempts the following from a building consent:

1. Building work in connection with any detached building that:

(a) houses fixed plant or machinery and under normal circumstances is entered only on intermittent occasions for the routine inspection and maintenance of that plant or machinery; or
(b) is a building, or is in a vicinity, that people cannot enter or do not normally enter; or
(c) is used only by people engaged in building work:

(i) in relation to another building; and
(ii) for which a building consent is required.

2. However, subclause (1) does not include building work in connection with a building that is closer than the measure of its own height to any residential building or to any legal boundary.

Guidance on the exemption

This exemption covers specific types of building that would:

  • not normally pose a risk to people, or
  • are only used by people engaged in constructing or maintaining another consented building (eg a construction site office).

This exemption also includes all work relating to the disposal of stormwater as it relates to the unoccupied detached buildings.

Check with your council

Always check with your local council to make sure your proposed building work does not have any district planning implications (eg maximum site coverage, yard/setback requirements, daylight access planes or permitted activities). A resource consent may be required and it is important that you obtain this before starting any building work.

If you are building close to boundaries, you need to give due consideration to the Building Code requirements regarding protection from fire; particularly in relation to the external spread of fire to neighbouring property.

Examples where this exemption could apply

Owners of an industrial complex are installing a new compressor which needs to be protected from the weather. They construct a 3 metre high building with a 15 square metre floor area to house the compressor, which only requires maintenance once a month. The building is sited 7 metres from the closest boundary.
A purpose-built construction site office that has a 20 square metre floor area and is 2.4 metres high is located on a consented commercial building site. It is 3 metres from the nearest boundary and is only used by people engaged in constructing the building.

Examples where building consent is required

An industrial building owner wants to construct a building in an area that people do not normally enter. The building will also be further than its own height away from any residential building or legal boundary. However, as the building will contain chemicals that require it to be licensed under the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act 1996, a building consent will be required under section 42A(2)(d) of the Building Act.
A building supply merchant intends to build a security building at the exit barrier of his premises (ie on the property boundary). It will be 12 square metres by 3 metres high. As he plans to locate the building less than its own height from the nearest boundary, he will need to apply for a building consent.

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This information is published by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s Chief Executive. It is a general guide only and, if used, does not relieve any person of the obligation to consider any matter to which the information relates according to the circumstances of the particular case. Expert advice may be required in specific circumstances. Where this information relates to assisting people: