Resource con$ent

Righto… I didn’t think it would take me this long to write this post. I think I stopped keeping our blog up to date because this was the post that was next and I just couldn’t face writing it.

I was in two minds to do it, perhaps I should just swallow the bitter pill and get on with my tiny life? Blog about the happy things! But the truth is I can see now why people are not building houses in New Zealand and it makes me really angry! Going through this consent process has definitely put us off building again in a hurry and if anything I say in this post helps other tiny house/ larger home builders then it will all be worth it.

Why did we choose to go through the council with our Tiny House when so many others choose to ‘fly under the radar’?

We chose to go through the council for our consent instead of fly under the radar because:

  1. We own the land that the Tiny House is going on.
  2. It will be there forever and won’t be moved.
  3. We didn’t want to have the niggly feeling that one of our neighbours could complain about us and call council.
  4. The Tiny House in Taupo had gone through consent and had got it very easily.
  5. Before we bought our section and we were planning on placing the Tiny House in mums back yard on Auckland’s North Shore to live there for 3 years, the North Shore City council told us YES we could do it no problem with just a simple building consent application for the plumbing connection to the city’s waste water pipes (costing $700). We were so close to actually doing this apart from – the council then told us they wanted $10,000 for ‘contribution costs’ and they wouldn’t budge on this price even though the Tiny House wasn’t there permanently – only 3 years maximum…(sigh)… Which is why we looked into purchasing our own land and then we wouldn’t mind paying contribution costs. Although the councils are only 15 minutes drive from each other, North Shore city council has very different rules from Auckland city council which turned into a very expensive lesson learned.
  6. Before we purchased our section on Waiheke we asked our next door neighbour if we could bring the Tiny House down his driveway across his lawn and through onto our section when the time came for us to move it on. He was happy for us to do this and was happy for us to take out the 2 small Mapou trees and 1 Mahoe along his side of the fence to allow a space for the Tiny House to wheel through. We also needed about 5 small Kanuka trees removed on our side of the fence, but when we called an arborist we were told that we needed to get consent to remove them, and here’s where it all started…

We applied to council to have the trees removed, paid for a tree mitigation plan to be done at around $200, got our neighbour to sign a form saying he’s happy for his 3 trees to be removed and we handed it into council. We waited around 10 days then a planner came to the section and asked us why there was a shed (4.5sqm) on the section and told us we needed resource consent for it which would cost $2,500! And she also wanted to know what we were planning on bringing though the section, It was obviously not another shed…? She was actually a lovely lady to deal with. But once we told her that a Tiny House was going in there she consulted her team members, she then asked us to apply for resource consent for the Tiny House and for the 4.5sqm shed.

After getting a quote for $5,000 to hire a professional to create our resource consent application for us (OMG it’s so expensive).  I said screw it and did my own. I wrote my AEE (Assessment of Environmental Effects report) not knowing what I was doing but determined to save some serious cash, filled out the forms required and paid the application deposit fee of $2,500. After our application was in a pile of other applications at council for 20 days, it was picked up by the same lovely planner and was put instantly on hold, (section 92), as we needed to provide her with the following information for the application to move forward…

  1. Write a better AEE report – (Assessment of fricken Environmental Effects) for the Tiny House and the shed stating a whole list of things I ‘forgot’ to add in. (As though I was supposed to know what they wanted the first time round!)
  2. Hire a wastewater engineer and have a wastewater system designed.
  3. Hire a stormwater engineer, have a geotech test done on the soil and have a stormwater system designed.
  4. Get a more in-depth tree mitigation plan done as the first one wasn’t comprehensive enough.

So, while our Tiny House was patiently waiting out the start of the winter weather in West Auckland, we were finding out what exactly was needed to gain resource consent and trying in vain to calculate how much this was all going to cost us.

Commencing the battle with council over land use consent.

Here is a quick cost breakdown for you:

  • $2,500 deposit for resource consent
  • $550 for two tree mitigation plans
  • $2,081 for a stormwater report
  • $1,897 for a wastewater report
  • $2,530 for an engineer to come and test the soil
  • $2,231 for an engineer to design our concrete pads the house will sit on
  • $3,561 more to council for processing, emails and expert consultation fees. (That bill we didn’t even know was coming!) You don’t get told that you have gone over the $2,500 deposit you originally paid and just get whacked with a bill at the end.

We spent 3.5 MONTHS trying to gain resource consent.

We spent 3.5 MONTHS trying to get resource consent. TIP When you plan how long the consenting process will take you to get through, council will tell you that their policy is to have a decision back to you within 20 working days. But be warned! Your application sits with council for 20 days before it is even touched. Then when it is picked up, (the 20 days clock starts), every time the planner needs more information from you, your application goes on hold (the 20 days clock stops counting) and they pick up someone else’s application. When council get your information back, the planner has to remember who you are and where they were up to in your application, then consult their experts about the information you have just provided them with from your hired and paid for university degree expert and then if anything is wrong with that information, you’re suddenly thrust into the middle of a technical talk whirlwind between the council expert and your expert that you just don’t bloody understand! (They may as well be talking Japanese) and council do not want to call your expert to talk about it, they prefer to do all of this through you (so you have to relay Japanese back to your experts and guess what – you get more Japanese back!) – you get the picture… (oh and only when they understand each other does the 20 days clock start again). This was how it was for me, pretty constantly for 3.5 months, back and forth, stop and start and which nearly gave me a nervous breakdown. Not to mention fielding questions from friends and family who ask you, “Hey!, hows the Tiny House thing going” and they’re sick of you saying, “Oh, we’re still waiting for council…”. Some of the them are sympathetic as they too have built a house and know what the council are like. But the others are just like: Oh FFS, just get on with it! And I can totally understand because even I am sick of talking about it!

