Seasonal Worker Accommodation Review

Contents

​​​​​OVERVIEW

The horticulture industry is a key driver of growth and prosperity in the Western Bay of Plenty District. It is also experiencing a period of expansion.

This industry relies heavily on seasonal workers. While some of the seasonal workforce is local, a large portion of the workers are sourced from other parts of New Zealand or internationally and there is a lack of suitable accommodation available for them in the District.​

On this page, you will find Council's:

  • ​​Requirements for establishing accommodation for seasonal workers
  • Research​ on the shortage of suitable accommodation for seasonal workers​

Council requirement for establishing accommodation for seasonal workers​

Introduction

Western Bay of Plenty District Council has a number of functions for enforcing requirements relating to accommodation - including accommodation for seasonal workers. This includes functions under the Resource Management Act (District Plan), Building Act and Health Act. These are explained below.

Please note that:

  • ​​​The information below is to help people understand the requirements of the Resource Management Act, District Plan, Building Act and Health Act, and does so by summarising and/or paraphrasing these requirements. The information does not replace the need to refer to the primary documents
  • ​The information below relates to all seasonal workers whether Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) workers, backpackers or locals etc (unless specified otherwise)
  • There are other non-Council requirements that also need to be met when establishing accommodation for seasonal workers.

District Plan

The District Plan manages the potential effects of accommodation on the surrounding environment such as neighbours, the road network (volumes and safety) and rural and residential amenity. It can control things such as the number of guests, noise, traffic movements, setbacks from boundaries and the size and appearance of buildings.

You can view the current District Plan as follows:

Under the District Plan, there are a few different ways of providing accommodation for seasonal workers: 

DwellingsThese are self contained residential units designed for or occupied exclusively by one household (including seasonal workers living together) and include apartments, semi-detached and detached houses, home units, town houses and similar forms of residential development. A dwelling may only contain one kitchen, or one kitchen plus a kitchenette if there is clear access between them (i.e. no doors or walls in between), otherwise it allows more than one household to live in the same building and therefore cannot be a single dwelling. There is no size limit for dwellings.
Minor dwellingsAs per the above, however these are dwellings of 60m² or less (not including garage).
Accommodation facilitiesThis is accommodation that doesn't meet the definition of dwelling or minor dwelling. These include home-stays, farm-stays, bed and breakfasts, boarding houses, hotels, motels, hostels and camping grounds. These also include any detached buildings ancillary to a dwelling which are used for accommodation but are not self-contained e.g. sleepouts.
Seasonal worker accommodationThis is accommodation specific to the fifteen Post Harvest Zones and means accommodation that is directly associated with the seasonal labour requirements of the horticultural industry. It includes lodges, dwellings, relocatable modular structures, caravans, mobile homes, house buses and spaces within post-harvest buildings.

Under the District Plan, there are two ways of getting approval for accommodation for seasonal workers:

  • ​Resource Consent
  • Certificate of Compliance (for Permitted Activities and Existing Use Rights)

The District Plan does not require you to get a certificate of compliance, however if you need to provide one to a third party for any reason then you will need to apply.

These things are explained in more detail below.

Permitted activities (Certificate of Compliance) 

Some accommodation options fall under a permitted activity, meaning that no resource consent is required from Council.

For something to be permitted though, it must be specifically listed as a permitted activity in the District Plan and comply with the relevant permitted activity performance standards for the applicable zone. 

Permitted accommodation includes:

  • ​One dwelling per title in the residential, future urban, rural-residential, lifestyle and rural zones. These must meet general performance standards relating to height, daylighting, distances from boundaries and noise etc.

  • Accommodation facilities for four people or less (excluding staff) in the residential, medium density, future urban, rural-residential, lifestyle and rural zones. These facilities cannot exceed a total cumulative area of 60m² for exclusive use of the occupiers and cannot contain a kitchen or kitchenette. These must also meet other general performance standards relating to height, daylighting, distances from boundaries and noise etc.

  • Seasonal worker accommodation for up to 75 people in the fifteen Post Harvest Zones. These must meet a number of specific performance standards relating to seasonal worker accommodation as listed within the Post Harvest Section. These must also meet other general performance standards relating to height, daylighting, distances from boundaries and noise etc.

Note: There are other matters which could stop something being a permitted activity e.g. the presence of ecological, landscape or heritage features or a natural hazard (see the District Plan Maps (Rural and Urban) or our online mapping tool).

If you believe your accommodation is a permitted activity, you can proceed as of right i.e. you don't need to notify Council. However, if you wish to confirm that any proposed or existing accommodation is a permitted activity, you can apply to Council for a "certificate of compliance" (S.139 Resource Management Act 1991) using this application form

The lodgement fee and information requirements are shown on the form. These take up to 20 working days to process.

