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Mā te whenua e whanake ai te whānau
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Language: English | Māori
Language: English | Māori

Complying with rules and regulations

Meeting council compliance obligations

Check with your local council before starting any work on the whenua — you might need to apply for a building or resource consent.

Before you start mahi on the whenua, check with your local council about whether:

  • there are any local funding options that you could apply for
  • you'll need to apply for any building or resource consents
  • there are any bylaws you need to be aware of.

For example, if you need a water supply to irrigate the whenua, you may need to apply for a resource consent. 


Property owners pay rates to their local council. Rates help the council pay for the services they provide to the community. Rates are essentially a tax, and the amount you pay depends on the value of your property.

If you develop the whenua or build any structures on it, it might affect how much you pay for rates when the property's value is reviewed.

Trustees are responsible for ensuring that rates are paid, or that a remission is applied for (this can reduce how much you pay for rates). You'll need to decide who from the trust will make the payment. It could be one of the trustees, a lessee, or someone who manages the finances for the trust.

If there's no governance structure or trust over your whenua, owners may be charged directly for the rates. Before making a payment, talk to other owners and to your local council. The whenua may be entitled to a rates remission, or payment might already have been organised by someone else.

Exempt land

Rates don’t have to be paid for:

  • Māori customary land
  • an area of land up to two hectares that’s used as an urupā (Māori burial ground)
  • an area of land up to two hectares that’s set aside as a Māori reservation for a marae or meeting place
  • land that’s been set aside as a Māori reservation for the common use and benefit of the people of Aotearoa
  • an area of Māori freehold land up to two hectares on which a meeting house has been built
  • Māori freehold land that has been specifically exempted from rates by an Order in Council, on the recommendation of the Māori Land Court.


If you're doing work on the whenua that changes what's there, you might need to apply to council for a building consent or a resource consent. 

  • Building consents
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    Some types of building work require written approval from the local council before work begins. Someone from the council then comes to check the work during and after it's done and confirm that it is safe, properly constructed and complies with the building code.

    Generally, work that requires consent includes:

    • structural building - additions, alterations, re-piling, some demolitions
    • plumbing and drainage if a new sanitary fixture is added
    • relocating a building
    • high retaining walls, fences, walls, decks, platforms or bridges (different councils have different rules for acceptable height)
    • sheds more than 10 square metres in floor area
    • some earthworks.

    Find your local council's contact details

  • Resource consents
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    If work on your whenua might affect your neighbours, your wider community or the environment, you might need to apply for a resource consent. 

    You generally need resource consents for things like:

    • access to an aquifer or  water supply to provide irrigation to the whenua
    • large earthworks that could destabilise land or affect neighbouring properties
    • things that will make a lot of noise or dust, or affect the view of your neighbours.

    To check if you need a consent, you can talk to your local council, or check the regional or district plan on their website or at their offices.

    Find your local council's contact details

    Ministry for the Environment information on applying for resource consents

    Resource Management Act

    The Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA) sets out how we should manage our environment, including our water, air and whenua. Its key focus is sustainable management.

    Depending on the mahi you want to do, you might need to get a resource consent under the RMA.

    If you need a resource consent, you apply to your local council. If a project has national significance it might go to a board of inquiry or the Environment Court.

    About the Resource Management Act

    Mana Whakahono ā Rohe

    Mana Whakahono ā Rohe: Iwi Participation Agreements is a tool that is intended to give tangata whenua more involvement in decision-making under the Resource Management Act.

    More about Mana Whakahono ā Rohe


A bylaw is a rule or regulation made by a local or regional council. Sometimes bylaws can affect things you want to do on the whenua. There might be bylaws for things like:

  • access and easements to get onto a property
  • waste
  • water supply
  • keeping animals
  • cemeteries.

Most councils publish their bylaws on their website, or you can view them at their offices.

Find your local council's contact details