Northland builders and DIYers are welcoming moves to cut red tape from small building projects but tiny house advocates say the changes don't go far enough.
Building and construction minister Jenny Salesa announced changes to the Building Act earlier this week which will mean certain projects no longer need council building consents.
The new exemptions include single-storey detached buildings of up to 30sq m such as sleepouts and sheds, as well as greenhouses, carports, barns and other ''low-risk'' structures. The current size limit for an exemption is just 10sq m.
The changes, which will come into force in August, are expected to save Kiwis $18 million a year in consent fees and free up councils to focus on high-risk activities.
However, the new exemptions aren't a carte blanche to build any old thing.
Work must still meet the Building Code and may have to be carried out, or at least supervised by, a licensed builder.
■ Single-storey detached buildings up to 30sq m
■ Carports up to 40sq m
■ Awnings up to 30sq m
■ Verandas and porches up to 30sq m
■ Outdoor fireplaces and ovens
■ Short-span bridges on private land
■ Ground-mounted solar panel arrays
■ Single-storey pole sheds and hay barns
Whangārei builder Mark Dobbs, owner of MD Construction and a New Zealand Certified Builders Association board member, said the changes could benefit builders if the country was hit by a post-Covid-19 downturn.
''If we do head into a recession, like some are predicting, it'll give the guys another avenue to go down to pick up a bit of work quickly. I haven't seen so much of it in the north but down south a few of our members have had big projects cancelled due to Covid.''
Dobbs did have one concern: ''Even if something's exempt it still has to be built to code, and the DIYer in most cases doesn't know what the code is. It would be a case of 'buyer beware' for people buying existing properties that have had this sort of work done.''
However, he believed most people would get a professional to do the work, and would still save time and money because a consent was no longer required.
• Building company ordered to pay $151k after falling worker paralysed from chest down
• Building apprentice breaks new ground at Kawakawa's Te Hononga project
• Northland building industry in CRISIS
• Classic Builders top in Northland, says industry report
The new exemptions won't, however, open the floodgates to a wave of ''tiny houses'' because they don't cover structures containing kitchens, bathrooms or toilets.
That has disappointed some sustainable housing advocates but Marcel Syron, owner of Whangārei tiny house company Love Shack, said the law change was a step in the right direction.
''It's heartening to see some pragmatic movement. It still doesn't allow for kitchens and bathrooms but I'm optimistic that will change. It's a no-brainer,'' he said.
The Advocate understands the New Zealand Tiny House Association is working behind the scenes to put a new set of regulations to the Government.
NZ First MP Shane Jones said the new exemptions would get rid of unnecessary red tape for farm sheds, carports and what he termed "shepherd's cabins".
''It's a far better use of council resources to focus on high-risk activity and stop antagonising property owners and ratepayers with excessive levels of compliance for low-risk structures. Far too much angst and cost is being incurred to solve tiny problems.''
As Building Minister under Helen Clark's Government, Jones said he had initiated the original 10sq m exemption. When NZ First joined the current Government he requested a new set of exemptions.
The law change would also be good for sawmillers as it would lead to increased demand for wood.
Jones could not say why tiny houses were still ''ensnarled in red tape'' but suspected that would have to be fought after the election.
He also wanted an exemption for relocated houses, which he believed could ease the housing crisis on Māori land.