Resource Consent 

Other non-permitted accommodation will need a resource consent, meaning that an application needs to be made in order to get Council's permission.

Accommodation that needs a resource consent includes:  

  • ​More than one dwelling per title in the residential, future urban, rural-residential, lifestyle and rural zones and dwellings in other zones. These must meet general performance standards relating to height, daylighting, distances from boundaries and noise etc. This option will require financial contributions to be paid to Council.

  • Minor dwellings (if there is already an existing dwelling on the title) in the residential, future urban, rural-residential, lifestyle and rural zones. These must share the same vehicle access as the existing dwelling and have garaging limited to 18m². If they are in the rural zone, they must also be within 20m of any existing dwelling on the property. All minor dwellings must also meet general performance standards relating to height, daylighting, distances from boundaries and noise etc. This option will require financial contributions to be paid to Council.

  • Accommodation facilities that fail to qualify as a permitted activity e.g. if they exceed four people or are over-height or too close to boundaries etc. Council will consider the extent of non-compliance and what measures are proposed to reduce any effects. Financial contributions may also be payable to Council.

  • Accommodation facilities in the Commercial and Commercial Transition Zones. This is because accommodation in these zones is listed as a high water user (water supply and wastewater) and require a specific assessment to determine what financial contributions are payable towards providing these services. There is no limit on building size or the number of guests or staff, which allows for hotels, motels, hostels and larger boarding houses. Council will also consider matters such as height, daylighting, distances from boundaries and noise etc.

  • Accommodation facilities in the Industrial Zone. Council will take into account whether these are ancillary to industrial activities, what effects there may be on the efficient operation of the industrial zone and matters such as height, daylighting, distances from boundaries and noise etc. Financial contributions will also be payable to Council.

  • Seasonal worker accommodation in the fifteen Post Harvest Zones which fails to qualify as a permitted activity e.g. if it exceeds 75 people or is over-height or too close to boundaries etc. Council will consider the extent of non-compliance and what measures are proposed to reduce any effects. Financial contributions may also be payable to Council.

Note: There are other matters which could trigger resource consent e.g. the presence of ecological, landscape or heritage features or a natural hazard (see the District Plan Maps (Rural and Urban) or our online mapping tool).​

There is no single resource consent application form or lodgement fee. It will depend on what type of accommodation is proposed. These take up to 20 working days to process on a non-notified basis. Should the application proceed "with notice", then this may take up to 130 working days.

Any application for resource consent for seasonal accommodation needs to provide information such as guest numbers, staff numbers, hours of operation and traffic movements. It also needs to address matters such as how to connect workers with nearby amenities (e.g. transport into town), potential for loss of productive land and conflict with existing activities e.g. nearby houses or farms.

Council can decline a resource consent or grant one subject to relevant conditions. If a resource consent is granted, you will have five years to give effect to it (i.e. build the accommodation) or it will lapse.

Existing use rights (Certificate of Compliance) ​

Alternatively, existing use rights might apply, for example:

  • ​Accommodation facilities or dwellings that were lawfully established prior to the District Plan i.e. through previous District schemes under the Town and Country Planning Act such as the Tauranga County or Te Puke Borough District Schemes

  • Accommodation facilities or dwellings that were lawfully established under previous District Plan rules, which permitted these at the time, but these rules have since been removed. 

Determining existing use rights is not straightforward as it will also require an assessment of any changes in effects that have occurred overtime and whether the accommodation use has been discontinued at any point.  

If you have existing use rights, you won't need to get a resource consent or comply with permitted activity performance standards.

However, if you wish to confirm existing use rights, you need to apply for a "certificate of compliance – existing use rights" (S.139A Resource Management Act 1991) using this application ​form. The lodgement fee and information requirements are shown on the form. These take up to 20 working days to process.

Further information and help

If you need further information about anything above please contact Council's duty planner on 0800 926 732.

Council would strongly recommend that if you need help preparing any of the applications discussed above, that you engage the services of a land development consultant.​​​

Building Act

The Building Act ensures that any accommodation can be used safely and without endangering people's health and provides for the regulation of structural stability, fire safety and sanitary facilities such as toilets, showers and basins.

Building Consent

A building consent is required for:

  • New buildings other than those specifically exempted under Schedule 1 of the Building Act 2004
  • Existing buildings (that do not have a building consent) where proposed building work is not exempted under Schedule 1 of the Building Act 2004
  • A change of use to an existing building in some circumstances (see below)

Council has up to 20 working days to process a building consent.

Change of use

Where an owner is proposing a change of use to an existing building (or part of a building) there are some circumstances where they must give notice in writing to Council of their intention under Section 115 of the Building 2004.

A change of use occurs when a building's (or part of a building's) use, as defined in the Regulations, changes and the new use has more onerous or additional Building Code requirements than the old use. The additional or more onerous requirements will usually mean that the fire hazard or the risk to life has increased in the building's new use.

