If you're renovating it's worth giving a thought to being responsible.

Cowboy and DIY renovation causes huge headaches for Worksafe New Zealand, insurance companies, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE), neighbours and others in your community.

It costs everyone because accidents on site lead to ACC pay-outs. ACC is in effect an insurance company, so the more accidents there are the more it costs us all in levies.

There are many reasons to make sure your renovation is responsible in every area; from choice of building materials to health and safety on site.


The first thing to think about if you're planning a responsible renovation is whether or not the work will be "exempt" from needing consent and whether you can do it yourself; or if you must use a licensed builder, drain layer, plumber or other tradesperson.

The Building Act allows homeowners to do simple work themselves such as replacing doors or building fences, but nothing structural.

Most sanitary plumbing and drain laying work must be carried out by a tradesperson authorised under the Plumbers, Gasfitters, and Drainlayers Act 2006.

If the work requires Building or Resource Consent, you need to go through the proper process with the local council, says Paul Hobbs, registrar of building practitioner licensing at MBIE.

A useful guide to Schedule 1 of the Building Act, which covers what kind of work doesn't need consent and who can carry that work out can be found here.

Failing to get the right consents or meet Building Code requirements can also be shooting yourself in the foot the day you want to sell your home.

As a homeowner you can be held to account if you carry out work without the proper consents or do work yourself when you should be using a licensed practitioner.

When people come to sell houses it's not uncommon for buyers' solicitors or building inspectors to discover discrepancies between the work done and the plans held by council. In this case you could lose a sale.


There is a common belief that it's easy to get a certificate of acceptance from councils for unconsented works. That's not always the case.

Councils have the discretion to allow you to keep unpermitted work with a certificate of acceptance for work done without a building consent.

Councils won't, however, give retrospective consent. And they also retain the option to take action in the future should they decide to.

Changes to the Building Act that came into force in January 2015 mean that for all renovations over $30,000 the tradesperson must provide you with a written contract outlining their relevant skills, experience and qualifications.

They must also have their insurance and warranty cover. You certainly shouldn't be spending tens of thousands of dollars on under-the-table jobs with no documentation as all too many Kiwis do.

Homeowners should also ask their contractor for a disclosure statement and checklist. This encourages a professional, no-surprises relationship, says Hobbs.

Renovators can reduce their impact on the environment by choosing non-polluting materials and disposing of excess chemicals wisely.

Choosing the right products is a hallmark of responsible renovation. Do the products you plan to use get ticks from Enviro-Mark, New Zealand Green Building Council (NZGBC), the Resene Eco Decorator programme, or EcoSmart Electricians?

These are all good selling points that your real estate agent can use for marketing the property.

It's also important to avoid hazardous materials.

"There is a section in the Building Act that covers off hazardous materials," says Hobbs.

Pollutants frequently end up being flushed down the storm-water drains. Unlike the wastewater system, storm water drains flow straight into local streams and then the sea.

Anything that goes down there such as mud, concrete and paint pollutes the waterways, says Hobbs. "There is a whole lot of lime [in concrete] that can do some real damage," says Hobbs.

It takes 100,000 litres of fresh water to dilute one litre of concrete slurry. The consequences are severe for wildlife and there's a $750 fine under the Resource Management Act.

Using trained professionals makes sense from a safety point of view. ACC pays out more than $100 million a year in the construction sector.

What's more, says Worksafe New Zealand, anyone doing construction risks exposure to potential harmful dusts, fumes and asbestos that can lead to serious ill-health. Building waste also needs to be disposed of in an environmentally friendly way.

Andrew Eagles, chief executive of the NZGBC says that 50 per cent of waste going to landfill is construction or demolition waste.

A new home build produces four tonnes of waste on average. Seventy five percent of that can be reused or recycled by businesses such as Green Gorilla.