Local council requirements for school property projects

Getting consents and meeting other local council requirements are part of a project manager’s role for school property projects. Consents might include building consent and resource consent. The council may also require a traffic impact assessment and/or a cultural impact assessment are done for the project.

Getting council consents for a building project

As project manager, you're responsible for getting any necessary consents and certificates for the school property project you're managing. Local council requirements may include:

  • building consent
  • resource consent or outline plan
  • a certificate for public use
  • a code compliance certificate
  • approval to build over 2 sections.

Even if you think the project won’t require consents, always check with the council. The council won’t accept ignorance as an excuse if building work is carried out without the necessary consents.

Building consent

Building consent is formal approval to do building work. Most school property projects need to have building consent.

After the board has approved the project designs, apply to the local council for building consent. Any processing fees are part of the project budget.

Design stage of school property projects

The council considers the plans and checks they comply with the Building Code. If it approves the plan, it issues a building consent for the project.

Resource consent and designations

When building work could affect the environment, the project may need resource consent under the Resource Management Act 1991.

Schools usually don’t need resource consents under the district plan because they're on land designated for educational use. However, resource consents from the regional council may be required.

Regional plan resource consents

The regional council includes in its regional plan the rules for what's permitted and what requires resource consent for activities including:

  • discharging of contaminants or water into water
  • discharging of a contaminant onto or into land that may enter water
  • discharges into the air which could impact air quality.

Designations under the district plan

Under the Resource Management Act 1991, the Minister of Education can serve a Notice of Requirement to designate land for an educational purpose. This protects the land for future development. Once designated, it acts like a form of ‘spot zoning’ over a site in a district plan and the zone rules of the district plan do not apply to the designated site.

In the case of schools, the designation provides an envelope of consent to enable property projects on a school site without recourse to resource consents. The proviso here is that the works need to be within the scope of the conditions related directly to the schools specific designation. Always check with the local council as to what these conditions are before planning the property work. An Outline Plan of Works will also often be required – see below. 

Visit the Ministry for the Environment website for more information on resource consents.

An Everyday Guide to the RMA — Ministry for the Environment website(external link)

Outline plan of works

The Minister is required to advise the local council of any works to be done under the designation. This process is called an ‘outline plan of works’. It ensures that the council is aware of the planned works and can make recommendations to the Minister about those works.

After you have prepared an outline plan of works, send it to the local Ministry office for review and approval. We'll then forward it to the council on the school’s behalf.

Resource Management Act charges

The Ministry, and by association State Schools, are not liable for ‘financial contributions’ under the Resource Management Act. If the school is invoiced for these charges, inform the council that it's unlawful for councils to charge schools for financial contributions. Contact the Ministry if you need help with the council.

Certificate for public use

You'll need to apply for a certificate for public use if the school wants to continue to use part of a building while construction work is underway on another part of it, for example, if a large block is under construction and part of the finished building can be used safely.

If the school needs a certificate for public use, apply for it when you apply for building consent. The council will check that the building can be used safely before it provides the certificate.

Building over 2 sections or subdivisions

If the project involves a building that will sit over 2 or more sections or subdivisions, the project will need a certificate under section 75 of the Building Act 2004 (New Zealand Legislation website). You must do this even if the land is on the same certificate of title.

Section 75, Building Act 2004  — NZ Legislation website(external link)

Talk to the school’s property advisor in the Ministry to get our approval to the section 75 certificate. Note that in some instances the process to obtain a section 75 certificate can take a significant amount of time (e.g. if land titles have a different origin) so make allowance for this to avoid project delays.

Each council has its own process for this. If the council charges a fee, it will be a project cost.

Board’s authority to manage land

Boards do not own their school’s land but have legal authority to manage it. If the local council questions whether the board can sign application forms during the consent process, contact the local Ministry office. To show that the board has authority, we can supply the board with a letter and/or:

  • a gazette notice issued under section 161 of the Education and Training Act 2020
  • a certificate of title

which you can attach to the application.

Developing a traffic impact assessment for a new building project

When you apply for building consent for the project, the local council may ask for a traffic impact assessment.

A council’s traffic requirements vary depending on its district plan. It may have either:

  • traffic requirements specific to the type of school, like primary, secondary or tertiary, or
  • more general requirements.

A traffic assessment aims to find out:

  • if the project will increase traffic and demand for parking
  • how the school intends to manage any such changes.

We advise boards about developing a travel plan, which can be used to support a traffic impact assessment.

Traffic management at schools

Using a professional traffic assessment consultant

For a large project, the council may require the board to get a professionally prepared traffic impact assessment with an engineer’s report. You can ask the council if they have names of companies who carry out these assessments.

If you provide the school’s travel plan to the council’s traffic engineer, it may reduce the time and cost of the consultant.

Completing a cultural impact assessment

As part of a resource consent application, the council may require a cultural impact assessment (CIA) for the project. It may even ask for one if the project doesn’t need resource consent. Refer to sections 6, 7 and 8 of the Resource Management Act 1991.

Resource Management Act 1991 — NZ Legislation website(external link)

Projects that might impact on mana whenua cultural values

The purpose of a CIA is not to seek iwi approval for a project but to seek expert advice on how the project might affect mana whenua cultural values, interests and associations, or a natural resource within an area of interest to Māori.

Mana whenua means the territorial rights, power from the land, authority over land or territory associated with possession and occupation of tribal land held by iwi (the people). These iwi gain mana whenua through a hapū or ancestor who holds the customary rights over a specific area, land or watercourse, including natural resources.

