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Planning - Frequently asked questions

Most common questions

The District Plan subdivision rules are in the Subdivision chapter of the District Plan. To find what rules apply to you, you need to first know your zone in the Planning Maps.

Note: We strongly recommend that you take professional advice from a Surveyor or your Solicitor before proceeding with purchase if you are wanting to subdivide.

The minimum site size varies between the different zones, with the minimum lot size subject to whether there are buildings existing on the site, building consent being obtained or at the time of applying for subdivision, or the creation of vacant allotments.

The District Plan subdivision rules are in the Subdivision chapter of the District Plan.

Sometimes you might need to get a land-use consent as well as a subdivision. This often occurs when the new boundary is closer to the existing house than is permitted in the district plan.

If there is no sewer network in the area, you may also need to discuss with Canterbury Regional Council whether you can install a septic tank or other disposal system on the subdivided site.

The easiest way to do this is to look at the Ashburton District Planning Maps.

Depending on the nature of your project, you may need to apply for resource consent as well as a building consent. Planning staff check Building Consent plans to see whether they comply with the District Plan, if they don't, a Section 37 certificate will be attached to your PIM and approved building consent plans. You will not be able to book an inspection if your Building Consent has a section 37 on it.

Sometimes, simply getting in touch with the Planning Team and providing further information or making an adjustment to your project can allow us to uplift the requirement for Resource Consent and enable you to get started.

Resource consents

The District Plan, as a requirement of the Resource Management Act 1991, is a document that has rules that all subdivision, land use activities and development is subject to within the Ashburton District.

Each Council has its own District Plan which sets out its rules for managing natural and physical resources.  This means that while there are some things that are the same across the country, what is permitted without a consent in Ashburton District may not necessarily be permitted in Auckland City and vice versa. This is because there are different issues and opportunities in the each area and what residents want to see happen there is also different.

Note: The Government is currently reviewing the Resource Management Act and, in the future, District Plans might be more consistent across the country.

A resource (land use) consent is written approval from Council to use your land in a way that does not comply with the District Plan or for an activity specifically requiring resource consent in the District Plan.

The changes to the RMA in 2017 allowed for certain activities to not require resource consent, these are called permitted boundary exemptions and temporary and minor non compliances.

A boundary exemption is where there is a setback or certain other part of your development which breaches of the District Plan and you have managed to get the affected party approval of your neighbour (note you need a special version of the affected party approval form which is available here.

A temporary or minor non compliance is where you do breach a rule of the District Plan but it is so minor that it basically doesn’t have any effect on anyone.

An example might be that the District Plan requires you to have 70sqm of garden space but you have 69.98sqm.

The decision whether you need resource consent is at the Councils discretion and you will need to make an application to Council for this. Please contact the planning team in the first instance.

A deposit fee is charged for each resource consent application; Additional charges can be payable for processing costs on an actual and reasonable basis. Typically such charges are payable for applications that require more than the minimal time to be spent on them and / or require a hearing or reports to be commissioned.

Planning fees are set by the Annual Plan & the Long Term Plan.

Council does not generally waive fees, except in exceptional circumstances or where there is a clear public benefit (such as repairs or improvements to a listed heritage building). If you think your circumstances are special you can discuss this with the planning team.

You can read more about making an application, find forms and other relevant information here.

The Council processes most of its non-notified applications within the 20 working days (4 weeks), required by the RMA. The length of time for processing individual resource consents depends on staff workloads and the quality of the application you submit.

If the Council determines that there are people that might be affected by your proposal, the process can take a lot longer and can be up to 100 working days. If we decide that the application is going to need notification, we will contact you and ask if you want to continue.

Please note:  Recent changes to the RMA mean that in certain instances, the Council can reject your application if it does not adequately explain what you are wanting to do or the effects of your project. If you are in any doubt, you should speak to a planning professional about how to prepare your application before you submit it.

Quality Planning website
Applying for Resource consent

What you want to do in your application might affect either your neighbours or someone else, for example:


Your new garage might be too close to a neighbours property and will block out their access to  natural light.

Note: this is an example for explanatory purposes only.

In the situation above, the neighbour would be called an affected party. Council has a duty to make sure that it thinks about who might be affected by a proposal and what the effects of a proposal on them might be. This is called a "notification decision".

If the Council decides there are affected parties on an application, you may wish to speak to those people and try to get them to sign an affected party approval form and all of the plans and documents. If you do this, please remember that it is not compulsory for them to sign. If they sign the form, the Council must not take account of any effects on them, no matter how bad they might be.

If the Council decides that the application needs to be fully notified, or if you can't get the approval of all of the affected parties, there is an additional cost to proceed which covers the cost of the extra work that we have to do. We will write to you to ask if you want to go ahead with the application before we send out any letters.

Any of this fee that is not used at the end of the process can be requested to be refunded, however, if there are extra costs built up which are greater than this fee, you would have to pay these at the end of the process.

Conditions are placed on your consent to make sure that any effects that come up when we look at your application are properly controlled. For example:


Your new restaurant is next to a neighbouring house.

In the situation above, the Council might put a condition on the consent saying that people couldn't sit outside after a certain time so that the neighbours weren't disturbed at night.

Note: this is an example for explanatory purposes only.

You can apply to change or cancel any other conditions of your resource consent under s127 of the Resource Management Act. This is treated like a new application and is generally called a "variation". Where there is a condition on the duration or term of your consent, you cannot apply for a variation to this and need to use the process below.

A variation is only likely to succeed if the effects of what you are proposing are the same or similar to what was originally approved. For example:


A consent for a preschool which proposed to increase student numbers from 20 to 22

Might be considered to be acceptable, however:

A consent for a preschool which proposed to increase student numbers from 20 to 40 and employ three additional teachers

Might be required to gain a new resource consent.

Note: this is an example for explanatory purposes only.

Resource consents can't be used if they aren't started within a certain period (we call this "lapsing"). Generally this is five years from the date of the decision but sometimes the conditions on the consent will say that you might have a shorter period.

If you are concerned that you might not be able to use the consent before it lapses, you can apply to us in writing for an extension of time to use the consent. For it to be accepted, we need to be satisfied that there has been good progress made on trying to use the consent and that it is still generally acceptable and that we have received it before the consent lapses.

The 'term of consent' (the life of your consent once you use it) varies depending on the type of consent it is. The term of most consents are unlimited. However, if your consent does have a limited term, there will be a condition on the decision document which will tell you how long it lasts.

If you have a limited term consent, you can apply to replace your consent in the six months before the expiry date. In this case you can continue to operate under the conditions of the original consent until your application to replace the consent is decided.

Resource consents relating to land use generally 'run with the land' and will be transferred when you sell your property or business and the new owner wishes to continue what the consent allows.

The exception to this is where there is a specific condition on the consent which says who the consent can be used by. This is not common on more recent consents but does crop up on older ones.

It is sometimes used in situations where someone wants to put an extra house that we wouldn't generally allow on a property, so that they can look after a sick or elderly relative. The condition stops anybody else using the extra house.

Changing this requires a variation to the consent or in some cases a new consent.

Council staff monitor resource consents to make sure people are doing what their consent says.

Generally if we are concerned that the conditions of a consent are not being complied with, we will first get in contact and discuss the matter with you. However serious and ongoing breaches can lead to enforcement action being taken against the people concerned, up to and including prosecution as a last resort.

The Ministry for the Environment has published a useful guide on this subject, you can read it on their website here.

It is important to note that features on a property like fences and hedges do not always exactly follow a boundary, especially on older properties.

The Certificate of Title for a property will accurately show the dimensions of the site and its boundaries. There should also be survey pegs on each corner of the site. Sometimes these can be covered or removed and if they cannot be found, a surveyor will need to be employed to determine where the legal boundary actually is.

For more information, refer to Land Information New Zealand (LINZ).

The Council does not hold copies of Certificates of Title, nor does it generally obtain them for the public. Your solicitor or your surveyor may be able to request a copy or you can contact Land Information New Zealand​ to request one. Please note that there may be a charge for this.

Conditions are placed on your consent activity to protect the natural and physical environment for current and future residents. It is your responsibility to follow the conditions placed on your consent activity. They are designed to avoid or control any negative environmental effects resulting from your activity

The Council permits Home Occupations in residential areas where they operate on a small scale and the levels of noise and disturbance are in keeping with what the neighbours would generally expect to be going on in the area.