A standard residential house will normally fall under the classification of a detached dwelling under the Building Regulations 1992 Clause A1 – Classified Uses. This classification applies to buildings or use where a group of people live as a single household or family. Examples of this type of use are a holiday cottage, boarding house accommodating five people or less, dwelling or hut.

The use of a detached dwelling as accommodation for seasonal workers would come under the category of communal residential, community service under the Building Regulations 1992 Clause A1 – Classified Uses. This classification applies to buildings or uses where limited assistance or care is extended to the principal users. Examples of this type of use are a boarding house, hall of residence, holiday cabin, hostel, motel, nurses home, retirement village, time share accommodation, a work camp or camping ground.

The change of activity from detached dwelling to a boarding house (i.e. exceeding five people) may constitute a change of use under the Building Act 2004 Section 115 and if so a building consent application would be required to formalise this change of use. A property must be assessed for this change of use and as such may not have the required level of fire  safety, sanitary features or accessibility required to accommodate this type of occupancy and activity.

The Building Act section 115 requires Council to be satisfied on reasonable grounds that the building, in its new use, will comply as near as is reasonably practicable with the building code requirements for means of escape from fire, protection of other property, sanitary facilities, structural performance, fire rating performance and access and facilities for people with disabilities.  Section 115 also requires that if the building complied with the other provisions of the building code prior to the change of use, it must continue to do so.  Or, if it did not comply, that it continues to comply at least to the same extent as it did.

To enable Council to be satisfied, the owner of the property will need to have a report prepared to demonstrate the level of compliance against the building code and if required the details of any upgrades that are proposed. With regard to access and facilities for people with disabilities, the report may reference the Code of Practice for Seasonal Worker Accommodation​ in respect of New Zealand Building Code Requirements for Access and Facilities for People with Disabilities" as developed by the Department of Building and Housing and Horticulture New Zealand.

Council can be notified of a change of use to a building or part of a building through either of the following:

  • A building consent application, where the work triggers the requirement to obtain a building consent, or

  • Written notification when a building consent is not required. The notification will need to include documentation outlining compliance with Section 115 of the Building Act and the appropriate clauses of the building code. Council will respond to this notification in writing to confirm whether or not a building consent is required. For further information, please see www.building.govt.nz.​

Certificate of acceptance

Where building work has already been carried out without a building consent or a change of use has occurred either without notification to the Council or without obtaining a building consent, please contact the Council's Building Services Team on 0800 926 732 as it may be necessary to apply for a certificate of acceptance. Council has up to 20 working days to process these. 

Further information and help

For more information about building requirements, see our page on Building Consents and Information

Health Act

The Health Act focuses on matters that impact on public health, such as the provision of adequate sanitary facilities, safe drinking water, lighting and ventilation and the avoidance of insanitary living conditions.

Council has a broad public health role under the Health Act, principally in relation to improving, promoting and protecting public health.

Frequently asked questions

COUNCIL'S ROLE

What is Council's role in ensuring that there is enough suitable accommodation for the District's seasonal workers?

Council's primary role is to ensure that all proposals for accommodation for seasonal workers are suitable by enforcing the requirements of the District Plan, Building Act and Health Act. We also choose to play a role in researching the extent of the shortage of suitable accommodation for seasonal workers and getting the industry together to work on solutions, however we cannot continue to do this without the industry's full support. It is not Council's role to provide the accommodation (i.e. become a developer).

DISTRICT PLAN

We already provide or are intending to provide accommodation for RSE workers but have heard that we now must produce a copy of a resource consent in order to apply for an Agreement to Recruit (ATR). Is this correct?

Council's role in this instance is to ensure that seasonal accommodation is approved in accordance with the District Plan. This can be achieved either through obtaining a resource consent or by qualifying as a permitted activity or alternatively existing use rights may apply. Compliance with the District Plan can be demonstrated to third parties by providing them with a copy of a resource consent, or a certificate of compliance containing details of the extent of the permitted activity and/or existing use rights. 

How do we know if our existing accommodation is approved or not?

Check to see whether you have a copy of a resource consent or if the accommodation is listed as a permitted activity and meets the permitted activity performance standards for the zone you are in. Otherwise, you can ask Council's duty planner to check for you on 0800 926 732. Existing use rights can only be confirmed through making an application.

How do we get approval for new or existing (but unapproved) accommodation?

Under the District Plan, there are two ways of getting approval for worker accommodation:

  • ​Resource Consent
  • Certificate of Compliance (for Permitted Activities and Existing Use Rights)

This is explained in more detail above.

How many seasonal workers are allowed in a dwelling?

The District Plan does not specify how many people can live in a dwelling. It just says it needs to be one household (which includes seasonal workers living together). Council will however respond to any complaints about overcrowding using the provisions of the Building Act.

