Existing Use Rights, Exemptions – Discretionary rights of owners

Christchurch, 10 October 2014

Mr Peter Sparrow
General Manager Building Control and Rebuild
Christchurch City Council


Dear Mr Sparrow

Empowered Christchurch hereby requests a clarification in writing from the Christchurch Building Consent Authority with regard to Existing Use Rights under the Resource Management Act and Exemptions from building consents under Section 14 of the Building Act.

It is our understanding that both the above-mentioned are owners’ discretionary rights.

There has been excessive use of both in the rebuild of Christchurch, but they are not enforceable by law by any party other than the owner of the property in question.

In other words, neither an insurance company nor its project management office has any legal right to enforce the use of the above.

Both allow shortcuts in the building process that may offer cost benefits, but also transfer considerable risk to the owner of the property.

One such risk is ensuring that the work complies with the Building Code and meets durability requirements as per the Building Code.

Any failure to comply with the Building Code or to procure a code of compliance certificate can result in a notice to fix being issued at a later date, making it the owners’ obligation to address the non-compliance at their own cost or alternatively demolish the building at their own cost.

The average homeowner does not have the skills or education to determine compliance with the Building Code. This is a specialist field that requires an expert to determine whether regulations have been met. Despite this, the property owner is deemed responsible. The Building Consent Authority seems to have neglected to communicate the serious implications of these exemptions to ratepayers.

We would request clarification as to whether such rights are at the owner’s discretion.

Could you please provide an answer in writing no later than 15 October 2014.

Empowered Christchurch
Hugo Kristinsson

Reply received 10/10/2014

Dear Hugo

Thank you for your letter.  We hope to have a reply back to you by the end of next week.


Lorraine HowardExecutive Assistant to Peter Sparrow, Director
Building Control and City Rebuild


Our advise, you insist that the application for the building consent is done in your name and you waive (choose not to use) your rights for exemptions and existing use rights for the repair/rebuild.
You are then in full charge of any alterations which otherwise can happen without you knowing. Your building was consented before. Your insurance policy entitles you to a consented repair / rebuild.

These are the main tools used to deliver you a property with lower floor levels or jack and pack. Be in charge of your future.

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