Local council requirements for school property projects

Find information about the types of consents you may need for a school property project, and other local council requirements.

Level of complianceMain audienceOther


  • Boards
  • Proprietors
  • Principals and Tumuaki
  • Project Managers
  • School Representatives
  • Project Control Group

Project Managers should always check with local council for any necessary consents for property projects. If a consent is required, you will need to abide by the provisions and rules as set out by council and various Acts referenced in this guidance.

Council consents

As the appointed project manager, you are responsible for obtaining any necessary consents and certificates for the school property project.

Local council requirements may include:

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

Even if you think the project will not require consents, always check with the council. The council will not accept ignorance as an excuse if any construction on a site is carried out without the necessary consents.

Resource consents and outline plan of works

When building work could affect the environment, the project may need an outline plan of works or a resource consent under the Resource Management Act 1991. After the Board has approved the project designs, apply to the local council for any relevant consents. Any processing fees are part of the project budget.

Schools are generally located on land that has been designated by the Minister of Education for education purposes. If the provisions of a designation are being used for a school property project, then an outline plan of works may be required under of the Resource Management Act 1991.

If a site is not designated, then district resource consents from the council may be required for the project.

Depending on the scale of the works and the activities proposed, resource consents may be required from the regional council or to ensure compliance with a national environmental standards. Examples of national environmental standards include the Resource Management (National Environmental Standards for Freshwater) Regulations 2020 and the Resource Management (National Environmental Standard for Assessing and Managing Contaminants in Soil to Protect Human Health) Regulations 2011.

Visit the Ministry for the Environment website for more information on consents under the Resource Management Act 1991. 

Understanding the RMA and how to get involved - Ministry for the Environment(external link)

Regional plan resource consents

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

  • discharging of contaminants onto land or into the air or water
  • works within the bed of a lake or river
  • works or structures within the coastal marine area
  • taking, use, damming or diversion of water

School Boards are required to obtain their own regional resource consents for activities that may be ongoing on a school site such as the taking of water.

National Environmental Standards

The Ministry for the Environment publishes national environmental standards that may include additional consent requirements for certain activities, for example managing contaminated soil and works in and around freshwater streams and wetlands. A full list of national environment standards is available on the Ministry for the Environment website.

National policy statements - Ministry for the Environment(external link)

Designations under the district plan

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. The designation authorises property projects to be undertaken on a school site without obtaining any district resource consents, as long as the work is within the scope of ‘education purpose’ and an outline plan of works has been submitted.

Outline plan of works

The Minister of Education is required to advise the local council of any works to be done on a designated site. 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 will then forward it to the council on the school’s behalf.

Financial Contributions

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 is unlawful for councils to charge schools for financial contributions.

Building consents

Building consent is formal approval to conduct building work under the Building Act 2004 and most school property projects require this.

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.

The council considers the plans and checks they comply with the Building Code. If they approve the plan(s), they issue a building consent for the project.

If a building consent has been submitted to Council and a resource consent or other planning permission is required for those works, Council will issue a section 37 certificate which restricts works from commencing until the appropriate planning permissions have been obtained.

Building over two sections

If the project involves a building that will sit over two or more sections, the project will need a certificate under Section 75, Building Act 2004(external link). You must do this even if the land is on the same certificate of title.

Talk to the school’s property advisor in the Ministry to get our approval to the section 75 certificate.

Each council has its own process for this and 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, along with the application, we can supply them with a letter and/or:

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

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 you will need to apply for a certificate for public use under the Building Act 2004.

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.

Code compliance certificate

All projects needing building consent will also need a code compliance certificate (CCC) 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.

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.

Cultural impact assessment

As part of a regional resource consent application, the council may require a cultural impact assessment (CIA) for the project. 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).

Projects that might require a CIA include those involving:

  • discharges to air, land or water
  • diverting, taking, using or damming water
  • reclaiming or disturbing a riverbed 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.

As the appointed project manager, it is recommended that you talk to the Council about the need to obtain a CIA for a project, and the School’s Property Advisor should be consulted before engaging with mana whenua to prepare a CIA.

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