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Medium Density Residential Standards (MDRS)- what’s the process?

Updated: Feb 14

As we discussed in last week’s blog, changes to medium density urban areas in Tier 1 cities are on the horizon. But what’s the process for those provisions to actually come into force?

A new Intensification Streamlined Planning Process (ISPP) has been put in place to allow the implementation of greater residential intensification faster than usually occurs. This is summarised as:


The process includes a requirement for “Tier 1” council plan changes to be notified by August 2022 as we discussed last week, which has many Council policy planners very busy. The MDRS comes into legal effect from the time the councils notify the relevant plan change, and replaces the existing plan provisions, unless:

· a qualifying matter applies,

· the council has proposed more permissive height standards,

· greenfield land is being rezoned to residential land.

A qualifying matter (such as ecological significance, nationally significant infrastructure, natural hazards, open space for public use and heritage) will be set out in a plan change. In these cases, planning provisions have legal effect once the plan change process has been completed (approximately 12 months). “Qualifying Matters” may not prohibit development; however, they may reduce the amount of development allowed.

The August plan changes will also include changes that Councils are required to make by the National Policy Statement on Urban Development. You can find out more about these here.

The ISPP process includes opportunities for Maori, Iwi and public participation, including submissions, but no appeal rights. The process is similar to the Unitary Plan process a few years ago in Auckland.

The Medium Density Residential Standards (MDRS) are required to be adopted by Tier 1 councils (unless “Qualifying Factors” apply) to enable up to three, 3- storey dwellings to be built on urban sites without requiring resource consent. There are some exceptions to this- find out more here. The table below outlines the proposed Medium Density Residential Standards.

Table 1: Medium Density Residential Standards

The MDRS will help make it easier to establish a greater number of dwellings on urban sites, at greater heights and closer to boundaries, enabling more homes to be built within suburban residential areas. Providing greater intensity will require a mindset change as more intensive development can occur, it can establish closer to boundaries, and at increased heights than is typically found in many existing neighbourhoods. Its likely many residents in older, more established suburbs will struggle with this change.

There is also concern that the typologies of housing being encouraged will comprise amenity for people on the sites and those adjoining. This includes a lack of privacy, outdoor living space, outlook and sunlight access. It will be interesting to see how people choose to develop their sites, how much of a role the market plays in positive urban design outcomes, and how far “qualifying factors” will reach!

Need more advice?

If you are proposing residential development on your site and require further information in regard to changes proposed through the MDRS, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us at Planning Plus. Planning Plus 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.

Helen is a Senior Planner at Plan

ning Plusand has over 16 years’ experience in planning

and environmental consulting. Helen's experience includes the preparation of resource consents, compliance monitoring, environmental auditing, community consultation and environmental fund coordination. Her background has provided her with a wide range and thorough understanding of technical and environmental inputs.

Helen holds a Bachelor of Applied Science (Environmental Science) and Bachelor of Business (Management) Conjoint Degree and is an Associate Member of the New Zealand Planning Institute.


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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