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Dam building consents FAQs 

Do you have questions about dam building consents - find the answers below.

Otago Regional Council is been responsible for building control for dams and their associated structures in the West Coast and Southland regions, along with certain dam safety management functions.

The West Coast Regional Council (WCRC) and Environment Southland (ES) retain some functions in their regions, such as the issuing of Project Information Memoranda (PIMs) for dams and maintaining a register of dams. They are also responsible for resource consents for dams in their region.

If you want a building consent, Code Compliance Certificate, or Certificate of Acceptance, then you must apply to Otago Regional Council.

The district and city councils continue to issue PIMs for dams in accordance with the Building Act, in addition to the PIMs issued by the West Coast Regional Council and Environment Southland.

The Otago Regional Council is required under the Building Act to maintain a register of dams in Otago. The register enables us to contact dam owners if we need to discuss the regulations for managing dam safety. There is no charge for the dam registration service.

If you own a dam in Otago you should check with us as to whether your dam should be on our register. Phone 03 474-0827 or freephone 0800 474-082 or email public.enquiries@orc.govt.nz

If you own a dam in Southland or the West Coast, you should check with Environment Southland or the West Coast Regional Council as to whether your dam is on their respective registers.

In addition to complying with the Building Code, most types of dam construction work in Otago, Southland and the West Coast also requires a building consent. These requirements apply to construction of new dams as well as modification of existing dams.

A building consent is also required for a dam's appurtenant structures. Dams that have a height of 4 or more metres and hold 20,000 or more cubic metres volume of water or other fluid, require building consent. Dams that do not meet these height and storage amounts do not require building consent, but must still comply with the Building Code.

Building consent may not be required for certain maintenance or refurbishment work.

You should check with ORC if you're uncertain whether a Building Consent is needed by phoning 03 474-0827 or freephone 0800 474-082 or emailing public.enquiries@orc.govt.nz . It is helpful to us if you give us early warning that you will or may be applying for a building consent.

More information on Building Consents for dams in Otago, Southland and the West Coast

A resource consent may also be required from your regional council and/or your district or city council, irrespective of whether a building consent is required. You should check with your regional council and your district or city council. Information on resource consents for the Otago region is here

For building work in Otago, we ask that you obtain a Project Information Memorandum (PIM). For building work in Southland or the West Coast you obtain it from the regional council in these areas. You can also obtain a PIM from the relevant district or city council.

The regional and district council PIMs contain information held by the two councils which may be relevant to your proposed building work, such as natural hazards. You can apply for the two PIMs at any time – you don't have to wait until you apply for a building consent.

While there is no legal requirement for you to obtain a PIM, it is recommended you obtain the two PIMs first, review information provided, and consider this information when designing your dam.  The PIMs may contain important information, therefore we consider them to be essential. Applications for building consents will be put on hold until ORC receives the two PIMs.

To apply for a Project Information Memorandum (PIM) for building work in Otago, complete the below application form and send it to us.

Application form

Our staff will initially check your application has the necessary information for processing. If the application is not complete, it will be returned to you. Once the application has all the necessary information we will compile your PIM within 2 working days.

You will be charged a fee for processing your application. Cheques should be made out to Otago Regional Council.

Fees and charges

Contacts for other councils providing a PIM

Environment Southland
Ph 03 211 5115

Gore District Council
Ph 03 209 0330

West Coast Regional Council
Ph 0508 800 118

Southland District Council
Ph 0800 732 732

Central Otago District Council
Ph 03 440 0056

Invercargill City Council
Ph 03 211 1777

Queenstown Lakes District Council
Ph 03 441 0499

Buller District Council
Ph 0800 807 239

Waitaki District Council
Ph 03 433 0300

Grey District Council
Ph 03 769 8603

Clutha District Council
Ph 0800 801 350
Web: www.cluthadc.govt.nz

Westland District Council
Ph 03 756 9010

Dunedin City Council
Ph 03 477 4000

Otago Regional Council staff will initially check your application has the necessary information for processing. If the application is incomplete, is not in the correct form, or does not have the correct deposit, it will be returned to you.

