The Building Act

The Building Act 2004 establishes the framework for all building control systems in New Zealand. It aims to ensure that:

  • people can use buildings safely and without endangering their health
  • buildings have attributes that contribute appropriately to the health, physical independence and wellbeing of the people who use them
  • people who use a building can escape from the building if it is on fire
  • buildings are designed, constructed and able to be used in ways that promote sustainable development.

The Building Act has provisions to:

  • register building consent authorities
  • license building practitioners
  • review and amend the Building Code
  • protect consumers
  • certify products and establish systems to construct, alter, demolish and maintain new and existing buildings.

It sets standards and procedures for people involved in building work and covers how that work can be done, who can do it and when it needs to be inspected.

The Building Act empowers territorial authorities (usually local councils) to control building activity in their district. Territorial authorities must be accredited and registered as building consent authorities in order to carry out building consent authority functions. Private organisations can also attain registration as a building consent authority provided they can demonstrate adequate means. The Building Amendment Act 2013 introduced a risk-based consenting system..

The following sections of the Building Act have implications for the seismic resistance of existing buildings.

  • Sections 112 and 113 cover buildings undergoing alteration, including buildings with an intended remaining life of less than 50 years.
  • Section 115 provides requirements for buildings where a change of use is proposed.
  • Section 121 defines a “dangerous building”. (After the Canterbury earthquakes, the Building Amendment Act 2012 introduced protection against hazards arising from building collapse from aftershocks.)
  • Section 122 and associated regulations define what constitutes an earthquake-prone building.
  • Sections 124 to 130 provide powers for territorial authorities to act on earthquake-prone buildings and set out how this action is to be taken.
  • Sections 131 and 132 require territorial authorities to establish earthquake-prone building policies. They must also specify how the policies are to be established, what they are to include and when they are to be reviewed.

Note that sections 124–132 are currently under review and are likely to be amended.

Relevant resources