Building Near Pipes and Drains

If there are stormwater, water and/or wastewater pipes near where you intend to do building work, you need to talk to us.

Use the Council maps app to find out where the pipe and drains are on your property. You will need to double check pipe location by getting a copy of the as-built plumbing and drainage card. In some cases our records may not suffice and on-site investigations will need to be made.

A Project Information Memorandum (PIM) will also identify if there is any water, stormwater or wastewater system under your proposed building site. While a PIM is not compulsory, there are benefits to applying for a PIM early during the design stage as a PIM provides:

  • Heritage status and identifies special features such as natural hazards.
  • Details of water, stormwater or wastewater utility systems which relate to your proposed building work or to your building site.
  • Network utility information such as vehicle access.
  • Applications/approvals that you may need before you can start the construction process, occupy the building or start commercial operations.
  • A certificate detailing Resource Management Act requirements (where applicable). 
  • A notice indicating whether a development contribution is required.

The PIM either confirms that you may carry out the building work (subject to the requirements of the building consent and to all other necessary authorisations being obtained), or gives you notification that building work may not be undertaken.

Why is it important to protect the pipes?

We maintain a network of pipes for sewer, stormwater and water to safeguard the community from disease and protect our environment and properties. When these pipes fail or require upgrading we require access to carry out the necessary work. Approval to build over pipes will not normally be given if the integrity of the system is compromised in any way.

How can I be sure where buried pipes are?

Have a suitably qualified person prepare site and foundation plans of the building and accurately plot the pipes in relation to your building work. Our records should be treated as a guide only. If doubt exists, contact us as there are various methods available to locate the pipes. It is the property owner's responsibility is to ensure that these service pipes are not built over.

How close can I build to a pipe?

We generally require the structure to be located a minimum of:

  • 1.5m from the centre line of the pipe; or
  • the depth of the pipe plus the diameter of the pipe plus 0.2 metres (e.g. 2m deep pipe, 150mm diameter requires distance of 2.0 + 0.15 + 0.2 = 2.35m) from the centre line of the pipe.

If you are within these distances special foundations may be required.

What if I want to build over the pipes?

We are reluctant to allow buildings or additions to be built over or near pipes, because doing so can damage the pipes and make it difficult to maintain them in the future. In cases where approval is granted, costs to meet conditions must be met by the applicant and these can be significant.

If stormwater, water and/or wastewater pipes are under the ground where you want to build, you have three options:

  • Consider alternative locations within the property to site the building. This is the most desirable option because the pipes are not affected and there are no costs to you.
  • Divert the pipes around the building site. Diversion work must be completed before building work starts. Diversion is dependent on the alignments and grades of the existing pipe and is not always possible.
  • As a last resort, you may be granted permission to build over the pipes, subject to a deed of covenant and a memorandum of encumbrance being registered against the property title. Permission to build over public pipes is granted only in exceptional cases and applications are assessed on a case-by-case basis. The applicant must meet all associated costs including the inspection of the condition of the pipe, and legal documents. Building may commence only when we are satisfied that there are sufficient safeguards in place to protect the pipes.

Why are there restrictions?

Ideally all pipe work should be within the road reserve, but this is not always possible. Under the Local Government Act, we have the right to have pipes on private property, and to maintain and protect them. Many pipes were installed within private property by the subdividers of the land and we inherited these pipes.

In New Plymouth District there are many kilometres of water, stormwater and wastewater pipes. Some of these pipes are within private property and although some are within registered easements, many older pipes are not but they are legally allowed to remain. We occasionally require access to these pipes for repair or replacement.