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Medium Density Residential Standards– How does it compare to what’s in the Unitary Plan now?

Updated: Feb 14

In this blog series, we are looking at the ‘medium density changes’ introduced by the Resource Management (Enabling Housing Supply and Other Matters) Amendment Act 2021. The Act requires Medium Density Residential Standards (MDRS) related plan changes to be notified by Tier 1 Council’s by August 2022. The main purpose of the introduction of the MDRS to enable more medium-density homes in these areas, to accommodate future population growth and to provide more housing options and affordable homes.

If you’re in Auckland, you may have seen the consultation documents Auckland Council released this week. This is in anticipation of the August plan changes to the Auckland Unitary Plan. There are other changes to the Auckland Unitary Plan required by the National Policy Statement (Urban Development) and these will be discussed in a future blog.

In summary, the MDRS standards will enable people to build up to three houses (including terrace housing and low-rise apartments) of up to three stories on most urban sites in Auckland, without the need for resource consent.

The MDRS will apply to most urban areas. There are three zones in the Auckland Unitary Plan (Operative in Part)(AUP(OP)) that will be impacted by the MDRS, including the Single House Zone, Mixed Housing Suburban Zone and Mixed Housing Urban Zone. The MDRS will enable more flexible or permissive development standards compared to the current AUP(OP) zone standards. The below table compares the MDRS standards and the current AUP(OP) standards in the above zones:

Table 1: Comparison of MDRS and current standards under the AUP(OP)

(Please note this is a summary only, and there are definitions, exemptions and qualifications that are relevant to the application of the above Standards).

Sites zoned Single House and Mixed Housing Suburban will be most impacted by the changes. The MDRS provisions will allow for a great number of dwellings (Single House Zone) at greater heights, with bulk closer to site boundaries (due to the more lenient height in relation to boundary Standards) with narrower front yard setbacks, smaller outdoor spaces, and outlook spaces. In terms of the Mixed Housing Urban Zone, whilst the current zone standards already enable a reasonable level of intensification, the MDRS changes will introduce more permissive rules in terms of height in relation to boundary, landscaped area, outdoor living space and outlook spaces. These will help achieve the purpose of the new Act of providing more medium-density homes. The overall impact on design and amenity outcomes, for future residents and neighbors, is yet to be seen.

Many the potential issues addressed via the MDRS Standards (i.e., the “type” of standard) are already in place in the Auckland unitary Plan (although the actual standard requirements are proposed to become more permissive). The MDRS introduces a new standard - ‘windows to street’ which requires generous glazing to be established on the front façade of the building. Windows are an important element in building design which helps improve the visual interest of the buildings façade, breaks up the perceived bulk of the development, improves passive surveillance, enhances the streetscape and usually enhances internal amenity for residents. This new control will need consideration by designers and architects in their overall project design.

As can be seen, the changes proposed will enable development that is quite different to what could occur under the AUP(OP) now. There are still limitations that can be introduced on specific sites, via the “qualifying factors” provisions of the legislation, and until the plan changes are operative there is potential for provisions to change. The documents that the Council released on 19 April 2022 are for consultation purposes only and do not have any legal weight in terms of development assessment under the AUP(OP) at this point. We suggest you discuss your specific proposal with your planner, to establish the risk for your development. Formal plan changes to the AUP(OP) will be notified in August 2022. You can review our previous blogs (here and here) to learn more about the process.

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 with the process along with the preparation of the resource consent application. You can contact us on or (09) 427 9966. We also have a lot of other blogs on our website that can help you with your resource consent journey.

Claire is an Intermediate Planner at Planning Plus and has 5 years of experience in resource consenting. Claire has been involved various projects which include the preparation and assessment of resource consents for residential developments and subdivisions consents.

Claire holds the qualification of Bachelor of Urban Planning (Honours) and is an Intermediate Member of the New Zealand Planning Institute.

In addition to her planning expertise, Claire is also fluent in English, Mandarin and Cantonese.


As with all our blogs this information is preliminary in nature only and we have endeavored 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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