What is the process for getting a Septic Tank?

Onsite visit

It’s best to book in an appraisal with the team at J G Smaill Plumbing. At the onsite visit we look over several criteria and go through a few things. Things we will look at include; the potential septic tank site, access to the site, and consider the grade of the site, distance from the dwelling, if there is a history of instability on the site, and where the disposal area will be. Then we consider the soakage area and what vegetation and plants would be best, if the treatment area needs to be fenced (to be protected from stock for example), and specific council guidelines for your area.

Council approval

We work with the Clutha Council (CDC), Dunedin City Council (DCC) or Otago Regional Council (ORC), and Waitaki District Council. If you have access to a mains sewage system, you can’t have an on-site sewage system. Things to consider when it comes to Council approval are:

  • Many councils now require new systems to have at least two chambers (which is better than one!) Check with your council or ask us.

  • Councils often provide their own specific Septic Tank guidelines (eg. ORC recommend 165 litres of water (minimum) per person, per day. We recommend 180-200 per person per day to insure your tank is adequate.

Council Requirements

Legal Requirements

You’ll require a building consent to install a septic tank, you’ll need to meet council requirements (which we can help you with). Some councils require extra requirements such as additional water treatments (say with ultraviolet light to kill bacteria). An environmental engineer’s report and soil analysis may be required depending on the site and treatment area.


Make sure you use a qualified installer, like Smaill Plumbing, who also have lots of experience. We have over 42 years of history in the plumbing industry. We have experience installing domestic and commercial dwelling septic tanks for a range of clients in a range of settings; not just for residential homes and lifestyle blocks but also for septic tanks for dairy sheds, airport hangers, wool sheds, and building sites.

Soak area installation

We have more on the criteria around soakage treatment areas, please contact us. In New Zealand, we commonly plant native flaxes and grasses and plants that are very effective in a soakage area. Having a site visit with J G Smaill is key in the process of installing a Septic Tank as there’s several criteria to consider before introducing a soakage treatment area.

  • The gradient, moisture content and how shallow the site is

  • Any history of instability at the site

  • The soil type at the site

  • What plants and vegetation would be best

  • How large the treatment area should be

  • Specific council guidelines

  • If the area needs to be fenced off to protect it from stock

Ongoing maintenance

We offer ongoing maintenance with our Septic tanks, cleaning and ongoing site assesments. We can also come and look at your existing Septic tank if it’s in need of repairs, cleaning or maintenance. Often, it’s just the disposal site that needs attention. We have a great guide on how to spot Septic Tank Failure and Do’s and Don’ts around Septic Tank living.

How much do they cost?

Septic tanks range in price, based on size that’s dependent on occupants and water usage. Upfront costs really depend on property, so it’s best to book in an onsite assessment to get an idea of cost with one of our experienced team.  It’s smart to also consider things such as installation costs and any additional costs that may come along with your installation, such as council approval and soil testing. Please consider ongoing maintenance costs before installing a septic tank, as keeping your tank and soak area clean and well maintained can help avoid future issues.

12 Waverley Street, Dunedin 9012 Phone (03) 489 1802
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