Tougher rules for shipping containers and tiny homes in Christchurch

Jess Ellis and Nic Fairbrother say the budget for their tiny home could double if they need resource consent.
DEREK FLYNN/FAIRFAX NZ

Jess Ellis and Nic Fairbrother say the budget for their tiny home could double if they need resource consent.

The Christchurch City Council will start cracking down on unsightly shipping containers and people flouting the grey area of what constitutes a home.

Complaints from residents about some structures on neighbouring properties have been on the rise since the earthquakes.

Now, the council has amended its planning rules to make enforcement easier.



Building a boat in the garden, converting a marquee into a bar or living in a caravan permanently will likely attract more attention from council officers, particularly if it is bugging a neighbour.  

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The definition of what constitutes a building under the Resource Management Act has been amended, as part of the fast-tracked replacement district plan process. 

Tougher rules may be ahead for shipping containers and tiny homes in Christchurch.
GRANT MATTHEW

Tougher rules may be ahead for shipping containers and tiny homes in Christchurch.

A New Zealand supplier of tiny homes said he could be "effectively out of business" if the council took a hard line, while a couple building a tiny home say requiring consent could double their budget. 

The new definition includes any vehicle, tent, marquee, shipping container, caravan or boat used as a "residential unit" or place of business or storage as a building. 

But this does not mean pitching a tent in the garden will require consent. 

Old caravans could also be a target of the Christchurch City Council's new focus on unsightly structures.
GRANT MATTHEW/FAIRFAX NZ

Old caravans could also be a target of the Christchurch City Council's new focus on unsightly structures.

Council head of resource consents John Higgins said the council would continue to apply "sensible discretion".

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People living in boats, large house buses spoiling the neighbour's view, and shipping containers in the front garden were among the "issues" Higgins cited. 

"We might consider these structures a building . . . meaning there's a set of rules you need to comply to."

These included a 1-metre setback and an 8m height limit. 

He said complaints from neighbours, which have increased since the earthquakes, often alerted council to such cases.

Council director of building control Peter Sparrow said all cases were subject to a "reasonableness test".

The Christchurch City Council plans to crack down on unsightly shipping containers left in yards.
GRANT MATTHEW/FAIRFAX NZ

The Christchurch City Council plans to crack down on unsightly shipping containers left in yards.

"We're in a state of rebuild so there's a heightened number of complaints because of the amount of construction and building going on."

Head of regulatory compliance Tracey Weston said the council would issue a 'notice to fix', requiring property owners to act within a certain amount of time, before handing out penalties. 

Infringements under the Building Act and the Resource Management Act carry $1000 fines and $300 fines respectively.

Jess Ellis and Nic Fairbrother are building a tiny home in Marlborough and will relocate to Christchurch.

The house is on a trailer and is 2.5m wide and 4.2m high.

In May, they put a call on Facebook looking for a Christchurch home to relocate to. 

Ellis said the structure would tick the council's size and location requirements and they intended to make sure neighbours were happy with them moving next door.

"Cost was a driving force for us and to get consent would have doubled our budget which, when the tiny [home] is not a long-term solution, just wouldn't have been economically sensible."

Ellis said their home would not be connected to a sewerage system.

"I think with the current state of housing in Christchurch, the council would be a bit crazy to be restricting alternatives [housing options] that use less resources."

Chairman of the council's regulation and consents committee David East said living in a caravan while earthquake repairs were carried out was "unlikely to raise any eyebrows".

"But if you've got a shipping container on site and you get a plumber to connect you to the sewer then you're going to need consent."

Bevan Thomas, of Tiny House NZ, believed the amendment had far-reaching implications. 

He recently launched his business in Christchurch, but said the definition change could spell the end of it. 

"It seems to be all about control," he said.

 - Stuff

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