If you are planning to carry out excavation or filling on your property you may need a resource consent.

District Plan

Under the Christchurch District Plan, earthworks that are not associated with a subdivision or building consent must comply with certain requirements or resource consent will be needed. 

This includes works such as filling of old swimming pools, and any excavations or filling needed to create driveways, retaining walls, outdoor living areas, etc. 

To be permitted, earthworks must meet all of the following requirements:

  • Not exceed the maximum volume and depth for the zone, as set out in the table below. 
  • The gradient of the land where the earthworks will be carried out is no steeper than 1 in 6.
  • The filling must consist of cleanfill only.
  • Not be located within 5m of a heritage item or within a heritage setting listed in Appendix
  • Not be located within the dripline of a significant tree listed in Appendix
  • Soil compaction methods which create vibration must comply with a specific vibration standard and be certified by an engineer .
  • In Residential zones, any use of mechanical or illuminating equipment is limited to between 7am and 7pm, and must comply with noise and light spill standards.
  • In other zones, use of mechanical equipment is generally limited to between 7am and 10pm, and must comply with noise and light spill standards. 
Zone  Volume Depth
Residential All residential zones 20m³/site 0.6m
Commercial / Industrial  Commercial Local, and Commercial Banks Peninsula Zones



Commercial Core, Commercial Office, Commercial Mixed Use, Central City Mixed Use, Mixed Use (South Frame), Commercial Retail Park, Industrial General, Industrial Heavy and Industrial Park Zones  1000m³/ha 0.6m
Central City Business Zone 200m³/ha 0.6m
Rural and Papakainga/Kainga Nohoanga All zones  100m³/ha 0.6m


This is only a summary of the main earthworks rules in Chapter 8.9 of the Christchurch District Plan(external link).

Depending on the property location there may also be relevant earthworks rules in other chapters, including:

  • The zone chapter.
  • Chapter 5 (earthworks in flood prone, slope instability and other identified hazard areas).
  • Chapter 4 (contaminated land).
  • Chapter 6 (earthworks within water body setbacks and within, and adjacent to sites of Ngāi Tahu Cultural Significance). 

Earthworks to repair land used for residential purposes that was damaged by earthworks are covered by a different set of rules, as are earthworks in the vicinity of the National Grid and electricity distribution lines. 

The maximum volumes listed in the table are for the total amount of filling and excavation within any 12 month period.  Volumes stated in m³/ha are applied as a ratio based on the area of the site. 

Erosion and sediment control

Effective erosion and sediment control is required to be implemented prior to beginning any earthworks.

These controls must ensure that surface water runoff and tracking of sediment from site work is prevented and managed appropriately to avoid the likelihood of damage, nuisance and contamination to roads, drains, waterways and other property.

Rule exemptions

Rule 8.9.3.a.iv exempts earthworks within the footprint of buildings if they have an approved building consent.

To meet this exemption, the Council will accept an undertaking from applicants that they will comply with the exemption at the time they carry out the earthworks. In other words, no earthworks will occur within the building footprint until the building consent has been approved. The building footprint is measured as everything within 1.8m of the walls of the building.

The written statement will be treated as evidence of compliance with the earthworks rules and needs to be included in the application for resource consent, building consent, or Project Information Memorandum (PIM).


  • Any earthworks further than 1.8m from the building are not covered by the exemption so will require resource consent if they exceed the thresholds in Rule This includes earthworks for retaining walls/structures that are not required for the structural support of the main building on the site or adjoining site.
  • There are additional rules in for earthworks within the Flood Management Areas.

Contaminated land

Activities carried out on land that is contaminated, or potentially contaminated, must comply with the requirements of the National Environmental Standard for Assessing and Managing Contaminants in Soil to Protect Human Health (NES), unless a resource consent is obtained. 

Activities controlled by the NES include disturbance of soil (earthworks), soil sampling, removal or replacement of fuel storage system, subdivision, and changing the use of land (e.g. building a dwelling on vacant land, changing the use of a site from industrial to commercial).

Information about the NES is available on the Ministry for the Environment(external link) website. It explains how to find out if your land and the activity you are planning are covered by the NES. In addition, Environment Canterbury maintains a listed land use register of potentially contaminated sites(external link)

If you need further assistance you can also contact one of the Council’s Environmental Health Officers on 03 941 8999.

Building consents

Where earthworks are associated with a building, they must comply with the Building Act 2004.  Where the work requires approval under the Building Act, an application for building consent or exemption from building consent must be made and approved before work can begin on the site. 

See Building Consents for more information on this process.

The Building Act requires anyone considering filling or excavating to protect land and other property from erosion, falling debris, slippage subsidence, inundation, alluvion and avulsion.

The Building Code requires any surface water collected or concentrated by buildings or site work to be disposed of in a way that avoids the likelihood of damage or nuisance to other property.