Residential earthworks on land or near water

Earthworks are a necessary part of preparing land for residential development, but if the right practices aren’t used, soil can be lost to water bodies. Having a clear plan for erosion and sediment control, getting the right consents and meeting relevant conditions protects you, your property, your neighbours and the environment.

To find out whether you need a consent, contact our Consents team before getting your project underway.

We are available to guide you through this process and provide tips on how to make it a smooth experience.

Call  0800 474 082


Residential development: Means the preparation of land for, and construction of, development infrastructure and buildings (including additions and alterations) for residential activities, and includes retirement villages. It excludes camping grounds, motor parks, hotels, motels, backpackers’ accommodation, bunkhouses, lodges and timeshares. The terms development infrastructure, residential activity, and retirement village are defined in the National Planning Standards.

Earthworks: The alteration or disturbance of land, including by moving, removing, placing, blading, cutting, contouring, filling or excavation of earth (or any matter constituting the land including soil, clay, sand and rock). This excludes gardening, cultivation, and disturbance of land for the installation of fence posts.

Landholding: For land subject to the Land Transfer Act 1952, land in: (i) A single certificate of title; or (ii) Two or more adjoining certificates of title, with a common occupier. For land not subject to the Land Transfer Act 1952, all contiguous land last acquired under one instrument of conveyance and occupied by a common occupier.

Helpful information

Factsheet - Earthworks for residential development

Residential Earthworks Guide in Otago

This Guide provides context to ORC residential earthworks provisions, consent information and on-going consent compliance requirements. This includes content required for any Environmental Management Plans (EMPs) and Erosion and Sediment Control Plans (ESCPs) which are necessary for the majority of consents granted by the ORC.

Other resource consents that may be required

Please read this Guide in conjunction with Auckland Council’s Erosion and Sediment Control Guide for Land Disturbing Activities in the Auckland Region Guidelines Document 2016/005 (GD05) and the applicable resource consent if and when granted.

Environmental Incident Report Form

This form is an editable pdf that can be used to report many types of incidents to the ORC via the ORC Compliance Officer assigned to your site, and the Pollution Hotline. It is a condition requirement of residential earthworks consents. The incident may need to be reported immediately to ORC’s Pollution Hotline.

Site Environmental Induction Template

Please consider using this template if your team doesn’t already have a Site Environmental Induction form.

Form A: Sediment Retention Pond (SRP) & Chemical Dosing System

If you have a SRP and chemical dosing system on your site you will be required to have a Suitably Qualified and Experienced Person (SQEP) certify the SRP and chemical dosing system.

Please use this form and submit to and the ORC Compliance Officer assigned to your site.

Do you need a resource consent?

The provisions have been developed to manage the discharge of sediment from earthworks resulting in adverse effects on water quality. Rules and set out the specific requirements for earthworks. You will need a resource consent if you can’t meet all the below criteria:

  • The area of exposed earth is no larger than 2,500m² per landholding in any consecutive 12-month period,
  • Works are not within ten metres of a water body (such as a river, stream, wetland or lake), drain, water race or the coast
  • Exposed earth is stabilised when works are completed
  • Works are not on (potentially) contaminated land
  • Soils and debris are not placed where sediment can enter waterways or the coastal marine area
  • Works will not result in flooding, erosion, land instability, subsidence or property damage
  • Discharge of sediment to water will not result in, e.g. any conspicuous change in the colour or visual clarity, objectionable odour, making water not suitable for farm animals, or cause significant adverse effects on aquatic life

If you cannot meet one or more of these criteria, you will need both a regional land use consent under section 9(2) RMA and a discharge consent under s15 RMA.

If you need consent, we’ll need to know:

  • Where and how much land will be exposed
  • What you will do to minimise the risk of sediment loss
  • The extent to which your proposal complies with the Erosion and Sediment Control Guidelines for Land Disturbing Activities in the Auckland Region 2016 (Auckland Council Guideline Document GD2016/005). These guidelines contain a comprehensive set of potential measures that can be used to avoid sediment loss from your site and/or into water
  • Whether there will be adverse effects on water bodies, ecological values, other properties, human use or Kāi Tahu values

Note: Look out for discharges into District or City Council networks (such as stormwater and/ or sewer lines). You may require affected party approval from them.

How you can minimise the risk of sediment loss

The best measures to manage the effects of earthworks depend on the type and scale of the activity and site characteristics that affect the risk associated with an activity. Factors influencing the amount of soil loss from earthworks sites are:

  • Soil type and characteristics
  • Topography of the area of earthworks
  • Proximity to sensitive receivers, such as receiving waters to any sediment run-off
  • Area of works
  • Land stability
  • Duration of soil exposure
  • Weather and climate (including rainfall, season etc)

Types of mitigation measures include:

  • Sediment control, including simple silt and sediment barriers, diversions of run-off, chemical treatment, decanting earth bunds
  • Soil stabilisation (including battering, engineered structures, revegetation, waterproof covers, staging with progressive stabilisation)
  • Limiting works during wetter months/ days
  • Limiting the time bare soil is exposed
  • Monitoring during works whether measures are working properly and adapt if necessary

We strongly encourage the submission of management plans (such as erosion and sediment control plans) as part of an application so we can ensure that you are using the best options to control sediment run-off.

Good practice examples​

When it goes wrong

Depending on its nature and location an application involving earthworks for residential development may require other resource consents, for example:

  • Diversion and discharges of contaminated water
  • Natural hazards
  • Dust – air discharges
  • Contamination Discharges/ Contaminated land
  • Coastal consent (where outfall installed for discharge of sediment/ stormwater to the coast )
  • Defence against water (where earthen bunds are proposed to mitigate sediment run-off)

Note: You may also need bylaw approval from ORC for this.

  • Local council consents: Earthworks are managed by district and city councils as well as Otago Regional Council. You will need to check whether your earthworks also require resource consent from your district or city council.


Find out more:

More information about our resource consent process is available by calling 0800 474 082 or emailing

The rules referenced on this page can be found in the Regional Plan: Water for Otago.

Page last updated 24 June 2024.