Dam consenting requirements

Resource Consents for dams

If you are constructing a new dam then you may also need a resource consent under our Regional Plan for the damming of the water. This is because the damming of water is not limited to water in rivers or catchment runoff and also includes the damming of water in reservoirs.

Under the operative Regional Plan: Water for Otago where the permitted activity rules cannot be met for this activity, a water permit is required for this damming. If you do not meet the permitted criteria in Rule  (shown below) the damming of water is therefore a discretionary activity under Rule and you will need RMA consent. You can use Form 2 to apply for this consent. You must also fill in Form 1. We are happy to help with pre-application advice and encourage you to contact us.

12.3.2 Permitted activities: No resource consent required

Unless prohibited by Rules to, the damming or diversion of water is a permitted activity, providing:

(a) The size of the catchment upstream of the dam, weir or diversion is no more than 50 hectares in area; and

(b) In the case of damming, the water immediately upstream of the dam is no more than 3 metres deep, and the volume of water stored by the dam is no more than 20,000 cubic metres; and

(c) In the case of diversion, the water is conveyed from one part of any lake or river, or its tributary, to another part of the same lake, river or tributary; and

(d) No lawful take of water is adversely affected as a result of the damming or diversion; and

(e) Any damming or diversion within a Regionally Significant Wetland was lawfully established prior to 2 July 2011; and

(f) There is no change to the water level range or hydrological function of any Regionally Significant Wetland; and

(g) There is no damage to fauna, or New Zealand native flora, in or on any Regionally Significant Wetland; and

(h) The damming or diversion does not cause flooding of any other person’s property, erosion, land instability, sedimentation or property damage; and

(i) The damming or diversion is not within the Waitaki catchment.



Dam Building Consents

From 1 June 2021 Environment Canterbury (ECan) started to process all Building Consents and Code Compliance Certificates for the Otago, Southland and West Coast Regions.

For more information please contact ECan.

While Building Consents and Certificates of Compliance (CCC) are to be received by Environment Canterbury, the Otago Regional Council must receive Certificates of Acceptance (COA) for the Otago Region. These will be processed or the co-ordination of the processing managed by the Otago Regional Council. You will be made aware of who is processing your COA once it has been received.


Dam Safety Regulations 2022

The new regulations on Dam Safety [Building (Dam Safety) Regulations 2022] were announced by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) in May 2022 which set out the minimum requirements for dam safety in New Zealand.

The regulations provide a framework to protect people, property and the environment from the potential impacts of dam failure, both in the immediate vicinity of dams and further downstream.

The new dam safety regulations will commence on 13 May 2024. This gives the dam owners time to check whether their dam is big enough to be impacted and take steps to ensure that their dams and associated paperwork are consistent with the regulation.
These regulations will apply to all the ‘Dams’ that fall under the definition of a ‘Classifiable Dam’ as specified in Building (Dam Safety) Regulations 2022 that are:

  • 4 metres or higher and store 20,000 or more cubic metres volume of water or other fluid; or
  • 1 metre or higher and store 40,000 or more cubic metres volume of water or other fluid.

From 13 May 2024, the owners of Classifiable Dams will need to confirm the potential risk their dam poses, put in place dam safety plans and undertake regular dam inspections.

The new dam safety regulations require that all classifiable dam owners engage a ‘Recognised Engineer’ to certify the Potential Impact Classifications (PIC) of the dam and submit it to council for approval within three months of the regulations commencing, or no later than three months after the dam is commissioned, whichever is later.

Dams with approved Medium and High Potential Impact Classification will be required to have a ‘Dam Safety Assurance Programme’. These dams will be required to have regular monitoring and surveillance practices in place for the safe operation of dams and will need to submit an ‘Annual Dam Compliance Certificate’ to the council which is certified by a Recognised Engineer. Low potential impact dams will have no ongoing requirements except for their initial potential impact classifications and then regularly review their potential impact classification at a 5-year interval.

The key groups impacted by the new dam safety regulations are dam owners, recognised engineers, and regional authorities. This is because the regulations require these groups to carry out certain actions to meet their legal obligation.

Further information and resources to support dam owners and recognised engineers with their responsibilities under the new regulations are available on MBIE’s Building Performance Website. This includes an online learning module and also a guidance document prepared by MBIE, which are excellent starting points to become familiar with the new dam safety regulations.

View the Building (Dam Safety) Regulations 2022.   

For additional information and insights on how to calculate the volume of your dam , please see the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment (MBIE) resource: Measuring and calculating the height and volume of agricultural dams


For building work in Otago, we ask that you obtain a Project Information Memorandum (PIM). For building work in Southland or the West Coast you obtain it from the regional council in these areas. You can also obtain a PIM from the relevant district or city council.

The regional and district council PIMs contain information held by the two councils which may be relevant to your proposed building work, such as natural hazards. You can apply for the two PIMs at any time – you don't have to wait until you apply for a building consent.

While there is no legal requirement for you to obtain a PIM, it is recommended you obtain the two PIMs first, review information provided, and consider this information when designing your dam.  The PIMs may contain important information, therefore we consider them to be essential. Applications for building consents will be put on hold until ORC receives the two PIMs.

To apply for a Project Information Memorandum (PIM) for building work in Otago, complete the below application form and send it to us.

Application form

Our staff will initially check your application has the necessary information for processing. If the application is not complete, it will be returned to you. Once the application has all the necessary information we will compile your PIM within 2 working days.

You will be charged a fee for processing your application. Cheques should be made out to Otago Regional Council.


Contacts for other councils providing a PIM

Environment Southland
Ph 03 211 5115

Gore District Council
Ph 03 209 0330

West Coast Regional Council
Ph 0508 800 118

Southland District Council
Ph 0800 732 732

Central Otago District Council
Ph 03 440 0056

Invercargill City Council
Ph 03 211 1777

Queenstown Lakes District Council
Ph 03 441 0499

Buller District Council
Ph 0800 807 239

Waitaki District Council
Ph 03 433 0300

Grey District Council
Ph 03 769 8603

Clutha District Council
Ph 0800 801 350
Web: www.cluthadc.govt.nz

Westland District Council
Ph 03 756 9010

Dunedin City Council
Ph 03 477 4000

The Otago Regional Council is required under the Building Act to maintain a register of dams in Otago. The register enables us to contact dam owners if we need to discuss the regulations for managing dam safety. There is no charge for the dam registration service.

If you own a dam in Otago you should check with us as to whether your dam should be on our register. Phone 03 474-0827 or freephone 0800 474-082 or email public.enquiries@orc.govt.nz

If you own a dam in Southland or the West Coast, you should check with Environment Southland or the West Coast Regional Council as to whether your dam is on their respective registers.


Want to know more?

For more information phone our customer services staff on freephone 0800 474 082 or email consent.enquiries@orc.govt.nz.

Find out more information on dams and the Building Act from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment website.

NZSOLD is a technical group of Engineering New Zealand. This site has information on dam safety and construction, including the proceedings of conferences at which papers on dam safety and background to the Building Act dam safety legislation have been presented.   Find out more information on the NZ Society on Large Dams.

Find out historic information on some Otago dams from the Heritage New Zealand.

Certain types of applications must be sent to Fire Emergency New Zealand (FENZ) for their review (Section 46 of the Act). The BCA will receive a memo from FENZ (Section 47) and will take this into consideration in any application process. Find out more information at https://fireandemergency.nz/contact-us/ 


Dangerous dams

Otago Regional Council policy on dangerous dams. Submissions on the dangerous dams policy review closed on 15 December 2023. Read more

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