And then we had it. Our resource consent. Its arrival was somewhat anti-climactic, just a simple white envelope in the mail. It didn't sing, dance or congratulate us, but Kylie and I made up for it with palm-stinging high-fives and awkward dances. Well that was probably more me - Kylie's a great dancer.
Even with all the optimism and enthusiasm we'd brought to the project, there were times when we thought our section might be untamable. But right there in our hands we had approval to use the land the way we hoped. It was a licence to bring our dreams to life and we couldn't have been happier. What had started as a series of crazy ideas was now going to be reality.
Getting to this point wasn't easy, but it was incredibly rewarding as we soldiered on finding solutions to an ongoing flow of barriers that could have stopped the build in its tracks. We learned about the intricacies of resource management and met an amazing bunch of people throughout the process.
It took six months and more than 500 hours of our own time from when we found the section and began our investigations to receiving our consent. The processing of our application by council took up two of those months. It is required to process a consent within 20 working days, however should it request further information the clock stops and it's up to the applicant to get the necessary information together and respond as quickly as possible.
Our initial application was comprehensive but, given the complexity of our plans, there was additional information we needed to supply. These included a more detailed site management plan, extensive cross sections of our stream modifications and an ecology report. These took time to complete but, once submitted, the processing was pretty smooth and rapid, helped by the fact we'd had an open dialogue with council from the beginning.
Ben and Kylie excited to start clearing the overgrown section. Photo / Ben Crawford
So how much did it cost us to get to this point? We paid council approximately $8000 in consent fees. Then there were all of our professionals' costs, from geotechnical engineers and surveyors to hydrological engineers and ecologists, which didn't leave us with much change from $20,000.
However our expenditure and gamble on a section no one wanted was quickly validated when we had it revalued to satisfy our mortgage conditions. With resource consent in place the land value was now twice our purchase price and the estimated value of the completed home was beyond our wildest dreams.
Before we could begin any construction we'd still need building consent but our resource consent meant we could start clearing the section and modifying the stream while we pulled our building application together.
You may think our excitement was premature given we didn't have building consent, however gaining resource consent was the biggest hurdle we had to overcome because of our unique section. A resource consent application is a lot like getting an English exam marked. It's open to the council's interpretation of what is deemed to be a "less than minor adverse effect" on the environment. Which of course varies considerably based on each individual location and proposal.
A building consent application is like marking a maths test. It's either right or wrong according to the building code. That meant we could progress with confidence because our approved resource consent was issued based on our specific house plans. We couldn't wait to get started.
The overgrown section. Photo / Ben Crawford
The section after a hard day's slog. Photo / Ben Crawford
Armed with months of pent up enthusiasm and the help of Kylie's family, we got stuck into clearing the site. I loved it and we made remarkable process slashing and sawing our way through the overgrowth by hand. By the end of the day our building platform emerged from the noxious ginger, lilies and introduced shrubbery and the native trees ruled the land like they deserved.
Over the next three days Kylie and I spent every waking minute gently caring for the section as if it was our baby. We climbed trees to remove creeper and dead foliage, cleared piles of branches that had been dumped over the years and raked away cubic metres of fallen debris. It was paradise.
Suddenly our home was incredibly real. We could actually stand where our house would be and imagine the view from each room. It was an unbelievable feeling that motivated us even more. We didn't want to stop and we weren't about to.
• Find out more about Ben and Kylie's dream home at ourdreamhome.co.nz
• For more information on the Kiwibank First Home Buyer's Guide visit: kiwibank.co.nz and search for "first home".