Amended dam safety regulations to commence this month

Published: 09 May 2024

New and amended regulations to improve the safety and resilience of Aotearoa New Zealand’s dams come into force on Monday 13 May 2024.

On 7 May 2024, new regulations were made to amend the definition of a ‘classifiable dam’ under the dam safety regulations. This amendment will exclude dams under 4 metres from being subject to the dam safety regulations.

“Stakeholder engagement in early 2024 has showed that the cost of compliance with Building (Dam Safety) Regulations 2022 is not proportionate to the risks smaller dams pose,” says Suzannah Toulmin, Manager Building Policy.

“So, amendments have been made to raise the threshold for a classifiable dam to 4 or more metres in height and 20,000 or more cubic metres of stored water, or other fluid. This change aligns with the building consent threshold, so if dam owners don’t need a consent to build the dam, it won’t have to be certified post-construction.  

“It has also been agreed to waive the 28-day rule to ensure the amendment regulations come into force at the same time as the principal regulations on 13 May 2024. This will ensure unnecessary requirements or obligations are not placed on owners of dams that are captured under the existing threshold but will then be exempt under the amendment regulations.

“The amendment will ensure specialist engineering resources are focused on dams that present the greatest consequences for people and property downstream and owners are able to meet their obligations under the regulations,” said Suzannah.

Detailed information and several online tools, resources and guidance documents are available to support dam owners identify what applies to them and what they need to do to comply. Information can be accessed on the Building Performance website.

“Some small dam owners may already be meeting the new regulations, however, the threshold change means their dams are no longer impacted. This effort is not wasted. Regardless of size, owners are encouraged to understand the potential impact if their dam was to fail and have safety plans in place to safeguard the surrounding area against disproportionate risk.

“The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) are actively engaging with various industry representatives to monitor dam owners progress towards their new obligations to ensure we know if any further support is required,” said Suzannah.

Managing dams to ensure they are safe(external link) — Building Performance

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