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Medium density changes- what are they?

Many of you will have heard mention of proposed changes to what’s permitted in medium density areas. With so many other changes planned or underway at the moment, it can confusing about what’s happening and when. This is our first blog in a series about what’s commonly referred to as the “medium density changes” or “3 by 3 changes”. They’re intended as a useful guide for architects, designers and developers, but please do undertake your own research as things are changing quickly in this space!



What’s happening?

The Enabling Housing Supply Act requires some Councils to change their planning documents to increase development potential. In summary, it seeks to enable medium density housing of up to three-storeys across most of Auckland’s urban suburbs without needing a resource consent, including terrace housing and low-rise apartments. Up to three houses per site could be established without needing resource consent. The Standards, such as yard setbacks, maximum height and height in relation to boundary will also change. These are called the Medium Density Residential Standards (MDRS).


Together these amendments will not only change the density of houses, but their form. It will create a significant shift from what exists today in many areas.



Who does it apply to?


The greatest change will be in “Tier 1” Council areas. These are Auckland, Hamilton, Tauranga, Wellington, Christchurch and the more recent addition of Rotorua. In these areas, the new provisions will relate to all urban environments except :

  • 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.

What’s the process?


We receive enquiries from a number of people who think that these rules are already in force- they’re not. There is a process that we’re part way through in relation to these rules having legal effect. Now (early April 2022), the Act has been passed and Auckland Council is drafting related changes to the Auckland Unitary Plan (AUP). Plan Changes are required to be notified by 20 August 2022, and people can make submissions. The medium density rules will have immediate