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    Advice on the Consent Process

    A Word on Consents

    One of the most common questions we are asked here at WCTNZ® is about the council consent process for use of a waterless composting toilet. In this section, we have compiled the most recent information on both the council regulations as well as how the consent process works.

    Do I Need Building Consent for Composting Toilets?

    The answer to this question is yes, you will require building consent for a composting toilet. The structure of a permanent, fixed composting toilet is regarded as part of a building and as such, it is required to comply with the building code. In the event that you construct an out-building (a separate structure to your dwelling) for the composting toilet, this too would require consent because it contains sanitary facilities (and possibly plumbing too for washing of hands) and therefore would fall under Schedule 1 of the Building Act.

    There are certainly instances where a composting toilet may not require consent, however. A non-fixed, or portable waterless composting toilet (such as a Bambooloo) would not require building consent as it is more likely to be considered a chattel (a personal property item). Most likely though, this type of system would not be acceptable to the BCA (Building Consent Authorities) as the primary toilet in a residence. Buildings under code are required to provide adequate sanitary facilities for the intended use and they may deem this inadequate due to the lack of treatment within the system itself and the need for secondary composting.

    In areas with sewer access, the Building Code deviates from a performance-based approach and instead becomes prescriptive, stating that properties must connect to the sewer and at least one flushing toilet must be connected. This doesn’t mean to say that in such instances composting toilets cannot also be used alongside a flushing toilet in a home.

    Exemptions to this rule can be made by the BCA if the distance from the sewer exceeds a certain length, or by application for exemption on the basis of an alternative solution. These exemptions in areas with sewer access have been granted in the past, they do have precedent set and the application process for this is not expensive.

    It’s also possible to apply (at a cost relative to typical building consent application fees) to the chief executive for a determination on the matter, such as whether an exemption may be granted. This is akin to appealing to a higher authority. Determinations under this authority can be relied on also for future applications (they too can set precedents).

    Ultimately, whether you are intending on using a blackwater system or a waterless composting toilet, it’s recommended that you talk with your local authority to find out if your site and environment is right for the intended onsite waste management system.

    It’s important to take into consideration that many of the composting toilets in our range are fully certified and supported by a legitimate building standard. You can find more information about this standard below.

    Do I Need Resource Consent for a Composting Toilet?

    The answer to this question is both yes and no. The Resource Management Act is designed to protect the environment from adverse environmental impacts resulting from human activities. Different regions and councils have different rules around this and therefore it’s always best to first speak with a resource management officer who can help you understand whether or not onsite sanitary waste management systems are permitted activity under the local rules of your region.

    In many cases, you may find that use of a waterless composting toilet is already permitted activity in your region, in which case the local council has deemed that any potential adverse impacts are minimal or non-existent. It’s important to remember that these rulings themselves often have particular stipulations such as minimum setback distances from watercourses and other sensitive environments. If these stipulations cannot be adhered to, or the council does not allow for use of dry composting toilets as permitted activity in your region, it will most likely become a discretionary activity which means that a special application is required to demonstrate to the processing authority that any potential adverse environmental effects may be avoided or mitigated by the design and implementation of the system. In such instances, the council may ask for an expert to assess and document that your proposed activity will meet permitted activity rules and necessary standards.

    When it comes to use of waterless composting toilet systems, it’s possible for us to specify a system with optional upgrades to ensure that there is no discharge (other than the venting of the system to the air) and therefore, if a resource consent is required, it should be a simple and straight-forward process.

    What is the Relationship Between Waterless Composting Toilets and Grey Water?

    Your Waterless Composting Toilet will handle everything in the house which is known to be black water, that refers to (normally water soiled by) human waste. When a WCT system is used, there is still a need for a greywater treatment system and drainage discharge. This will also require building and resource consent (usually a single application will cover all parts of the sanitary system at the same time).

    The good news is that by using a Waterless Composting Toilet, your drainage field requirements will be reduced by an average of 20% and it may in fact allow for a completely different waste-water treatment process to be used by the household.

    Saving Time and Money in the Consent Process

    When applying for building and resource consents, the best practice is to apply for all your planned site buildings and/or renovations along with the sanitary systems together in one application. If you file separate applications, the building consent authorities’ administration costs will double. Keep it simple and file together with all relevant information included.

    Note: the BCA provides quotes for consents and they must justify their cost. It’s absolutely within your rights to request a full break-down of these costs if not provided.

    Working Towards the Greater Common Good

    The laws are there to protect everyone and ensure safe and healthy communities. You also have a right to live your desired lifestyle and to choose an alternative system that is safe and effective at treating waste. The authorities are there to help you achieve this safely. Remember that throughout the whole consent process, it’s rightful that the appointed authorities work with you and your goals to achieve a mutually beneficial outcome.

    Has Your General Enquiry with the Council Been Dismissed?

    It has been noted that in many cases a casual or general enquiry to the BCA may result in informal negative feedback and discouragement from applying for any alternative sanitary treatment system. It may depend on who you get to speak to. On the other hand, if you make an application which demonstrates compliance with the relevant building code and regional plan rules, the BCA is obliged to grant consent. However, it may require an expert report or imposed conditions.

    What Should I do if my Consent Application is Declined?

    In the event that you find the consent authorities have declined your application for building or resource consent and you are unhappy with their reasoning, it’s best to discuss with them the issues and try to come to a resolution. If this is not achieved and you still feel that the consent authorities are unreasonable, you can seek to get a resolution with the Department of Building and Housing by applying for a determination. The average costs for this process is around $300.

    Taking Matters Further

    Certification of Waterless Composting Toilets

    Certain toilets within our range carry full certification and are supported by a legitimate building standard (AS/NZS 1546.2:2008 On-site domestic wastewater treatment units – Waterless composting toilets).

    You can purchase a copy from the Standards website for personal use. See link AS/NZS 1546.2:2008 On-site domestic wastewater treatment units – Waterless composting toilets

    Systems that carry a certification against the standard should pass the consent process easily with very little cost.

    Systems that do not carry a certification will need to be reviewed in full by the consent authorities against the standard and this may cost a little more for the consent, due to time and resources used by the authorities to achieve an understanding of the proposed technology.

    Is the Consent Process all too Much?

    Sometimes the consent process can seem very complicated and time-consuming. If you are working with an architect, then they will be able to process the required consent applications for you. Some may have already priced the consent process into the cost of their services. If you need consent for just the Composting Toilet System and no building work you can employ a local consent specialist who will do the whole process for you for a commission or small fee. Additionally, if you are using a builder to install your WCT and/or they are doing other construction works for you they may be the best option to help with or do the building consent for you. Remember you will save time if you use an experienced professional for the consent application process leaving you with more time to get on with life.

    Statement of Support

    WCTNZ® will support the customer during the process of consent application always by way of education and clarification to the consent authorities as to the nature and performance of this waste management technology.

    Waterless Composting Toilets are a safe and effective means of treating black waste in a household. They are environmentally beneficial as they consume no water and turn what is commonly viewed as a waste material back into a valuable resource (nutrient-dense compost).

    We believe in our technology, and we will continue to work alongside the government and council to help build awareness and strong knowledge of our products. It is our genuine hope that composting toilets will become common in New Zealand households and it is our belief that in the future, as resources decline and access to precious freshwater resources dwindle, use of waterless composting toilets will in fact one day be mandatory.


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