Housing supply bill makes haste

Topics covered in this article: Home Owners, Property, RMA, RMA & Local Government

Jemma Hollis

Senior Solicitor

Senior Solicitor

Phone: +64 7 927 0528
Email: jhollis@clmlaw.co.nz

Bachelor of Laws Hons (1st class); Bachelor of Science


The Resource Management (Enabling Housing Supply and Other Matters) Amendment Act 2021 came into force in December 2021. In a show of cross party unity, the Amendment Act was announced by both the Labour and National parties in a joint press conference in October 2021. Aimed at addressing long standing housing supply issues plaguing first home buyers, the Amendment Act seeks to increase development in residential environments through reducing planning restrictions and providing more certainty for developers.

In order to facilitate development quickly, amendments were proposed to both the Resource Management Act 1991 and the National Policy Statement on Urban Development (NPS-UD). Medium Density Residential Standards (MDR Standards) will create a new nationwide resource consent free process for urban housing developments which comply with given requirements (such as height, yards, and site coverage). The MDR Standards include the ability to build up to three dwellings at up to three stories in height per site (for example, in a townhouse style development) as a permitted activity. A resource consent is required for the development of four or more dwellings. However, if the MDR standards are complied with, the consent will not be publicly or limited notified. It is important to note that depending on the rules in the District Plan resource consent may still be required under other district wide rules such as those related to infrastructure and transport, and any subdivision will likely require a controlled activity consent.

The changes apply to the greater Auckland, Hamilton, Tauranga (which includes the Western Bay), Wellington, and Christchurch urban areas, with other urban areas able to be brought in later if further housing supply issues are identified (Rotorua has already done this).

The MDR Standards apply to all residential zones except for large lot residential and areas containing ‘qualifying matters’. Qualifying matters are outlined in the NPS-UD, and include areas affected by natural hazards and containing heritage features. More intensive development can still occur in areas with qualifying matters where the development is sensitive to the feature.

The MDR Standards will be introduced into council planning documents through a new Intensification Streamlined Planning Process (ISP Process). Under the ISP Process  councils must notify changes to policy documents to reflect the MDR Standards by 20 August 2022. In some cases, the changes will have immediate legal effect on notification.  This is different to the general position where changes don’t take effect until decisions on submissions have been made. 

Submissions will be heard by an independent panel who will provide recommendations to the council. If the council agrees, the decisions will be notified. If there is disagreement, the Minister for the Environment will make the final decision. There will be no rights of appeal for the final decisions, with the aim being to have the ISP Processes completed within 12 months of notification. Any private plan changes will also be required to incorporate the MDR Standards, with councils unable to accept or adopt plan change requests which do not.

Councils are currently laying the ground work for the ISP Process. For example, Auckland Council is now seeking feedback on its proposed heritage qualifying areas, which excludes some existing special character heritage areas to allow more intensive development and give effect to the Amendment Act. Feedback on the Auckland Council consultation closes on 9 May.  In Tauranga, Plan Change 26 (notified in November 2020) responded to the NPS-UD and proposed to make it easier to build more compact forms of housing whilst creating appropriate urban design outcomes in selected urban areas. In light of the amendments, Plan Change 26 is currently on hold pending assessment of what changes may needed.

If you have any questions about what the Amendment Act and new MDRS may mean for you, please contact our Resource Management team.



Last Updated:   22 April 2022

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