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Common Questions

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Land Development

Contact our planners. They are able to tell you what can be done with your land under the relevant zoning rules, give you the costs for the project, and will also be able to show you how to meet your development goals.

Planners know the rules that control land development, and they interact with all of the related disciplines to bring your project to fruition. Our planners have the experience to know how to optimise the use of your land. Our knowledge and experience allows us to come up with innovative solutions to land development hurdles, so that you won’t hear “NO” when you ask “Can I subdivide?”

At the beginning of a project, there is usually a lot of work to be done long before a surveyor is required. Get your Planner involved first. When a surveyor or any other expert is required, your planner will bring them into the project. Your project will run best if you use the right experts at the right time. (See how we help page)

None. Your planner will explain the process and guide you through it. As your planner constantly deals with Council rules and requirements, they know every discipline that is needed to obtain all approvals for your project. They will involve other personal as required, such as civil engineers, surveyors or urban designers.

Amongst other things, a planner applies for the resource consents for your project, as required by a District or Regional Plan, or (sometimes) by a specific rule within a piece of legislation. A resource consent is the approval that lets you proceed with your development. If the resource consent application needs a plan of buildings, landscaping or boundaries, Baseline Group can prepare this for you.

No. Your planner has the training and experience to understand how the Resource Management Act and other legislation applies to your development. Your planner is your expert in the Resource Management Act, and will help you when you need it.

The Resource Management Act requires city and district councils to produce a large document called a District Plan. Regional councils are required to produce a Regional Plan. These documents set out what the council hopes to achieve in their district or region, and the rules they put in place to achieve this.

The council also sets zoning, so that some areas are for residential activities, some are for rural activities and some are for commercial activities. A District Plan’s rules aim to prevent activities establishing that are incompatible with the zone.

Resource Consent

If you generate a non-compliance with a rule in a district or regional plan (see above), then you’ll need to obtain a resource consent from the council. There are different types of resource consent, with the most common ones being subdivision, land use, and discharge consents.

Land use (the use of land in a manner that contravenes a rule in a Plan) is the one most often referred to as a “Resource Consent”. Subdivision consent is reasonably self-explanatory; and discharge consents are required for the discharge of septic tanks to ground, and for stormwater to ground or to water courses. There are other types of resource consent, but these are the most common ones in the land development process.

No. There are many permitted activities in District Plans, that allow you to undertake certain activities without the need for resource consent. For example, a house on a residential site can be permitted if it meets the development controls, such as setback off the boundaries, maximum building height etc. But, if you’re doing something a bit different, like establishing a shop on a residential site, then you’d expect to need resource consent in order to do that.

Depending on the types of non-compliances, resource consents can have a range of costs. These costs are all tied to how much time is spent in the preparation of the consent application, as well as how much expert input you need. For instance, some applications that create traffic effects may need additional information from a traffic engineer, and others require geotechnical testing, or contamination reports.

Every consent is different, with some applications starting at a few hundred dollars, and others requiring significant work and costing several thousand dollars. Once we know the scope of work you require to apply for a resource consent, then we can give you an idea of all of the expected costs, including the council’s charges for processing the consent.

No. There are many permitted activities in District Plans, that allow you to undertake certain activities without the need for resource consent. For example, a house on a residential site can be permitted if it meets the development controls, such as setback off the boundaries, maximum building height etc. But, if you’re doing something a bit different, like establishing a shop on a residential site, then you’d expect to need resource consent in order to do that.

They probably shouldn’t be. Architects are also professionals in the land development field and are commonly involved in resource consent applications for building non-compliances. Their advice, like many other consultants, is usually very good, however they tend not to be experts in planning. While their advice is offered in good faith, always check with an expert. If you do need resource consent, then finding out later can cause significant cost and delay. Call Baseline Group, our advice is free.

Council has 20 working days to process your resource consent. These working days can be interrupted by a request for information (RFI) or by other things, such as the need for additional consent from the regional council, or the need to obtain neighbour approval for your proposal. In general, most consents are processed in about 4-6 weeks.

Development Contributions

Council provides services to the ratepayers of the city, such as a sewerage network, potable water network, reserves and roads. If there was no expansion in the city at all, then Council could collect rates to maintain these services. However, the council is required by legislation to consider the future upgrade requirements of services so that they can allow for growth. If they determine that they need a $10 million upgrade to a sewerage network in ten years, for example, then they need to assign that figure to the forecast household growth as development contributions. That way, the housing growth pays for the upgrade, and not the ratepayers.

