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Resource Consents - The Basics

What are they and when do you need one?

The Resource Management Act 1991 places restrictions on how your land can be used; this is done by the issuing of consents. Their purpose is to limit any adverse effects that your intended use of your property may cause to neighbours’ properties or the environment. If you are a property owner, or you lease premises to operate your business, we explain below the various types of consent that you may come across from time to time.

Types of consent

Discharge consents: The Act restricts the discharge of contaminants into the air, water or land. It is important that the way you use your property doesn’t adversely affect it for future generations or damage your neighbour’s property. If your business manufactures goods or you are farming, rules restricting the use of pesticides, limiting dust and controls around dairy effluent will be familiar to you.

Consent to take water: If your farm has a spring or river flowing through it, you may use that to water your crops or herd. What you may not know is that your council may restrict how much water you can draw from that source over a particular period. Although there is plenty of water in the sea, clean fresh water is a limited resource and it needs to be controlled appropriately.

Subdivision consents: If you want to change the size of your section (a boundary adjustment) or to split your property into additional property titles, you will usually need subdivision consent. This type of consent is likely to come with some conditions. Your local council may also ask that part of your property, normally around waterways, is transferred to the council as an esplanade reserve or esplanade strip. This is known as ‘vesting’. The council can also require that future development (for example, if you’re building a new subdivision) meets certain council-dictated design specifications.

Change of use consents: If your property is used for a particular purpose and you want to change that use, you may need to apply to the council. A common example of this is converting a commercial building or garage into a residential dwelling.

Do I need resource consent?

If your proposed activity is not listed in the district plan as either permitted or prohibited, then you will need a consent.

The district plan for each region is publicly accessible through the local council’s website; it varies for each region depending on the needs and focus of that community. For example, somewhere dry like Northland is likely to have stricter water restrictions in place than Fiordland.

The zoning of your property will impact on your consent. Councils zone certain areas based on the expected characteristics of that area. Different zones, residential, commercial, industrial and rural (the names of zones also differ from region to region) have different rules that apply based on their proximity to other zones, amenities and natural hazards. It is useful to know that when subdividing your urban residential property, you will be permitted to have smaller section sizes than if you were subdividing your rural property into lifestyle blocks.

If you are looking at doing something different with your property it always pays to check the region’s district plan first. If you’re not sure whether you need consent, get in touch with the local or regional council; council staff are experts and are generally friendly and happy to help.

What if I carry on my activity without consent?

If you ignore your responsibilities under the Act, penalties can range from $1,500 to $300,000 or you could be sentenced to up to two years in prison. If you are operating through another entity (a company, for example) you could be fined up to $600,000.

It is important that the council balances your rights as a property owner with the rights of your neighbours, future landowners and the environment. The council, however, doesn’t always get this balance right. If you believe that your consent application has been unfairly rejected, please don’t hesitate to talk with us.

Building consents

In addition to requiring resource consent, if you are building a new structure or doing structural alterations on your property, you may also require building consent. Your building work is governed by the Building Act 2004 and must be built to the standards contained in that legislation. Once the consented building work is completed, it is vital that the council approves that work so a code compliance certificate (CCC) can be issued. When you want to sell your property, any prospective purchaser will want to see the CCC.

Resource consents can impact your residential property or your business in many ways, if you need assistance navigating your way around the process, please call us on 09 407 7099 or email


DISCLAIMER: All the information published in Property Speaking is true and accurate to the best of the author's knowledge. It should not be a substitute for legal advice. No liability is assumed by the authors or publisher for losses suffered by any person or organisation relying directly or indirectly on this article. Views expressed are those of individual authors and do not necessarily reflect the collective view of Law North Lawyers. Articles appearing in Property Speaking may be reproduced with prior approval from the editor and credit given to the source. Copyright, NZ LAW Limited, 2022.

Editor: Adrienne Olsen. Adroite Communications. E: M: 029 286 3650


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