Auckland Council has announced it is scrapping resource consent fees for the installation of rainwater tanks at residential properties.
The fee waiver comes in response to the severe water shortages the region is currently experiencing. Other measures to incentivise residential rainwater collection are also being considered by the council, including removing the current consenting requirements for rain tanks in residential zones through a change to the Auckland Unitary Plan, and making water tanks a requirement for new developments.
Mayor Phil Goff says household rainwater tanks can play an important role in Auckland’s overall water conservation, and the change is long overdue.
“It makes sense to capture the rainwater that falls on our roofs, ease the pressure of sudden downpours on our stormwater system and utilize the water for things like watering the garden and washing the car.
“As we face the worst drought in our history, using rainwater also eases the demand on our water supplies. Our lakes are currently only 44 per cent full when they would normally be at 78 per cent.
"With continued drier than usual weather predicted for winter and spring, we need to look at every option for supplementing our water supply to offset a critical shortage of water this summer.
“If only one per cent of Auckland’s urban households were to use a rainwater tank in the winter seasons to cover their entire non-potable requirements this could equate to approximately one million litres per day of water over winter being served by rain tanks instead of Auckland’s dams,” Phil Goff says.
Tank size, water usage in the household, household occupant numbers and seasonal rainfall will impact the degree to which rainwater tanks can contribute to household water supply, so naturally these variants would need to be considered before choosing a tank.
The initiative is supported by a new ‘Do I need a Consent?’ tool for rainwater tanks, launched on the Auckland Council website, that walks people through the consenting process and provides basic compliance advice.
Planning Committee chair, Councillor Chris Darby, says “This is the right time of year for people to install a tank, when rainfall is traditionally at its highest, so Auckland Council has streamlined the process to encourage the installation of as many tanks as possible in homes across Auckland.
“Rainwater tanks don’t just retain a supply of water for toilet flushing, laundry use and outside taps, they also detain rainfall during extreme rainfall events to alleviate flooding. Using rainwater rather than reticulated water comes with a price incentive of lower water supply charges as well as lower volumetric wastewater charges.
The financial benefits and environmental benefits combined with the streamlined process make installing a rainwater tank more attractive than ever,” he said.
Residents taking advantage of the resource consent fee waiver to install a tank will still need to comply with resource, building and health and safety codes, and use licensed installation professionals where required. Qualifying criteria will be provided on the Auckland Council website.
Under Auckland’s Unitary Plan, resource consent is often required when installing domestic tanks to ensure they meet development standards such as its proximity to a boundary, and if a tank is to be connected to internal plumbing to use for toilet flushing or laundry use a building consent is also needed.
However, some tanks for external water use are exempt from needing a building consent to install, depending on their capacity, and structural requirements. A full list of these exemptions can be found on the Auckland Council website.
The usual processing period for consents will still apply, but the ‘Do I need a Consent?’ tool for rainwater tanks will help residents understand and assess their own situation, so they can have their plans in place prior to submitting their application, streamlining the process and reducing unnecessary delays.