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Exempt work, when designed and reviewed by a chartered engineer

Last updated: 21 March 2016

If you engage an engineer to undertake building work involving signs, plinths, retaining walls or playground equipment, it may be exempt from a building consent.

You must engage a chartered professional engineer to undertake and review the building work listed in Part 3 of the Building Act's Schedule 1 in order for the design to be exempt from a building consent.

Your engineer must be registered by Engineering New Zealand. You should verify their registration status before they start work.

Search for an engineer

Select the Chartered Professional Engineer register on the Engineering New Zealand website to confirm your engineer is registered.

Go to the registers

What the exempt work includes


This exemption includes building work in connection with any sign (whether freestanding or attached to a structure), and any structural support of the sign.

This exemption places no restriction on size or height above the supporting ground if the design of the sign, including mounting and any foundation details, has been carried out or reviewed by a chartered professional engineer.

If you are proposing to put signs on heritage or character buildings or in urban areas, you must check with your local council first.

There may be restrictions in the council’s district plan on the type of signs you can construct. You may need to apply for a resource consent.


This exemption includes building work in connection with any plinth or similar foundation if the plinth or foundation supports:

  • plant (such as a factory or workshop)
  • a tank
  • equipment
  • machinery
  • any similar item.

This exemption recognises that plinths usually involve specific engineering design because of the need to support heavy loads (such as tanks, mechanical items like printing presses and metal working machines or large statues).

Retaining walls

This exemption includes building work in connection with a retaining wall in a rural zone if:

  • the wall retains no more than three metres depth of ground
  • and the distance between the wall and any legal boundary or existing building is at least the height of the wall.

Rural zone means any zone or area (other than a rural residential area) in your council's district plan described as:

  • a rural zone
  • rural resource area
  • rural environment
  • or by words of similar meaning.

This exemption recognises that in low density rural zones (such as on farms) the consequences of failure of any retaining wall are less likely to cause injury than they would be in higher density urban environments.

The additional requirement for a chartered professional engineer to be involved also helps to make sure that retaining walls covered under this exemption are less likely to fail.

F4 Safety from falling

Safe design of all barriers inside and outside the building.

See detailed Building Code requirements

Certain public playground equipment

This exemption is for building work in connection with playground equipment if the work is for:

  • a government department
  • Crown entity
  • licensed early childhood centre
  • territorial or regional authority
  • another similar public organisation.

The building consent process would add disproportionately high compliance costs and limited value in cases where certain public playground equipment is either designed or reviewed by a chartered professional engineer.

This exemption applies to playgrounds under the control of certain public or licensed organisations that already have strong incentives to operate systems to make sure public safety concerns are well managed.

Removal of sign, plinth, retaining wall or public playground equipment

This exemption is for the removal of any of the structures referred to above, whether or not the design of the structure has been carried out or reviewed by a chartered professional engineer.

Building work that does not require a building consent

Guidance on building work exempt from needing a building consent under Schedule 1 of the Building Act.

Download Schedule 1 guidance


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: