Design & build: The age of consent

The Block NZ 2012 winner Ben Crawford and his girlfriend Kylie are building their dream home. Share their proud moments and pitfalls here every week.

Kylie and I were incredibly nervous walking into our pre-application meeting with Auckland Council. You know that terrible feeling you get before an important event like a job interview or an exam - that sick-to-your-stomach anxiety? That's exactly what this felt like. We were unsure what to expect but we had every finger and toe crossed, hoping beyond all hope the preparation we had done over the previous weeks would pay off.

We weren't lacking on the homework front. We'd spoken for hours with numerous experts and had spent every waking minute thinking about, drawing and finalising the plans for our dream home. With all the information we'd gathered it seemed we might just be able to pull off our ambitious idea, provided we were able to get the council on our side.

I'd never dealt with the council before but most of the dialogue I'd heard portrayed it as enemy number one for homebuilders. So I wasn't exactly looking forward to the battle that was about to ensue. However, after our 60-minute consultation, there wasn't so much as a drop of blood on the floor.

The meeting couldn't have gone better. We presented our plans and thoroughly discussed the rationale for what we were trying to do. Then the various members of the council stated their position, to which they collectively agreed our plan was possible.

Provided we followed the steps, submitted the required information and gained the necessary consents, our home could become a reality. We went straight to the bar next door and sank a few cold ones to celebrate.

Looking back, setting up this pre-application meeting was one of the best decisions we could have made and I'm sure without it, the consent process would have been pretty painful. I found we established an invaluable rapport and confidence with the council from the outset, making the procedure relatively straightforward.


The stream that runs through the property.

I had heard a lot about the Resource Management Act but had no idea how it would impact on our project.

However during the process of pulling together our Resource Consent application I became extremely familiar with it and appreciative of its intent.

Our submission needed to illustrate how our plan would have minimal impact on the natural resources around our home, as well as have minimal impact on the living environment for our neighbours. We also had to prove that it was safe to build where we wanted to, so we set about obtaining and commissioning the various reports that were required to do this.

First, we needed a revised geo-tech report to determine if the land was stable enough to build on. Obviously we were nervous about what would be found where we hoped to build, as it was so close to the stream.


The artist's impression shows the stream as a feature.

However we were stoked when the report arrived with the green light to proceed, but it mandated that our piles would need to be driven to 5 metres and a series of deep drains were required to make the land satisfactorily stable, all of which sounded very expensive.

Next was an updated flood assessment report which provided us with a minimum
floor height for our house. It also recommended we reshape the stream
to hold all water events to eliminate any flooding at all. That seemed a no-brainer.

Then we needed a full landscaping plan, showing how we intended to modify the stream, plus our proposed landscaping and an ecological assessment of the stream.

Finally a site management plan was required, detailing the expected volume of earthworks and our method for controlling erosion and sediment run-off.


The artist's impression shows the stream as a feature.
Ben Crawford prepares to submit the consent documents to the Auckland Council.

We loved pulling all these pieces together to make a fail-safe argument. We were capable of doing this but the specialist knowledge and skillset to actually write our submission was well beyond our abilities, so we employed a friend who does this stuff for a living, an approach I'd highly recommend, as the documentation required is comprehensive and jargon-laden.

Two months and $15,000 later, we submitted our Resource Consent application, which was a great sense of achievement.

As the Council began to process it, we moved our attention to pulling a construction team together, starting with our builders, who we'll introduce to you next week. I wonder who they could be?

Find out more about Ben and Kylie's dream home at ourdreamhome.co.nz.

Watch episode 2 of Ben & Kylie's Brave New Build below:

Video


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For more information on the Kiwibank First Home Buyer's Guide visit: kiwibank.co.nz and search for "first home".

- Herald on Sunday

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