Development Contributions vary significantly depending on what city or district you’re in, and what upgrades are planned for the next ten years. They can be as low as a few thousand dollars per additional unit of demand, or can be tens of thousands. If you let us know the address of the site you intend to develop, then we can tell you the current contributions for that area. It only takes a minute or two.

No, there are situations when contributions are not payable. These are usually when you are replacing previous demand with new demand. For example, if a site had two houses on it, and they were being removed and replaced with two new houses, then contributions should not be required.

If your development places extra demand on the Council infrastructure than what was there before, then you will be required to pay the contributions.

Geotech Assessments

A geotechnical (or “geotech”) assessment can be required for a few reasons. Different councils have different requirements for these, but generally you’d need one if you’re subdividing, or if you are building on land with known or suspected ground issues.

Council has an obligation under section 106 of the Resource Management Act to look at subdivision sites and determine if they are subject to material damage by erosion, falling debris, subsidence, slippage, or inundation from any source. In Christchurch, a geotech report is compulsory for almost all subdivisions, because of the land damage caused by the earthquake. In Auckland, a geotechnical engineer is frequently needed to determine foundation type, because of expansive volcanic soils. Each part of New Zealand is different, so it pays to check with an expert first.

This depends upon the location of your development. The effects from the Canterbury earthquakes now mean that local authorities are much more aware of the need for land to be suitable to be built upon. The requirement for a Geotechnical assessment varies from district to district. We will be able to tell you if one is required for development in your area.

Types of titles

It certainly will. Whether you subdivide by way of a Fee Simple subdivision (including a boundary adjustment) or a Unit Title subdivision, you will get a new Certificate of Title at the end of the process.

The most common are Fee Simple, Leasehold, and Unit Titles. Fee Simple is the type of subdivision where white, topped pegs are placed in the corners of the property and you own 100% of everything inside the pegs.

Leasehold are usually Cross Leases, which refers to an agreement that exists between the owners of the underlying parcel of land, to lease the houses and grounds. So in a situation where there are two houses on a cross-lease, then both house owners own the underlying fee simple parcel, and they have respective leases with each other to occupy the houses for 999 years. This extremely complicated situation was devised to circumvent the planning rules that existed about 50 years ago. Since the Resource Management Act came into effect in 1991, the loophole that allowed for cross-leases was closed, so this type of subdivision is very uncommon now.

Unit Titles are created under the Unit Titles Act 2010. This is a good title to have for a multiple unit development, where you need some form of collective control over the entire site. The control is brought about by the Body Corporate, which is required to be set up for every Unit Title. All unit owners are members of the body corporate.

Under all three types of subdivision, there is a fee simple parcel that exists. The cross-lease and the unit titles can be thought of as an overlay that rests on top of the fee simple parcel. These forms of titles can be canceled, leaving just the fee simple parcel behind.

This is very dependent on what type of development you’re doing. In the case of standalone buildings, then fee simple is probably the best type of title. In cases of multiple joined units, it is frequently better to go for unit titles, so that there is control over the shared accesses etc. However, each situation needs to be looked at to determine the best situation. Cross-lease titles are not recommended for any situation if they can be avoided.

Engineering services required

This depends upon the type of development you are doing. For a subdivision project you may need our engineers to prepare drawings of the pipes to be laid in the ground, the earthworks and the roads. The drawings will show all of the work to be built by the Contractor. The Engineer will then check the work as it is built to ensure that it is done to standard. At the end of the process the Engineer will sign off the work.

For commercial type development or multi-unit development a building consent may be required. The Engineer will prepare drawings showing the pipes to be laid in the ground, the earthworks and the roads. The Engineer is not always required to check the work as it is built, but is always available to answer your questions as construction happens.

Most development projects need three contractors. A specialist telecommunications contractor will install the phone cables or fibre optic cable. A specialist electrical contractor will design and install the electrical cabling. The civil contractor will build the roads, dig the trenches and lay all of the pipes.

Yes! Your planner is in regular contact with the civil engineering, urban design and landscape architect experts at Baseline Group. Your planner will also speak with other experts such as geotech engineers as they are required. Your planner brings all of these people together to make your project a success.