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Medium density changes- What’s Auckland Council’s response?

There is a lot going on in planning in 2022- and at the moment there is a lot of talk about proposed changes to development restrictions and resource consent requirements in urban areas. Often referred to as the “3x3 changes”, “medium density changes” or “MDRS”, these planning changes will bring about big transformations in many urban areas.

What’s changing?

This blog is part of a series on the medium density changes. You can access information about what’s proposed to change as a result of the new legislation in this blog.

What is Auckland Council’s response?

On 19 April, Auckland Council released a series of consultation documents, indicating what changes may be made to the Auckland Unitary Plan in the August 2022 plan changes. The information includes draft maps and information sheets.

Large areas of urban Auckland are proposed to be rezoned from Single House Zone and Mixed Housing Suburban to Mixed Housing Urban (Modified). New Standards will apply to this zone (which have been set by central government)- you can find out more about the Standards here. Up to three houses will be able to be built on these sites without resource consent. Development in excess of this, development not meeting applicable Auckland Unitary Plan standards and subdivision will still require resource consent.

Its important to note that the vast majority of the changes indicated in the council’s consultation documents are being directed by central government; there are only limited aspects that Auckland Council is able to change. For example, the Standards can only be changed to make them more lenient. “Qualifying matters” can only be introduced or expanded following detailed and often site by site analysis.

The extent of the new development potential and what that development can look like is likely to be a surprise to many Auckland residents, especially in the more established suburbs which could soon be ripe for redevelopment.

Where can I find the maps?

Auckland Council have released maps as part of their consultation package, that shows how Auckland Council propose, at this stage, the zones will change and where “qualifying matters” (see below) will likely apply. You can access the maps here.

Why is my site still shown as Single House Zone?

There are some site exclusions for the MDRS changes, and these are:

  • large lot residential zones and settlement zones. These zones will be unaffected,

  • 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.

The reference to the 2018 census is problematic- a lot has changed in the last 4 years! Some urban areas that were quite small 4 years ago are now much bigger. One example is Riverhead, which has seen significant growth in recent years and will continue to.

Qualifying Matters

Central government has stated that development on sites can be reduced from what the Act would otherwise require, if a “qualifying matter” is present. Some “Qualifying matters” have been identified by central government, and are:

(a) a matter of national importance under section 6 of the RMA

(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

In its consultation documents released on 19 April, Auckland Council has also indicated that they may include the following as qualifying matters:

- Auckland War Memorial Viewshaft Overlay.

- City Centre character buildings and built form controls.

- Local public views.

- Ridgeline Protection Overlay.

- Significant Infrastructure Constraints.

- Special Character Areas (Residential and Business)

Clara will provide some further guidance on these qualifying matters in next week’s blog.

Are these all the changes?

The changes indicated in the Council’s MDRS consultation documents aren’t all the changes that could be made to the Auckland Unitary Plan in August. Other changes include:

  • There are large areas shown as “under investigation”, such as the proposed light rail route. This is partially because the exact route of light rail and location of the stations aren’t confirmed. There should be more certainty on this in the August 2022 plan changes.

  • Precincts are shown as “under investigation”. Auckland Council are still investigating how the Unitary Plan will be amended in these areas.

  • The extent of the “qualifying matters” may change.

  • In addition to the medium density changes, the August 2022 plan changes will also give effect to parts of the National Policy Statement on Urban Development (NPS(UD)) by introducing new rules related to the city centre, metropolitan centres and other specific areas. In Auckland, metropolitan centres are Newmarket, Manukau, New Lynn, Sylvia Park, Botany, Papakura, Takapuna, Henderson, Albany and Westgate. Other smaller centres will also be affected. These changes will enable buildings of six storeys or more within walkable distances of rapid transit stops, the city centre or the 10 large metropolitan centres. We’ll discuss this also in a future blog so keep an eye on our website,

Do these documents have legal effect?

No, the information the Council has released in April 2022 is for consultation purposes only and doesn’t have any legal effect.

What’s the process?

You can find out more about the process in Helen’s blog here.

What’s the timeframe?

There is a lot of change proposed in a relatively short period of time, so it’ll be important to keep up to date with the stage of the process. Auckland Council have indicated that their timeframes are:

  • Tuesday 19 April - Monday 9 May 2022: Public feedback is being sought. You can provide this using the following link.

  • May 2022 - July 2022: Public feedback on the consultation documents will be reviewed and Council have confirmed a summary of the feedback will be made available. Council will then work on the final proposed changes to the Unitary Plan.

  • 18 August - 15 September 2022: Public notification of the plan change is expected on 18 August, slightly before the 20 August deadline imposed by central government.

  • From September 2022 through to 2024: An independent Hearings Panel (IHP) will consider all submissions and hear directly from people who submitted. The IHP will then make recommendations to Auckland Council on changes to the Unitary Plan. If the council doesn't accept the recommendations the Minister for the Environment will make a final decision.

More information?

It can be confusing trying to understand how the changes may impact on your development. We will be regularly posting more blogs about the changes proposed, and providing information in our monthly newsletters (to receive out newsletters you can add your details here).

If you need more information or have a development in mind, please give us a call or e-mail. You can contact our resource consent specialists on or 09 427 9966. You can also access hundreds of blogs on our website, for free- We look forward to helping you in your development journey.

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.


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