You can find out more on page 4-52 of the Residential section of the District Plan.

If you are wanting to carry out work to your home or a building and it is on the schedule of heri​​​ta​ge buildings in the District Plan, it is likely that you will need to apply for resource consent as well as a building consent. Work such as basic maintenance might be ok without resource consent where like replaces like but where parts of the building are to be demolished or altered or added to a resource consent may need to be obtained. We strongly suggest you get in touch with us early on so that we can discuss things with you. You might even be eligible for a grant to help do the works.​

You will also need to contact Heritage New Zealand in certain instances, including when there has been evidence of pre 1900 human habitation on a site, in accordance with standard archaeological authority process under the Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga Act (2014).


A subdivision is the division of a parcel of land, or lot, into small parcels (sections). This results in the creation of new lots, each with its own distinct title. The most common type of subdivision is fee simple or freehold, which involves the creation of separate titles.  The Council encourages freehold subdivision, although the opportunity exists to create other forms of titles.

The following are the types of subdivision that are used under the New Zealand land title system:

  • Fee Simple (Freehold)
  • Cross Lease
  • Unit Title

It is recommended that you apply for subdivision consent using a qualified surveyor. Council officers are however, not able to recommend specific surveyors as we can't be seen to be favouring anyone.

More information on surveyors are available at the website of the New Zealand Institute of Surveyors

Apart from the cost incurred by use of a surveyor, you will also have to pay the appropriate council processing fees. These fees include time spent by council staff including planners, engineers and administration in processing the application as well hold a hearing if it is needed

In some zones there may be a reserve contribution payable at, or before, the issuing of the s224 certificate. This contribution is 5% of the average market value of the additional lot(s) created. The  market value of the additional allotments can be provided with yo​ur application or obtained at Council request by an independent property valuer during the processing of your application. In 2019​, the valuation required for a two-lot residential subdivision in Ashburton/Rakaia/ Methven has a fee of $402.50 (incl. GST). There is an additional $57.50 (incl. GST) charged per additional allotment for subdivisions of up to six allotments while for larger subdivisions, the fee is set on a quoted basis.​

Planning fees are set by the Annual Plan & LTCCP Council Fees and Charges

The works must be completed and a completion certificate issued pursuant to Section 224(C) of the RMA, prior to the Section 223 certificate lapsing.  You have 5 years to obtain a s223 certificate and a further 3 years to obtain the s224 completion certificate and have it lodged with Land Information New Zealand (LINZ) for titles to be issued.

Learn more in our subdivision guidance notes

When subdividing your property you will come across both charges. Reserves contributions are collected by the Planning Department and exist to contribute to the development and maintenance of parks established to offset the increasing built-environment. The amount to be paid will be listed as a condition of your consent and payment will be required before the Section 224 certificate (see below) can be granted. The charge will reflect the size of your development and is calculated as 5% of the market value of additional residential allotments plus GST.  Development contributions relate to the servicing of the subdivision and are payable at the time of building consent.​

This is a certificate which the Council give when the subdivision has had its final survey and the survey plan conforms with what was approved in the subdivision consent.  It is usually applied for by the consultant surveyor and also includes easements and access arrangements (Rights of Way) for other lots or parcels.  An application fee is required with a 223 Certificate.

This is a certificate which the Council grant when all of the conditions of a subdivision consent have been met (for example that a new driveway has been built or that sewer connections have been installed) and the fees have been paid.  The 224 certificate is usually applied for by the consultant surveyor or solicitor in writing and once granted by Council, the certificate is submitted to LINZ as part of the parcel of work required for a new Certificate of Title to be issued. An application fee is required with a 224 Certificate.​


Can I erect a sign without resource consent?

Not all signs need a resource consent from Council.

Each zone permits signs provided that they comply with the rules of the District Plan.  Rules restrict the size of sign amongst other controls.

Read the Signs chapter of the District Plan

Other costs of starting a business

If you are starting a business, this may result in increases to your rates and or additional charges for use of Council services that you may need to build into the cost of your development. Some places to look are:

Development Contributions

Trade waste licenses