MDRS – What’s a "qualifying matter"?

In this blog series we are discussing the changes planned to enable urban intensification in medium density urban areas, with emphasis on New Zealand’s largest cities (Tier 1), such as Auckland. If you haven’t seen our previous blogs, you can start reading here. These changes are often referred to as the Medium Density Residential Standards (MDRS) or 3x3 changes, and impact on what development can occur and what will require resource consent.


As part of the process to meet the Enabling Housing Supply Act requirements (also known as MDRS), on 19 April 2022, Auckland Council released documents for public consultation regarding the proposed changes to the Auckland Unitary Plan- you can find out more here. These proposed changes will enable people to construct up to three houses of up to three stories (including terrace housing) on many urban sites in Auckland without needing a resource consent. Auckland- wide planning rules, including subdivision, still apply can could still trigger the need for resource consent.


However, in terms of the Act, central government’s reforms allow Councils to modify or reduce the building height or densities in some areas where “qualifying matters” are present.


What is a “qualifying matter”?

The Enabling Housing Supply Act lists what is considered a “qualifying matter” and in some cases Councils can add to this. In summary, qualifying matters are characteristics of some properties or within some areas where it is appropriate to modify or reduce building height or density sought by the MDRS changes. This includes sites of cultural, historical, or ecological significance or to avoid development in areas with natural hazards. Qualifying matters identified by central government include:


(a) a matter of national importance under section 6 of the Resource Management Act (you can see these here),

(b) a matter required by any other National Policy Statement,

(c) a matter required to give effect to Te Ture Whaimana o Te Awa o Waikato - the Vision and Strategy for the Waikato River,

(d) a matter required to give effect to the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park Act 2000 or the Waitakere Ranges Heritage Area Act 2008,

(e) any matter that ensures the safe or efficient operation of nationally significant infrastructure,

(f) open space provided for public use,

(g) an area subject to a designation or heritage order,

(h) a matter that implements or ensures consistency with iwi participation legislation,

(i) the requirement to provide sufficient business land suitable for low-density uses.


Councils can add qualifying matters, but as part of this must demonstrate through robust justification why such qualifying matters should apply. The underlying presumption of the MDRS changes is that the new provisions should apply unless there is a specific and valid reason for them not to.


What has Auckland Council identified as likely qualifying matters?

Councils are able to identify additional qualifying matters that are relevant to their specific places and communities. In its consultation documents, Auckland Council has identified that the following qualifying matters are likely:



How can I find if a qualifying matter may apply to my site?

As discussed in our last blog, Auckland Council have released maps as part of their consultation package, and you can access the maps here. After typing the address of interest, click on the icon “layers” to see the proposed Qualifying Matters (see the image below as a reference). It is important to remember that these are draft maps for consultation purposes, which can be changed when the formal plan changes are notified in August 2022.



Impacts on development potential

As noted above, although the medium density (MDRS) changes will allow some development without a resource consent, it is important to investigate if your property is within an area where a qualifying matter may apply. This is because the new Standards may be varied in those areas (you can find out more about the primary Standards here), with different (reduced) building height or densities, or require a resource consent to build, demolish or remove buildings or vegetation where a qualifying matter applies.


The consultation document released by the Council is just that- a consultation document. It doesn’t have any legal weight yet and you cannot develop in accordance with it now. The formal plan changes, which may be different to the consultant documents, will not be notified until August 2022. Until then, the Auckland Unitary Plan and resource consent triggers remain the same as they are now.


Need more advice?

If you are unsure how the MDRS will impact your site or development, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us at Planning PlusTM.


Planning PlusTM can assist you with any resource consent process including providing initial planning advice. You can contact us on hello@planningplus.co.nz or (09) 427 9966. We also have a lot of other blogs on our website that can help you with your resource consent journey.


Clara Casaes is an Intermediate Planner at Planning Plus™and has 14 years of international experience working on land development and transport infrastructure projects. This includes land development and subdivision on all scales, and large-scale infrastructure projects such as busways, subways and airports. During these years, Clara’s work primarily related to consenting, including writing Assessments of Environmental Effects, attendance at Hearings, consulting with stakeholders and managing multi-disciplinary project teams. Clara’s background has provided her with a big picture view from initial concept design through to the construction phase of a project.

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.


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