Your application will be processed within 20 working days from the receipt of a correct and complete application. This applies to all applications, including those for building work in Southland and the West Coast.

Information on receiving and accepting applications

We will engage an engineering consultant with expertise relevant to your proposed work to assess your application. The building work described in your application will be checked to see whether it complies with the Building Code.

More information on how your application is processed

It is good practice to ensure that a professional engineer is aware that their work is, or may be, reviewed by another engineer. For that reason you should ensure that all professional engineers involved in the preparation and your application and its supporting documents are aware that their work will be assessed by another professional engineer. That assessment will take the form of a regulatory review, not a full design review.

Should you need to provide further information during processing, your application will be suspended until that information is provided.

You'll be charged a fee for processing your application, based on actual costs, including staff and consultant time and disbursements. You must pay these costs even if your application is refused.

Fees will be deducted from the deposit you paid at the time you lodged the application. If the fees exceed the deposit, which is usually the case, then you will be invoiced for the outstanding balance.

If your building consent is to be granted, you will be issued with the Building Consent once you've paid all fees and levies. For building work greater than $20,000 value, you will also need to pay a levy which Otago Regional Council collects on behalf of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) and the Building Research Association of New Zealand (BRANZ).

More information about fees and levies 

For information on how MBIE and BRANZ use the collected levies, see below:

Collected levies for MBIE
Collected levies for BRANZ

It is an offence under the Building Act to start building work before the building consent being granted, even if you think it is likely that the building consent will be granted. You may be required to demolish any building work that has been undertaken prior to consent being granted. 

You must start building work within 12 months of the date of issue of your consent otherwise it will lapse automatically, unless we have agreed in writing to an extension in time. An extension in time must be obtained prior to the 12 month lapse period. An extension in time cannot be approved retrospectively and you will need to apply for a new consent. 

When the consent is issued we will attach a list of required inspections. The consent will state how much notice we need ahead of each inspection. We will engage an engineering consultant with expertise relevant to your proposed work to carry out inspections during the work or it may inspect the work itself. However, the dam owner (consent holder) is still responsible for ensuring the job is done properly according to the conditions of the Building Consent, and complies with the work described in the Building Consent.

You will be charged for the cost of inspecting your work, based on actual costs including staff and consultant time and disbursements.

More information about fees and charges
More information on building inspections

If the design of your dam is modified in any way during construction, you will need to have your consent amended. Check with us before changing anything.

Once your building work has been completed, you must apply for a Code Compliance Certificate (CCC). If it is longer than 24 months since the building consent was granted and you have not applied for a CCC then we must make a decision on whether to issue a CCC.

If you are applying for a CCC in relation to a building consent granted and issued by a district or city council (i.e. a consent granted and issued before 13 May 2008 in Otago), or before 1 July 2008 in Southland or the West Coast, then you must contact ORC before applying for a CCC to discuss how your application will be handled.

A CCC will only be issued if the building work has been undertaken in accordance with the building consent and any amendments approved and all building consent conditions have been met and all fees and charges have been paid.

Download a CCC application form

More information on CCC's

You will be charged a fee for processing your application.

More information about fees and charges

Cheques should be made out to the Otago Regional Council, even for building work in Southland and on the West Coast.

The consent will specify the stages of building work when work must stop and be inspected by us (e.g. placing compacted fill within the key-way trench, pouring concrete or placing reinforcing steel) before further building work can continue.

If you have not met all conditions, or not all required inspections have been undertaken by our engineering consultant, the council can require removal or demolition or alteration of the building work, at the expense of the consent holder. In some cases, we may not be able to issue a CCC.

Want to know more?

For more information phone our customer services staff on freephone 0800 474 082 or email public.enquiries@orc.govt.nz.

Find out more information on dams and the Building Act from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment website.

NZSOLD is a technical group of the Institution of Professional Engineers New Zealand (IPENZ). 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 NZ Society on Large Dams.

Find out historic information on some Otago dams from the New Zealand Historic Places Trust.

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