Government enacts sweeping change to town and city planning

A transport crisis in Auckland and arguably the worst housing affordability in the OECD. The Government’s response? Sweeping legislative changes which deregulate town planning requirements and permit housing intensification like never seen before.

To many, the changes are a welcome solution to what some have dubbed the respective transport and housing affordability crises, to others they mark the end of the quarter-acre Kiwi dream, and, to a few, they scream opportunity.  Whichever camp you find yourself in, it is important you understand the nature of the changes and what you might be able to do about them.

On 20 December 2021 the Resource Management (Enabling Housing Supply and Other Matters) Amendment Act 2021 (Act) received Royal Assent and came into force the following day.  Among other things, the Act says that “Specified Territorial Authorities” have to to incorporate Medium Density Residential Standards (MDRS) – read changes to town planning which permit intensified housing.

So what is a “Specified Territorial Authority”? 

The Act says this means every “tier 1” territorial authority and in some circumstances “tier 2” and “tier 3” authorities.  “Tier 1” authorities include the Auckland, Christchurch, Hamilton, Tauranga, and Wellington City Councils, along with some of the City and District Councils which make up the broader Canterbury, Bay of Plenty, Waikato and Wellington regions.

And what do the Medium Density Residential Standards say?

The MDRS are set out in Schedule 3A of the Act.  The density standards include standards relating to building height, height in relation to boundary, building coverage of section, and outdoor living space, among other things.  The objectives of the MDRS contemplate a “well-functioning urban environment” that caters to housing needs and demand, while giving consideration and responding to urban character.  The MDRS’ policies specifically contemplate a mix of housing types and a mix of densities, including 3-storey attached and detached dwellings, and low-rise apartments.

Response from Councils

The proposed new planning rules vary from Council to Council, but appear to broadly have the same effect.  Subdivision of properties remains regulated to an extent.  However, setbacks have been reduced and building height limits have been increased – both without the need for resource consent where it would have previously been required.  The intention appears to be that, except for residential pockets of towns and cities deemed “character” areas, the classic 1920’s 3 bedroom bungalow on a 600m2 section will make way for a number of taller townhouses.

The Christchurch City Council’s proposed changes to the District Plan include the creation of a “High Density Residential Zone” allowing construction of housing up to 14m in height without a resource consent and a “Medium Density Residential Zone” allowing construction of three homes up to 12m in height on a single property – which, subject to some exceptions, has to be 400m2 at minimum.

A copy of the Christchurch City Council’s proposed changes, along with a map showing the affected areas, can be found on their website at:


How can we help?

 The proposed changes may affect you in a number of different ways:

  1. You may be less than keen for a tall townhouse to be built next door and want to know if these changes will affect you.  If you are not sure, we can advise on your specific situation.
  2. It may be that issues arise with your new development, or with the new development next door.  Our team is well placed to advise and guide you through the dispute resolution process.
  3. You may be a developer, seeing the deregulation as a world of opportunity.  Our property team is well equipped to assist you with your planned subdivision, and guide you through the difficulties that construction contracts can present.


Should you have any questions, please do not hesitate to get in touch.