The biggest issues that council had with our application were not with the Tiny House at all, it was with us wanting to have a composting toilet not a flushing toilet and they had a problem with the size of the septic tank we were wanting to install. Our awesome wastewater engineer was fighting for us trying to save us money 😉 – He is really a great guy and were really lucky to have found him as he did save us a lot of money and was so helpful!

Why were we so insistent to have a composting toilet over flushing one?

So it turns out that this council doesn’t like composting toilets.

We had already bought our composting toilet and had installed it in the Tiny House. It cost us over $2,000 so it wasn’t something we were keen to lose money on trying to sell. PLUS, there is no town water supply on Waiheke, we are going to be on tank water and we have a very small roof area to catch water on, so not having a flushing toilet would save us 30% of our water! We thought that it was worth fighting for.

For council to allow us to have a composting toilet, more experts were called in for discussion and more questions were needed to be answered which took even more time. The head council expert of wastewater wanted a meeting with our wastewater designer to discuss it and the size of the septic tank. After that meeting, council required us to design a bin that would hold our human waste safely and that could also connect to the septic tank so that liquids from the bin wouldn’t escape. It also had to be easily removable. We then had to prove how we would get rid of the waste in the bin safely off site because we weren’t allowed to compost it on site. Now I was really in the mood for a fight. This was just getting ridiculous!

We googled loads of different composting bins available with the thought that we could alter them to our needs. But they either weren’t big enough, weren’t easily transportable or weren’t customisable. I then stumbled across an Auckland company that made worm farms out of wheelie bins for schools. I showed our wastewater designer their website and he got in touch with the company to come up with a new ‘shit bin’ design… Believe it or not, thats what the company calls it 🙂 haha.

The company got pretty excited about designing this new worm farm, they were really quick to come back with ideas on how they can change the design to suit our use and after they nailed down a design, Willem drew up detailed plans of it and off the “Shit Bin” plans went to council. I bet we created quite a stir as its an awesomely engineered bin!!

The wheelie bin connects to the septic tank via a hose down the bottom, and when we need to empty it (if ever) we take it it to Green Acres for them to compost it, we just undo the hose and wheel to to the top of the section for them to collect. (We had to get a signed letter from Green Acres to say they would even accept the bins contents).

The bin cost us $450 all up. But the best thing is the company that designed it have taken this design and created a larger bin that farmers will be able to use to compost cow manure on their farms to help save our waterways from being polluted! How cool is that!! 🙂

The bin cost us $450 all up. But the best thing is the company that designed it have taken this design and created a larger bin that farmers will be able to use to compost cow manure on their farms to help save our waterways from being polluted! How cool is that!! 🙂

 

The cost of consent is awful

What a polava. No wonder house prices in NZ are so bloody crazy! Anyone who wants to build a house or even a 4.5sqm shed on their land (on Waiheke at least) has to jump through so many hoops, pay A LOT of money and on top of that WAIT for your number to be called up then scrutinized over by a planner who is so over worked and quickly forgets who you are or what information you have already sent them! While, YOU write the reports and are basically handing their job to them on a silver platter! What a mess New Zealand!

  • It’s no wonder you see whole sections that have been bulldozed bare of trees then quickly go up for sale. I bet they are developers who know what a headache council causes and would rather pay a fine than wait in line. And the public buy them knowing they don’t have to go through council to remove trees. It’s so sad that it’s like this!
  • It’s no wonder NZ has a huge housing problem with people preferring to buy an existing house (if they can afford it) instead of build with the cost and time involved of getting consents.
  • It’s no wonder Kiwis have embraced the Tiny House life so much, they are trying to get around our crazy council requirements and so many of them aren’t going through council because they hear what a huge bill they will get if they do.

We need to get with the times and redesign our council from the ground up. Start offering more flexible solutions so that people feel like they can come up with innovative housing ideas and not feel penalized because they don’t fit into one of councils boxes. That will be the start of fixing the housing crisis.

After all of this, we did end up getting that elusive piece of paper approving us for resource consent. It was one of the best days of my life. And would I do it all again? probably. Definately if it was for another Tiny House, just so I can help start normalising them in councils eyes. But I wouldn’t wish going through this process on my worst enemy and it should definitely be improved!

Now for building consent… we hear back about that next week. TBC.

Sorry for the rant! x

 

 

 

 

 

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One thought on “Resource con$ent

  1. amandawastefree

    Hehehe great post Kate, glad you’re back to blogging!! Funny thing (not for you though..) is that if you were on the mainland and not Waiheke, you wouldn’t have even needed consent to remove those native trees… also at the moment I am totally not flying under the radar. My tiny house is in such a prominent position and so many people are coming and asking about it (positively). The great thing is that under the new AUP rules I’m not even breaching anything (well at the moment). I don’t plan on leaving it there though as the landord won’t be game, and i’d prefer somewhere more private.

    Liked by 1 person

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