Relocated buildings, tiny houses and shipping containers


You will need to apply for a Building Consent if you are considering any of the following:

  • Siting a prefabricated building, built in a factory or yard, in New Zealand.
  • Siting an existing building, that has been in use for some time and being relocated to a new site.
  • Using shipping containers as anything other than storage.

Note: Ready-made buildings may not be code compliant. The Building Act 2004 in section 14B, states that the owner is responsible for:

(a) obtaining any necessary consents, approvals, and certificates

(b) ensuring that building work carried out by the owner complies with the building consent or, if there is no building consent, with the building code.

Apply for a Building Consent

Section 14B - Building Act 2004

Shipping containers and using them as a building

If you are planning to use the container for anything other than storage, then the container needs to be considered a building.

If you make, create, lay concrete or piles or any other foundation work to site the container, this is considered building work. If the container is to be connected to reticulated services, this will also need an approved Public Utilities connection.

Please check with a Council Planning Officer for any District Plan requirements that may apply – even if no building consent is required.

If the container has been fitted out for a residential or commercial use, reports from a suitably qualified person will assist in confirming the compliance to the New Zealand code requirements for your own due diligence and our considerations.

Scope of consent

The scope of the consent will be determined by several factors, including:

  • Type of building
  • Location of services like water supply, sewerage and the like
  • Renovations or upgrades required. 

A Project Information Memorandum (PIM) or District Plan check will help identify any planning requirements for relocated buildings, such as location of services and height-to-boundary requirements, etc.

Project Information Memorandum

Relocatable building, built in a factory or yard, in New Zealand

If the building is to be sited in the Whangārei district, it must:

  • be consented with a Code Compliance Certificate issued where constructed, or
  • be consented with a Code Compliance Certificate issued by Whangārei Building Consent Authority (Note: this can be issued if it is being built in the District), or
  • be an older, pre-existing building.

There may be other considerations to take care of, like traffic control and transportation considerations, even site access. Your building constructor should be able to supply these details.

If the building is new, constructed outside of the Whangārei District and transported and sited to the District

As the building is new, it should be designed and built for the location and site conditions where the building is to be used, so you will need to ensure that features like wind and  exposure zones (i.e. corrosion considerations if near the sea/water) are factored into the design. A Project Information Memorandum (PIM) will help identify these and other aspects:

Apply for a PIM

You will require two building consents:

  • The Consent required to build the building in the factory or yard will need to be obtained from the Building Consent Authority in that area. This consent may be limited in what will be checked or certified due to the constraints of the building having to be moved to site – for example, bathrooms may not be finished, plumbing work may require re-checking when located on the foundations.
    Your building company should be able to assist with this process with their local authority. The building should not be transported to the Whangārei District before a Code Compliance Certificate has been issued for this work. 
  • Consent from us is required for the building to be installed in the Whangārei District and for the foundations and connection to services.

The work required to fully complete the building will also need to be considered, like retesting the plumbing systems or finishing off any cladding work. 

Your relocatable building may be "split" for transportation and reassembled on site. If this is the case, the re-assembly will need to be part of your consent application for siting the building due to the work required to ensure weathertightness of the building.

We will not generally issue consent on the site works (for example, foundations, services, etc.) until the Building Consent for the main building has been issued by the other authority as we need the approved plans showing all the external dimensions of the building and location to boundary, and that local environment considerations like wind zones etc have been factored into the design. Once both consents are issued, the works can proceed in parallel.

We can only issue a Code Compliance Certificate on the building work conducted to install the building on site, that is for the works we have consented.

Code Compliance Certificate 

If the building is constructed within the District and then moved to site

This will require that a Building Consent is applied for in the usual manner with plans and specifications showing how the building will be constructed and sited. 

The plans and specifications will also need to specify whether the building is being built in a sectional manner or “split” for transportation and reassembled / assembled on site, as this will need to be inspected to ensure it is weathertight.

The site works, foundations and the like, can proceed as can the structure build, once the consent has been issued. 

Your chosen building company will be familiar with the requirements and should advise with any required information.

As this is being built and sited within the district the design should taken into consideration the location and associated wind zones and the like.

Inspections will be conducted on the construction of the building, in the yard and on site as well as the site works like foundations and services for example. A Code Compliance Certificate can then be applied for on completion for the whole building.

If this is an existing building, second hand, pre-used, which may or may not have a Code Compliance Certificate

A Building Consent application is required to cover building work associated with foundations, effluent disposal, water supply and drainage, usually.

In addition to the consent, a second-hand building will also require a Condition Assessment Report compiled by a suitably qualified person, such as a Licensed Building Practitioner (LBP), engineer, designer or architect. This should be undertaken as part of your own consideration of due diligence as to whether the building will meet your needs when relocated.

The report should identify:

  • any structural integrity and other defects that will need fixing – either as general maintenance, or as part of the building consent works, e.g. identifying any repairs to rotten or damaged framing, roofing structures or claddings
  • general condition of the building; weathertightness, cladding, roofing replacement, whether asbestos may be present and if it may need removal – dependent on it’s condition
  • floor plans showing the existing layout (this will also show where piles and the like will be located to support the structure)
  • how the building will be relocated like: will it need to be cut to enable transport and then reassembled on site? If so, how will the building structure be re-connected together once in place?
  • maintenance – what works need to be completed (if any) to bring the building up to a reasonable condition – repair doors, windows, floor coverings, exterior painting, etc?

The report should also consider the new location of the building and comment on whether the building needs alterations to improve the building code performance because the local environment is harsher than where the building was originally designed and built, and whether these need to be undertaken as part of the siting consent. For example, the house could have been built in a sheltered city location and is now to be located in an exposed, windy location. This might require some structural work to be undertaken to prevent damage to the building.

Moving windows and repairing cladding may be building work that does not require Building Consent, as it may be classed as repairs and maintenance – see guidance on Schedule 1 from Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment:

Building work that does not require a building consent

If significant work is being undertaken, like changing the majority of the exterior cladding, roofing, adding insulation, changing window locations or adding new window or door locations, re-lining most of the interior walls or even joining two units together, (note an exhaustive list) you are advised to:

  • Get a designer involved – you could be reducing structural integrity
  • Get a building consent and Code Compliance Certificate for the work 

Remember it is the owner’s responsibility to obtain building consent (if required).

Building or a vehicle?

There are many instances where the understanding or interpretation of what might be considered to be a vehicle and, therefore, not a building requiring consent, are brought to our attention.

There have been some determinations given by the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment on this topic and these have helped form our current guidance and how we will approach our consideration.

Whether a converted trailer is a vehicle or a building

The Building Act 2004 in section 8 discusses Building and what it means and includes. Section 8(1)(b)(iii) in particular states that:

  • "a vehicle or motor vehicle (including a vehicle or motor vehicle as defined in section 2(1) of the Land Transport Act 1998) that is immovable and is occupied by people on a permanent or long-term basis", is, therefore, a building.

The Building Act does not define what a vehicle or motor vehicle is, however, if taking a dictionary meaning, a vehicle can be;

  •  A thing with a primary purpose of transporting goods or people
  • Can be powered in some form.

Section 8 of the Building Act 2004 (NZ Legislation)

Vehicle or motor vehicle as defined in section 2(1) of the Land Transport Act 1998: (extract only)

  • Vehicle – (a) means a contrivance equipped with wheels, tracks or revolving runners on which it moves or is moved:…
  • Motor vehicle – (a) means a vehicle which is drawn or propelled by mechanical power: and (b) includes a trailer

Therefore, it cannot be assumed that just because a structure has wheels, it is a vehicle, and therefore, outside the Building Act and its requirements.