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Flying drones or UAVs

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) requires people to obtain Council approval to operate unmanned aircraft on Council-owned land.

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA)

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) regulates civil aviation in New Zealand, and sets the rules around the use of remotely piloted aircraft systems also known as Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV), Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS), model aircraft and drones.

The CAA rules include the requirement for people to obtain approval from the land owner or the occupier of the land you want to fly over. Other requirements from the CAA and Air Traffic Control define where and how you can fly unmanned aircraft, and what permissions you need to get before doing so.

Council isn’t responsible for setting or monitoring these rules.

Where you can fly

Tauranga's boundaries are in a controlled airspace. This means that if you want to fly anything in that airspace, you need permission from air traffic control.

In addition, CAA defines four-kilometre zones around all aerodromes, where the use of the airspace is further restricted. In our case: one around the airport, and one around the hospital’s helipad. In these zones, you need to have a pilot licence (or to be accompanied by someone who does) in addition to having permission from air traffic control.

To obtain authorisation from air traffic control, register and log your flights on the Airshare UAV hub. The hub also provides a wealth of other information and news on the UAV industry.

You don’t need to get a pilot licence or air traffic control authorisation if you’re flying as a 'shielded operation' which CAA defines as “an operation of an aircraft within 100m of, and below the top of, a natural or man-made object”.

This means you can fly your unmanned aircraft in the Tauranga area as long as you keep your aircraft lower than the highest tree / building / ridge within 100m of where you’re standing.

You also need to be:

  • outside the boundary of any aerodrome 
  • physically separated from any aerodrome by a barrier that is capable of arresting the flight of the aircraft (e.g. a fence, a hedge or a building)

But you need to have permission from landowners first.

Landowner or occupier permission

The CAA rules require people to obtain approval from the landowner or the occupier of the land you want to fly over. What this means:

On private land

Fly over your own property or get permission from whoever owns / occupies / is in charge of the land you want to fly over.

On Council-owned parks and reserves

Provided you follow the CAA operating rules (see below), you have Tauranga City Council’s permission to fly in Council parks and reserves, with the exception of:

  • Memorial Park
  • Blake Park
  • Arataki Park
  • Mauao*
  • Council cemeteries and
  • any sports fields when organised sports events or training are taking place.

*Mauao or the Mount is not owned by Council. The Mauao Trust as the owners of Mauao do not give permission for any drones to fly over the Mount.

Council may consider specific requests to fly over these areas contact us for details on how to apply. CAA and other rules and conditions as noted below will apply.

Many of our parks and reserves sit in the 4km zones around aerodromes – meaning that if you want to fly there, you will either need to stick to shielded operation (stay low etc.), or to obtain air traffic control permission and a pilot licence.

The CAA rule also says you need to get consent from anyone you want to fly over (this can be given verbally).

Council-owned roads (excludes state highways and motorways)

Council may consider specific requests to fly over these areas, for commercial or private purposes. Please email corridor.access@tauranga.govt.nz for details on how to apply. CAA and other rules and conditions as noted below will apply.

Flying rules

Other rules and conditions apply, whether you’re flying with or without pilot licence and Air Traffic Control authorisation.

CAA operating rules

  • never fly higher than 120 metres / 400 feet above ground level
  • only fly during daylight hours
  • always fly within visual line of sight – you need to be able to see the aircraft with your own eyes at all times (i.e. not through binoculars, a monitor, or smartphone) 
  • at all times take all practicable steps to minimise hazards to persons, property and other aircraft (i.e. don’t do anything hazardous). Give way to all other aircraft, and have abort systems in place in the event of a system failure (know how your aircraft will behave if a failure occurs)

If you are concerned that these rules are being breached, please contact the CAA.

Council conditions when flying in parks or reserves

  • Be courteous of other park users, who often are there for the quiet enjoyment of the park
  • Don't operate within 20m of sensitive wildlife habitats, or, nesting or roosting birds, such as the NZ dotterel
  • Don't operate during a fire ban period
  • Don't overfly adjoining private property without prior consent from the owner/occupier
  • Cease operation if requested by Council staff

Any breach of the above conditions could result in termination of your permission to use public land for the above purposes. 

Permitted aircraft

You are only permitted to fly unmanned aircraft weighing less than 25kgs on public land. 

The rules and permissions set out on this page cover electric-powered, remote-controlled model aircraft commonly referred to as 'drones' that are capable of vertical take-off and landing. They also cover small hand-launched gliders less than 1.5m wing span. 

The rules and permissions set out on this page do not cover the following:

  • fixed-wing electric-powered model aircraft greater than 1m wing span
  • gliders greater than 1.5m wingspan and bungee-launched gliders
  • all internal combustion engine (petrol)-powered aircraft
  • all jet-powered models.

These types of unmanned aircraft can only be flown on private property or officially recognised sites under the control of approved operators, such as model aircraft clubs.


As long as your kite is moored (i.e. you have it on a string) and kept under 120m / 400ft, you can fly it where you like and don’t need to seek permission. 

Privacy act

You need to comply with the Office of the Privacy Commissioner guidance on preserving peoples’ personal privacy by not flying over other people using the park or over adjoining private property without their consent. Note that the Privacy Commissioner’s CCTV guidelines apply to how someone might use drones fitted with cameras and comply with the Privacy Act.

Related information

Get authorisation - Airshare UAV hub
Check before you fly - Controlled airspace and 4km zones
Know your responsibilities - Duties of pilot-in-command
Use the right frequencies - Frequencies legal for unmanned aircraft

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