If you are planning to carry out major excavations, filling, or earthworks on your property, you are likely to need a resource consent.

Resource consents

Under the Christchurch District Plan any earthworks, including excavation and filling, which are not associated with a subdivision or building consent and exceed the following limits in any 12 month time period, will require a resource consent.

This includes driveways, retaining wall excavations and filling of old swimming pools. 

To be permitted, in addition to meeting the volume standards in the list below:

  • Earthworks in zones listed in the table below shall not exceed a maximum depth of 0.6m, other than in relation to farming activities, quarrying activities or permitted education activities. 
  • Earthworks shall not occur on land which has a gradient that is steeper than 1 in 6.
  • Earthworks involving soil compaction methods which create vibration shall comply with DIN 4150 199902 and compliance shall be certified through a statement of professional opinion provided to the Council from a suitably qualified and experienced chartered or registered engineer. 
  • Earthworks involving mechanical or illuminating equipment shall not be undertaken outside the hours of 7am to 7pm in a Residential Zone. Between 7am and 7pm the noise standards in Chapter 6 Rule and the light spill standards at Chapter 6 Rule 6.3.6 both apply.
  • Earthworks involving mechanical equipment, other than in residential zones, shall not occur outside the hours of 7am and 10pm except where compliant with NZS6803:1999. Between 7am and 10am hours, the noise standards in Chapter 6 Rule apply except where NZS6803.1999 is complied with, and the light spill standards in Chapter 6 Rule 6.3.6 apply. 
  • Filling shall consist of clean fill.
  • Earthworks shall not occur within 5 meters of a heritage item or within a heritage setting listed in Appendix, or within the dripline of a significant tree listed in Appendix
  • In the Industrial General Zone (North Belfast): Activity Standards in Rule also apply. 

Note: Earthworks to repair land used for residential purposes that was damaged by earthworks are covered by a different set of rules, as are earthworks in the vicinity of the National Grid and electricity distribution lines. 

Zone / Overlay Volume
Residential  a.  All residential zones. 20m³/site
Commercial / Industrial  a.  Commercial Local, and Commercial Banks Peninsula Zones


b.  Commercial Core, Commercial Office, Commercial Mixed use, Central City Mixed Use, Mixed Use (South Frame), Commercial Retail Park, Industrial General, Industrial Heavy and Industrial Park Zones  1000m³/ha
c.  Central City Business Zone 200m³/ha
Rural and Papakainga/Kainga Nohoanga a.  All rural zones (excluding excavation and filling associated with quarrying activities 100m³/ha

This is not a full list - refer to Christchurch District Plan(external link) Chapter 8.9. Earthworks for other zones and overlay areas and Chapter 5 for earthworks in identified hazard areas. Chapter 4 contains provisions relating to contaminated land. Chapter 6 manages earthworks within water body setbacks and within, and adjacent to Nga Wai sites of Ngai Tahu Cultural Significance. 

The volume thresholds contained in the table provide for both the amount of filling and the amount of excavation. 

Where a volume threshold in the table is stated in m³/ha, this shall be applied as a ratio. 

National Environmental Standard

Activities carried out on land that is contaminated, or potentially contaminated, must comply with the requirements of the National Environmental Standard for Assessing and Managing Contaminants in Soil to Protect Human Health (NES), unless a resource consent is obtained. 

Activities controlled by the NES include disturbance of soil (earthworks), soil sampling, removal or replacement of fuel storage system, subdivision, and changing the use of land (e.g. building a dwelling on vacant land, changing the use of a site from industrial to commercial).

Information about the NES is available on the Ministry for the Environment(external link) website. It explains how to find out if your land and the activity you are planning is covered by the NES. In addition, Environment Canterbury maintains a Listed Land Use Register of potentially contaminated sites.(external link)

If you need further assistance you can also contact one of the Council’s Environmental Health Officers on (03) 941 8999.

Building consents

Where site works are associated with a building, they must comply with the Building Act 2004.  The Building Act 2004 requires any person contemplating filling or excavating to protect land and other property from erosion, falling debris, slippage subsidence, inundation, alluvion and avulsion.

The building code requires that surface water collected or concentrated by buildings or site work shall be disposed of in a way that avoids the likelihood of damage or nuisance to other property. 

Where work requires approval under the Building Act 2004, a building consent or exemption from building consent application must be made and approved before work can begin on the site. See Building Consents for more information on the process.