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Auckland Council

About earthworks

E pā ana ki ngā maioro

Activities like excavation, drilling or earthworks can affect the environment, other people and properties.

​Earthworks

Earthworks can be described as any activity that disturbs soil, earth or land surfaces.

Stability and safety are key considerations with excavation or fill projects, which range from driveways and retaining wall excavations to quarries and earthworks for major subdivisions and multi-storey buildings. These activities are therefore likely to need a resource consent.

There are Auckland Unitary Plan rules around earthworks to ensure safety, and prevent adverse effects or damage to the environment.

The earthworks season is from 1 October to 30 April. However, earthworks outside this period may be permitted for small sites. For larger sites and works in and around watercourses a request may need to be made to us before 30 April. Such requests are usually limited to finishing off and stabilising sites.

Earthworks that do not need consent

  • Turf farming
  • Gardening
  • Grave digging
  • Archaeological excavations
  • Pile driving

If you would like to discuss your earthworks plans before starting, you can request pre-application guidance.

Earthworks on contaminated land or by waterways

If a site has contaminated land, or is close to waterways, it is even more important that earthworks are done carefully and properly.

Land may be contaminated if it was previously used for a hazardous activity or industry. View a list of these activities and industries on the Ministry for the Environment website.

If you are planning to dig or disturb contaminated land, for testing or for any please call us on 09 3010101 and ask to speak to a contaminated land specialist.

Earthworks conditions

An earthworks resource consent looks at geotechnical aspects of your property and sets conditions to help you achieve suitably engineered excavations and fill. It also ensures that earthworks are undertaken in a manner that prevents or limits sediment discharge, thereby protecting the freshwater and marine environments.

Earthworks monitoring

We monitor earthworks projects to ensure safety and compliance. Some of these conditions require protection measures to be set up before you start your earthworks.

Whether you have a small building site or a large development, it is important to have sediment controls (such as stabilised entranceways and silt fences) in place before you start your earthworks. For works on small building sites, see our site management videos and booklet.

For larger developments, visit the Auckland Design Manual website to download the technical guidance document (PDF 58MB) for earthworks activities, which details the minimum erosion and sediment control requirements.

Soil erosion, sediment and dust from earthworks

Earthworks can result in erosion of exposed surfaces, which produces sediment and dust. This can then pollute streams, lakes and harbours, and kill both freshwater and marine vegetation and animals.

Increased risk of soil erosion

The risk of erosion increases if land:

  • has little vegetation on it
  • is steep
  • is on the bank of a river or lake
  • is disturbed
  • has erosion-prone geology (for example mudstone or pumice)
  • is under pressure from high stock density or machinery
  • is in an area of high and intensive rainfall.

How to control soil erosion

You can reduce the harmful effects associated with sedimentation by controlling erosion.

This can be done by incorporating appropriate erosion and sediment controls as an integral part of your project. This will include:

  • minimising areas to be disturbed
  • staging earthworks by undertaking earthworks in small areas over time
  • stabilising exposed areas quickly and keeping as much existing vegetation as possible, especially on steep slopes or areas close to watercourses
  • using appropriately designed sediment devices to retain and treat sediment before its discharged.

Both the landowner and contractor doing the earthworks need to be aware of the importance of erosion and sediment controls on their site.

For more information on how to manage erosion and sedimentation, see building site management.