The Building Act 2004 Section 45A enabled Building Consent Authorities (BCAs) the ability to grant minor variations during construction without having to go through the formal amendment process. In principle, this section was designed to provide time and cost savings for building owners, builders and the BCAs.


In 2009, the Building (Minor Variation) Regulations were created to provide BCAs with guidance on how to deal with these minor variations. It also defined minor variations as being a minor modification, addition, or variation to a building consent that does not deviate significantly from the plans and specifications to which the building consent relates.

Examples given were:

• Substituting comparable products such as substituting one internal lining for similar internal lining.
• Minor wall bracing changes.
• Minor construction changes such as changing framing method used around a window.
• Changing a room layout such as moving position of fixtures in a bathroom.

It also explained work which was not building work in respect of compliance with the building code such as kitchen joinery, skirting, built in shelving etc…

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Design & Build Builders

In February 2010, the Department of Building and Housing (now Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment), issued guidance on assessing minor variations which Auckland Council used as a basis in formulating their policy.

In each case, professional judgement is exercised by the council inspector onsite to assess each case on its merits. The policy allowed for flexibility to approve minor variations dependent on the council inspector’s technical knowledge and the time available during the inspection.

It has been reported that this system has been working very well on new build sites with significant time and cost savings resulting from it for both the owner and the council.

At this point, the council is still assessing jobs like this on a case by case basis. It is recommended that the following process be followed to avoid undue delays:

• At pre-construction meetings or the earlier inspections, the definition of minor variation needs to be communicated including the process for applying. It should also be agreed that variations would be presented to the inspector as early as possible to avoid building them up and providing them in lump sums.

• Minor variations must be assessed and approved before the work commences. In a lot of situations, the designer is asked to detail variations as soon as it has been identified yet the inspector does not know about it until weeks after this point. It would benefit all parties if the variation was communicated as the same time.

• In some cases, multiple minor variations can add up to a substantial change in the building. In these situations, the inspector may require the variations to be processed as a formal amendment. Discussions should be held to establish what work can be continued while this is processed. Council processors would then be alerted to the urgency of the case and process these accordingly.

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