Project that might need a CIA include those involving:

  • discharges to air, land or water
  • diverting, taking, using or damming water
  • reclaiming or disturbing a river bed or the coastal marine area
  • removing mangroves
  • disturbing land or clearing vegetation in a significant ecological area
  • work that is close to sites or places of significance or value to the local iwi — this could include any property work, like new building construction and demolitions.

The council’s district plan will state:

  • when a project might impact on sites and places of significance or value to mana whenua
  • when the project needs a CIA.

Even if a council requires a CIA, iwi authorities may decide it is not needed.

If more than one iwi has rights to an area for historical reasons and/or following a treaty settlement, you may need to get more than one CIA. Some iwi work together for CIA purposes.

Outcome of a CIA

If the CIA finds that your project will affect cultural values, you and the board will need to discuss it with iwi to work out how to reduce the project’s impact. If you cannot reach an agreement, the Ministry can make the final decision. We take into account the iwi’s concerns but are not bound by them because school sites are held under a designation.

The council also takes the CIA into account, but it is the council that makes the decision about your resource consent application.

Cultural impact assessment process

The following 8 steps take you through the CIA process. As project manager, you should manage this process but ensure someone from the board is involved in the consultation with iwi.

Step one: Establish whether you need a CIA

Before starting a property project, talk to the local council about whether the work requires resource consent and a CIA.

Requirements differ depending on which region the school is in.

The Auckland Council requires schools in its region to get a CIA in certain circumstances. If the school is outside of the Auckland region, check with the council to see if it requires a CIA.

In the Auckland region: If you require a CIA, you can use the Auckland Council’s facilitation service, which simplifies the CIA process. It contacts iwi on your behalf.

Rather than taking the next steps on this page, you can follow the steps in the Cultural Impact Assessments Process factsheet.

Cultural Impact Assessments Process factsheet — Auckland Council website(external link)

To investigate for yourself, refer to the Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan on the Auckland Council website for:

  • Auckland Unitary Plan Schedule 4.1: Sites and Places of Significance – Overlay (shows 50m buffer)
  • Auckland Unitary Plan Schedule 4.2: Sites and Places of Value – Overlay (shows 50m buffer).

Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan — Auckland Council website(external link)

Also refer to resource management applications and assessments in the Auckland region (Auckland Council website).

Building and consents — Auckland Council website(external link)

Outside the Auckland region: Councils outside the Auckland region differ in their CIA requirements. Some may advise if you need a CIA, or you may need to investigate whether the project is in a site or place of significance or value.

If the project requires a CIA, go to step 2.

If the project does not require a CIA, you need not go any further with this process. However, it is possible that the site may become a site or place of significance or value if the council changes its unitary or district plan. So it is a good idea to check with local iwi about what values they hold relating to the site. This is especially important if the project involves:

  • earth works
  • works in a stream
  • native tree management (for example, pōhutukawa)
  • taking water
  • discharges to water.

Step 2: Contact iwi

Contact the relevant iwi authority. Ask the council for details of the iwi you need to speak with.

Step 3: Establish that the iwi would like the CIA to go ahead

Ask the iwi if they would like the project to have a CIA.

  • If no, make a written record of your communication on mana whenua cultural values and include this record in your resource consent application.
  • If yes, go to step 4.

Step 4: Give iwi the information it needs

Ask the iwi what information it needs from you. It is likely it will want:

  • a copy of the application
  • supporting documents
  • contact details of a person they can discuss any questions with
  • information on your expectations, such as when you would like the CIA, project scope and content, roles and responsibilities, and costs.

Iwi may differ in the way they would like to be consulted. Generally you will meet with iwi representatives, who may be:

  • specific resource management staff (kaitiaki) who are authorised to make decisions on behalf of the iwi
  • representatives who need to get agreement from others in their iwi or hapū.

Step 5: Iwi prepares the CIA

An iwi representative prepares the CIA. They should have a clear mandate from the relevant iwi authority to prepare CIAs.

We recommend that you meet with the iwi to discuss the CIA before it is finalised. Then you can discuss the recommendations in the CIA for managing impacts of the project, such as site blessings or cultural monitoring.

Step 6: Iwi sends the CIA and invoice

The iwi authority sends you the final CIA and a tax invoice for its services. The CIA preparation costs are a cost to the project.

Step 7: Send the CIA with the resource consent application

Include the CIA in your application for resource consent when you send it to the council.

Step 8: Keep the iwi informed

Keep the iwi informed throughout the resource consent process. Usually a larger project requires more extensive communication.

The council will find your CIA findings useful as it develops its knowledge base for identifying, researching and assessing sites that are not yet on its schedule of sites and places of significance and value to mana whenua.

Council development contributions

Where a school project is associated with a new subdivision, the council may ask the school for a development contribution in the form of money or land.

However, schools are exempt from development contributions because the empowering provision is not binding on the Crown.

Section 8(1) of the Local Government Act 2002 — NZ Legislation website(external link)

If the council invoices the school for ‘development contributions’, this is unlawful and these costs do not need to be paid.

Getting a code compliance certificate

All projects needing building consent will also need a code compliance certificate when the project is completed. Apply to the council for:

  • a final inspection
  • the certificate once the council is satisfied the work complies with the building consent.

The board cannot use the building until it has the code compliance certificate. Make sure the board understands it could be fined up to $200,000 a day for each day people use the building without a code compliance certificate.

One exception where you do not have a code compliance certificate

The only exception is if the project already has a certificate for public use to use the finished part of the building.

Last reviewed: Has this been useful? Give us your feedback