What are financial contributions?

These are one-off payments to Council (often required as a condition of resource consent) towards Council services such as water, wastewater, stormwater, transportation, ecological and recreation and leisure (e.g. reserves). The requirements will depend on the nature of the proposal and its location.

Do we also need approval from the Bay of Plenty Regional Council?

It is possible that the Regional Council may require a resource consent for other things they control under their own functions such as earthworks, taking of water or the discharge of contaminants into air, soil (including septic tanks) and water. You can visit their page on activities requiring re​source consent, or contact them on 0800 884 880.

How long do we have to ensure that all of our seasonal accommodation (dwellings or otherwise) is lawfully established under the District Plan? 

You should be complying with the requirements of the District Plan regardless of any other requirements e.g. those relating to getting approval to recruit RSE workers. Compliance with the District Plan can be demonstrated to third parties by providing them with a copy of a resource consent, or a certificate of compliance containing details of the extent of the permitted activity and/or existing use rights. 

What is a Post Harvest Zone?  

This is a zone that has only been created around  fifteen existing major post-harvest facilities. These zones were introduced through the District Plan Review (notified in February 2009) with special rules to allow these operators to continue to expand without the need to continually apply for resource consents. One of the main criteria for inclusion was having potential fruit throughput of at least 1,000,000 trays per season. Those facilities not included were deemed to be either too small or did not show growth potential.

The fifteen Post-Harvest Zones are shown on the following maps:

Can our property (with existing coolstores and/or packhouses) be changed to a Post Harvest Zone?

It is possible but will depend on the merits of any request. The required process is a District Plan Change. You could either prepare a private plan change (at your own cost) or wait for Council to start a review of the post harvest zones and rules to make this request i.e. through consultation or a formal submission. However, there is no certainty that either option will result in your land being rezoned.

When is Council reviewing the rules for accommodation for seasonal workers and what is being looked at?

Council is beginning work on a District Plan Change in 2018. No dates are in place yet for consultation or public notification for submissions etc. Possible changes include:  

  • ​Increasing the number of seasonal workers permitted in the Post Harvest Zone and other zones
  • Expansion of existing Post Harvest Zones (e.g. to allow more room for accommodation)
  • Requests for new Post Harvest Zones

BUILDING ACT

How many people are allowed in a dwelling before it triggers a change of use from a dwelling to a boarding house?

Anything over five people may be deemed to be a change of use.

Is this limit consistent with the District Plan?

No, the District Plan does not specify how many people can live in a dwelling. It just says it needs to be one household (which includes seasonal workers living together).

Is this limit just in place for the kiwifruit industry / RSE workers?

No, it applies to any boarding situation where there are more than five people.

Is this limit consistent with the rest of the country?

Yes it is. The Building Act is national legislation.  

How long do we have to ensure that all of our seasonal accommodation (dwellings or otherwise) is lawfully established under the Building Act?

You should be complying with the requirements of the Building Act regardless of any other requirements e.g. those relating to getting approval to recruit RSE workers.

At what point do we need to engage a building consultant?

Council can help you with guidance regarding the process; however, you will need to engage the appropriate consultants to prepare building consent applications and provide supporting documentation.

Seasonal worker accommodation review

Anecdotal evidence gathered by Council indicates there is a serious lack of suitable accommodation available for the District's seasonal workers.

This evidence suggests that official accommodation is available for about half the seasonal workers and that the remaining half are staying in the likes of dwellings, sheds, camper vans, privately owned sports academies and international schools. It also suggests they are facing ​problems such as overcrowding, poor suitability for climatic conditions, overcharging, and lack of proximity to other facilities and pastoral care.  

This situation is likely to be exacerbated by the continuing growth of the kiwifruit industry, which will result in greater demand for seasonal workers and put further pressure on already limited housing.

Council's research report has highlighted a number of potential solutions for addressing these issues, including:

  • Reviewing District Plan provisions for seasonal accommodation
  • Better transport routes and timetables
  • Better use of local workers
  • Register of accommodation providers
  • Guidelines for accommodation for seasonal workers
  • Private development of accommodation for seasonal workers  
  • Temporary worker villages.

It explains that addressing these issues is not for Council alone and will require a whole industry approach with clearly defined roles and responsibilities.

Click here to view the report from November 2016.

In response to this report, Council set up and hosted working groups on transport, local workers, the register and guidelines. Council's intention was to work with the industry to implement these solutions first and then look at making changes to the District Plan.

These meetings were well attended and a number of ideas were shared, however none of those who attended were in a position to play a key role in implementing the solutions. Council staff therefore continued to take the lead but found that it could not make any significant progress without the industry's full support.​​

Page reviewed: 17 Oct 2018 10:29am