When and why is it important to obtain a certificate of public use (CPU) for premises in NZ?
During construction phase, premises occupied by the public require a certificate (CPU) to allow public access. It is a legal requirement to achieve this, and by doing so, it may assist in demonstrating compliance with Health and Safety at Work Act responsibilities.
This article discusses the regulatory process, tips for good certification preparation, and how best to work effectively with the local Council. See our recent Sucess Story.
Why compliance is important.
In New Zealand, Section 363 of the Building Act 2004 requires that any person who owns, occupies, or controls premises that members of the public use must not use, or permit the use of, any part of the premises that is affected by building work.
Theoretically, not occupying buildings during construction makes sense. However, generally, there is an ongoing need to allow ‘safe’ areas of buildings, i.e. premises to continue to be occupied so that essential public services and business can remain operational.
If the public uses all or part of your building and you want them to access it before your building work has been signed off as complete, you can apply to your Territorial Authority (TA – local Council) for a Certificate of Public Use (CPU).
The Building Act process for safe public occupation during construction is covered in Section 363A. It allows Building Owners to obtain a CPU from the TA, and this is a critical step in confirming a premise is safe and available for public use.
NOTE: It is important to remember that it is the Building Owners responsibility to obtain a CPU where required.
Here are some key reasons why obtaining a Certificate of Public Use is important:
1. Public Safety and Confidence:
The issuance of a CPU indicates that the premise has been inspected and deemed safe for public use. The issuance of a CPU also enhances public confidence in the safety and quality of the premise. It assures the public that the premise has undergone the necessary inspections and meets minimum regulatory safety standards.
2. Legal Requirement:
In New Zealand, it is a legal requirement to obtain a CPU before allowing a premise to be used by the public. Operating without the required certification can lead to legal consequences and penalties.
3. Insurance Requirements:
Many insurance policies may require that a premise has obtained a Certificate of Public Use (CPU). This ensures that the premise has been constructed suitable for public occupation, reducing the risk of insurance claims.
4. Occupancy Approval:
The CPU signifies approval for the premises’ occupancy. It is a formal acknowledgment that the premise is suitable and safe for public occupation. Building owners may elect to rely upon CPU certification to demonstrate PCBU (Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking) responsibilities under the Health and Safety at work Act 2015. It can also be relied upon for licensed premises approval (i.e. Alcohol licenses/Sale of Liquor – Food).
What buildings are public?
Schedule 2 of the Building Act confirms on the type of buildings that are public buildings. They are generally buildings with designated public uses or buildings containing areas of open access for public use.
- shopping centres
- schools and childcare centres
- hospitals and rest homes
- premises providing public accommodation, such as hostels and guest houses
- places of assembly, including churches, cinemas and conference facilities
- clubrooms and recreation centres with public access
- restaurants and bars
- public foyers in office and apartment buildings
This list is not definitive, and we recommend that if you are unsure whether your building in whole or part constitutes a premise where members of the public other than for employees will be present, then you should take advice from your local council.
Be aware that interpretation can vary. An example of this is a reception area that is open to the public, even though the remainder of the building is closed off, the reception areas alone would also be categorised as premises intended to be open to members of the public.
Under Section 363, it is the local Council acting as the Territorial Authority (TA) who issue CPU’s. In most cases the TA will also be acting as the Building Consent Authority (BCA).
It is separate to the Building Consent process and is only intended to confirm that the premise is safe to occupy (not Building Code/Building Consent compliant).
On site, it will be necessary to demonstrate that intended occupancy area can be used safely by members of the public. It is important to know that you can only apply for a CPU where a building consent has been granted; and the code compliance certificate (CCC) has not been issued.
- Provide floors plans that show intended public occupied and restricted areas.
- Ensure all specified systems and features in the occupied areas are fully operational and supported by satisfactory commissioning statements.
- Farsight NZ always require/recommend a letter is obtained from the project Fire Design consultant confirming the proposed occupancy meets the requirements of the building Fire Safety Strategy.
- Ensure all other building work within the occupied area must be complete or completed to a satisfactory standard to provide safe occupancy.
*This list is not definitive. Contact Farsight NZ or your local Council for guidance.
Working together with the Local Council
- Engage with the TA early. Most TA staff provide practical advice and guidance around CPU’s.
- Ensure that you allow plenty of time to lodge the CPU application and set up CPU inspections.
- Work with the TA inspector. Ultimately, everyone wants the safest building outcome. The Farsight NZ team often find that engaging the inspector in the discussion around such aspects as temporary egress signage etc., always guarantees the best outcome.
Important points to remember:
- You can only apply for a CPU if a building consent has been granted but the code compliance certificate (CCC) has not been issued.
- Most Councils put time limits on CPU’s. We always recommend /request three (3) months post Practical Completion, to allow suitable time to obtain CCC.
- You will still need to apply for a code compliance certificate once the building work has been completed.
Always remember the Council acting as the Territorial Authority has authority to ask for conditions that it believes is necessary to facilitate the CPU. This may be above the scope an approved building consent.
In summary, obtaining a Certificate of Public Use in New Zealand is a critical step to ensure that a building is safe, compliant with regulations, and ready for public use. It is a legal requirement that contributes to public safety, confidence, and the overall functionality of the built environment.
The CPU is not final confirmation of compliance with active building consents, but the assessment for ‘safety’ based on requirements for the relevant building codes, regulations, and safety standards approved for ongoing building work.
Disclaimer: This publication is general in nature and should not be used as a substitute for legal or other professional advice. Please seek specific professional advice before acting in relation to any statement contained in this publication.