Dam Safety Regulations


The new regulations on Dam Safety [Building (Dam Safety) Regulations 2022] were announced by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) in May 2022 which set out the minimum requirements for dam safety in New Zealand.

The regulations provide a framework to protect people, property and the environment from the potential impacts of dam failure, both in the immediate vicinity of dams and further downstream.

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Reporting requirements

Submission information

Want to know more

Frequently asked questions


ORC staff member checking height of dam


The new dam safety regulations commence on 13 May 2024 and apply to all dams that exceed the threshold imposed in the definition of ‘Classifiable Dam’, as specified in Building (Dam Safety) Regulations 2022, as being:

  • 4 metres or higher and storing 20,000 or more cubic metres volume of water or other fluid


Dam owners will need to check if a dam/s exceeds the new threshold. It is vital that dam owners measure their dam in line with the guidance supplied by MBIE (in Section 7.2 of the MBIE “Guide to complying with the Dam Safety Regulations”) to ensure that it meets the measurement of dam requirements imposed under s133B of the Building Act 2004.

The "Height and volume threshold" graph below shows the threshold imposed in the new regulations. Any dam that exceeds this threshold is regarded as a Classifiable Dam and is required to the meet the new regulations.



Dam safety reporting requirements

If a dam exceeds the threshold and is confirmed to be a Classifiable Dam, the dam owner will need to carry out a Potential Impact Classification (PIC) assessment. This is to assess the potential impact (i.e. low, medium or high), the dam’s failure could have on the community, historical or cultural places, critical or major infrastructure, and the natural environment.

The regulations allow for anyone to carry out a PIC assessment. This includes:

  • dam owners
  • farm consultants
  • technical practitioners

However, owners of a Classifiable Dam are required to engage a ‘Recognised Engineer’.

MBIE has developed the "Checklist for dam owners" which will help the owners of typical agricultural dams identify and collate information which would assist with the completion of a PIC assessment. 


A Recognised Engineer will need to audit and certify the PIC assessment of the dam and submit a Dam Classification Certificate to ORC for approval by 13 August 2024.


A PIC assessment can be submitted by completing Form 1: Dam Classification Certificate and sending it to damsafety@orc.govt.nz. This needs to be submitted by 13 August 2024.

Owners of dams assessed as having a low potential impact will have fewer responsibilities, whereas those with a medium or high potential impact will be required to have a certified Dam Safety Assurance Programme and submit Annual Dam Compliance Certificates. These can be submitted by completing Form 2: Dam safety assurance program & Form 3: Annual dam compliance certificate and sending these to damsafety@orc.govt.nz.

Further reporting requirements, additional to the supply of a PIC assessment, which dam owners need to meet depend on whether their dam is assessed as low, medium or high impact.


This infographic from MBIE Dam Safety Regulations 2022 will help dam owners to understand their responsibilities.

Submission of Dam Safety Reporting

Find the attached editable Form 1: Dam Classification Certificate that is required to be audited and certified by a Recognised Engineer and supplied by 13 August 2024 for all Classifiable Dams.


Submission of Form 1 must be received by Otago Regional Council before 13 August 2024


Supply these completed forms, along with supporting information via email to damsafety@orc.govt.nz.


Want to know more?

View the Building (Dam Safety) Regulations 2022.

Further information and resources to support dam owners and Recognised Engineers with their responsibilities under the new regulations are available on MBIE’s Building Performance Website building.govt.nz. This includes an online learning module and also a guidance document prepared by MBIE, which are excellent starting points to become familiar with the new dam safety regulations.

Building Performance - Resources 
Building Performance - Managing dams to ensure they are safe
Building Performance - Infographic

For additional information and insights on how to calculate the volume of your dam, please see the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment (MBIE) resource: Measuring and calculating the height and volume of agricultural dams

NZ Society on Large Dams (NZSOLD) is a technical group of Engineering New Zealand. This site has information on dam safety and construction, including the proceedings of conferences at which papers on dam safety and background to the Building Act dam safety legislation have been presented. Find out more information on the NZSOLD website: nzsold.org.nz.

Engineering New Zealand Te Ao Rangahau has information on engineeringnz.org about how to find an engineer and/or a Recognised Engineer, and tips how to effectively engage with them.

Find out historic information on some Otago dams from the Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga.

