Tiny Houses Anyone?

Tasman District Council has recently released a new eight-page guide document called "Provisions for Tiny Houses".

You can download the guide from the TDC website here.

The guide aims to clarify which consents and permissions would be required to construct and live in a tiny house on a property in Tasman District.

Please note that the following is a summary of various items highlighted in the guide, and is not a replacement for reading the guide itself.

Read here why at this moment, according to Tasman District Council, there is no such thing as a 'tiny house'. And take our online survey at the end of the article!

Is a Tiny House a Building and/or Dwelling?

The guide concentrates on the question whether a 'tiny house' (of any size and whether movable or not) has to be considered a "building" under either the Building Act or the Tasman Resource Management Plan.

The guide quotes from both these Acts, the latter of which specifically includes one rule which effectively states that "any vehicle, trailer, tent, caravan or boat whether fixed or movable" which "is used as a place of long term accommodation (for two calendar months or more in any year)" would be considered a "building".

The guide thus comes to the conclusion that a 'tiny house' (assuming it is intended to be lived in) would most likely indeed be considered a "building", and - if it contains cooking, sleeping, and ablution facilities - it would also classed as a "dwelling".

What does MBIE say?

The TDC guide also references part of a recent determination by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.

On the question of whether something is a vehicle or a building, the MBIE determinations generally follow a decision tree which focuses on the key criterion that any vehicle which is both 'immovable' and 'occupied by people' on a permanent or long term basis would be considered a "building" under the Building Act.

Further reading and MBIE determinations can be found here and here. The most recent of these determinations is still subject to appeal.

What does it mean if a 'Tiny House' is a "building"?

If your tiny house is considered a "building" (again, see the considerations above) then it will have to comply with the provisions of the NZ Building Code and will likely require Building Consent.

The guide notes in its conclusion: "The New Zealand Building Code does not have different requirements for a tiny house so it is difficult to treat them any other way."

A tiny house would thus have comply with all provisions of the Building Code in regards to structure, durability, weathertightness and drainage - just to name a few.

What does it mean if a 'Tiny House' is a "dwelling"?

The guide notes that if your tiny house is considered a dwelling (i.e. it has cooking/sleeping/ablution facilities) - and depending on the planning zone you're in - you may need Resource Consent. For example, in zones Rural 1 and Rural 3 resource consent is required for any first dwelling.

Potential costs associated with a resource consent, such as development contributions and financial contributions are then outlined in the TDC guide.

Additionally, any dwelling in Tasman District would have to comply with the applicable rules for potable water supply and firefighting water supply (such as appropriate water filtering, and in rural areas this could mean water tanks or a pond for fire fighting).

The TDC guide states: "From both a building consent and resource consent perspective, a tiny house (where it is decided that it is a building and a dwelling) is likely to be treated like any other dwelling."


At present, there exist no provisions in either national or local regulations which might set a 'tiny house' apart from any regular house and which would thus make the construction or occupation of a 'tiny house' any easier or more affordable than that of a regular house.

Case law hinges on the key question of whether the object in question has to be considered a "vehicle" under the Land Transport Act or a "building" under the Building Act. Court cases on this are ongoing.

Depending on the size, complexity and construction method of the proposed 'tiny house' - if it is considered a "building" - it can be imagined that the cost of complying with regulations could easily amount to a cost similar to or higher than that of the building itself.

Have Your Say

  • Do you have an opinion on this issue?
  • Do you think 'tiny houses' could be a way to alleviate housing affordability and availability in the district?
  • Is it correct that 'tiny houses' are handled exactly like any other house?

Give us your answers by taking our online survey.