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Intensification for you, you and you!

Updated: Feb 14

For those of you living in urban areas or developing urban land, you will no doubt have heard about Auckland Council’s intensification plan change notified last Thursday. This has been a topic of much conversation since it was first announced by central government last year. What does it mean for you, your development and what can happen on your neighbour’s land?

What is the plan change?

Auckland Council has notified proposed plan change 78, called “Intensification”. This is a change to the Auckland Unitary Plan (Operative in Part) and is in response to RMA changes made by central government- the changes are largely out of the Councils direct control.

Broadly speaking, the plan change provides for more intensive development on most urban zoned sites. In many areas, this is medium density housing (up to three dwellings on a site), up to three-storeys in height without needing a resource consent, including terrace housing and low-rise apartments. More than three houses can be constructed by applying for resource consent. Greater density is enabled around the edge of the city centre, the edge of metropolitan centres and from existing and planned rapid transit stops.

What’s in Plan Change 78?

It’s a big document- it contains a lot! But in summary, Plan Change 78 includes:

  • Rezoning of some sites. You can see this on the plan change maps. You can access these here.

  • Introduction of “Qualifying Matters” which limit development. Some, but not all, of these are shown on the plan change maps. The Qualifying Matters include important natural features, outstanding natural landscapes and features, historic heritage, special character areas, important infrastructure and areas where development is constrained by infrastructure and transportation capacity.

  • Introduction of new zone Standards. This includes the Standards required by the MDRS (“Medium Density Residential Standards” as required by central government) and some additional Council Standards.

  • Changes to zone descriptions, objectives, policies, definitions.

  • Changes to urban subdivision provisions, in particular the activity status of certain types of subdivision.

  • Changes to various other provisions.

Does it have immediate legal effect?

Plan Change 78 only has immediate legal effect in relation to some developments. These developments must meet all of the following:

  • Three or less dwellings (or alterations and additions),

  • The site is zoned Residential – Mixed Housing Urban Zone or Residential – Terrace Housing and Apartment Buildings Zone,

  • The proposal is not within the Auckland Light Rail corridor,

  • Proposed Plan Change 78 says the proposal is a permitted activity,

  • Proposed Plan Change 78 incorporates the MDRS into the relevant residential zone,

  • The proposal complies with MDRS,

  • There are no qualifying matters applying to the development site (and the site is not a new residential zone.

Contrary to what a lot of people think, there are many cases where Plan Change 78 will not have immediate legal effect.

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What urban sites are excluded?

Not all urban sites in Auckland are covered by these changes. In these areas, the existing Auckland Unitary Plan rules will continue to apply. These areas include:

  • large lot residential zones and settlement zones,

  • areas predominantly urban in character that the 2018 census recorded as having a resident population of less than 5,000, unless a local authority intends the area to become part of an urban environment, or

  • offshore islands.

So much information!

Yes- there is a lot of information to take in with Plan Change 78- where do you start and what’s relevant to you? We’re in the process of drafting a handy FAQ information sheet, with a focus on what an architect, designer or developer may need to know. We’ll send you a copy when available, and you will also be able to view it on our website.

In addition, we also have more information to come in blogs that we hope will answer your questions about how Plan Change 78 affects you, your development and what provisions you need to consider. You can access these on our website here.

What is the process for Plan Change 78?

Plan changes move through a specific legal process. You can find out more in this blog. You can also make a submission on Plan Change 78- if you have an interest in the changes that this plan change will enable (either in support of what’s proposed or in opposition) we encourage you to make a submission. You can make a submission here- submissions close on 29 September 2022. There is also free “Friend of the Submitter” assistance available. You can find out more about this here.

Want to know more now?

We know that this plan change is creating a good deal of confusion amongst property owners and developers alike. If you want more advice now about how Plan Change 78 affects your development, get in contact. You can contact us on or (09) 427 9966.

Hannah Thomson is Director of Planning Plusand has over 20 years of resource management experience working in both local government and the private sector. This includes five years at Rodney District Council in roles including Senior Planner and Team Leader. Hannah has a wide range of experience including commercial, rural, residential and coastal development and subdivision on small to large scales and appearances at both Council and Environment Court as an expert witness for mediation and hearings. Hannah has assisted Councils with policy development and has also assisted private individuals with submissions to Council.

Hannah holds the qualifications of BSc (Environmental Science) and Master of Applied Science (Environmental Management), is a Member (Int) of the New Zealand Planning Institute and Secretary of the New Zealand Planning Institute Auckland Branch Committee. Hannah is also a member of the Resource Management Law Association.


As with all our blogs this information is preliminary in nature only and we have used our best endeavours to ensure it is correct at the time of writing. It is not intended to substitute for your own investigations or obtaining specific advice on your proposal from professionals. Planning Plus LtdTM is not liable in any way for any errors or omissions.

© Planning Plus Ltd 2023

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