For all further enquiries please email damsafety@orc.govt.nz or alternatively contact our customer services team on freephone 0800 474 082.

This flowchart from MBIE's Guide to complying with the Dam Safety Regulations, will help dam owners to understand their responsibilities.

You will first need to confirm whether or not your dam is a Classifiable Dam. Does it exceed the threshold of 4 metres or higher and store 20,000 or more cubic metres volume of water or other fluid?

Only dams that exceed the Classifiable Dam threshold are subject to the regulations.

Refer to regulation 5 of the Building (Dam Safety) Regulations 2022 for the meaning of a Classifiable Dam.

The purpose of Potential Impact Classification (PIC) assessments under the regulations is to identify and prioritise higher risk Classifiable Dams for further dam safety work.

All dams that are Classifiable Dams must have an initial PIC assessment completed by 13 August 2024, that must be reviewed every five years.

If your dam’s PIC is assessed as being low impact, no further action is required until the next PIC assessment is due in five years time.

Your audited and certified PIC assessment should be included in your completed Form 1: Dam Classification Certificate that must be submitted to the ORC. Auditing and certification of your PIC assessment must be undertaken by a Recognised Engineer before it is submitted.

Dams that are assessed as being medium or high impact will need to comply with additional Dam Safety Assurance Programme (DSAP) and Annual Dam Compliance Certificate (ADCC) requirements.

The regulations commence on 13 May 2024. Classifiable Dam owners have up to three months (13 August 2024) after the regulations commence to submit a Form 1: Dam Classification Certificate to damsafety@orc.govt.nz.


The level of cost to a Classifiable Dam owner will depend on their dam’s assessed impact in the PIC assessment. Different levels of assessed impact (low, medium or high PIC) will require different levels of service from the Recognised Engineer engaged to certify and audit the Dam Classification Certificates, Dam Safety Assurance Programme and Annual Dam Compliance Certificates.  

Contact information for Recognised Engineers can be found here, when you are seeking quotes or requirement assistance: https://www.engineeringnz.org/engineer-tools/recognised-engineer-dam-safety/

Please note that there is an associated fixed administration fee that Otago Regional Council will charge when receiving Dam Safety Reporting.

Form 1: Dam Classification Certificate is available to download from this Dam Safety Regulations page or by emailing damsafety@orc.govt.nz

A Dam Classification Certificate can be submitted before 13 May 2024.

ORC is able to receive a Dam Classification Certificate from a Classifiable Dam owner before 13 May 2024 and hold it until it can be processed on or after 13 May 2024.

13 August 2024 is the last day Classifiable Dam owners have to supply a certified and audited Form 1: Dam Classification Certificate to damsafety@orc.govt.nz. If the Classifiable Dam is being built during that time or is commissioned later, a Form 1: Dam Classification Certificate is required within 3 months of the Classifiable Dam being commissioned.

A new dam with a height of 6 metres and a capacity to hold 50,000 cubic metres volume of water has recently been completed. When does the dam owner need to submit the Form 1: Dam Classification Certificate to damsafety@orc.govt.nz?

Classifiable Dam owners must submit the dam’s Dam Classification Certificate no later than three months after the regulations come into force, or no later than three months after the dam is commissioned, whichever is later.

ORC must give written notice to the dam owner as to whether they approve or refuse to approve the Form 1: Dam Classification Certificate. ORC can only refuse to approve the Form 1: Dam Classification Certificate if the engineer who certified and audited the Certificate is not a Recognised Engineer.

Please note that ORC can request that the dam owner resubmit their original Form 1: Dam Classification Certificate submitted, where it is not signed by a Recognised Engineer.

I have a local engineer helping me with my dam reporting requirements who is not a Recognised Engineer. They have filled out a Form 1: Dam Classification Certificate. We have contacted and engaged a Recognised Engineer, however, they don’t agree with our local engineer and they won’t certify the Potential Impact Classification (PIC) in the Dam Compliance certificate. What do we do?

You’ll need to work with the Recognised Engineer to review, certify and audit the assessment, so that a Form 1: Dam Compliance Certificate can be appropriately certified and audited by the Recognised Engineer and submitted to the ORC.

If you have questions about the design, specifications or engineering work completed during your dam’s construction, it is recommended that you engage with the dam engineer and/or contractor that constructed your dam, or otherwise a Chartered Professional Engineer.


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