Housing intensification enabled by RMA Amendment Act

The Resource Management (Enabling Housing Supply and Other Matters) Amendment Act passed into law on 20 December 2021.

This Act amends the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA) by bringing forward and strengthening the National Policy Statement on Urban Development (NPS-UD). This will help to increase housing supply in our urban areas where it is needed the most.

On 14 March 2022 an Order in Council was made to incorporate Rotorua Lakes Council in the requirements of the Amendment Act.

Main amendments in the Act

Medium density residential standards

The Resource Management (Enabling Housing Supply and Other Matters) Amendment Act (the Act) requires medium density residential standards (MDRS) for specified urban areas, to enable a wider variety of housing choice.

New Zealand has a shortage of affordable housing, especially in our main urban areas. Most residential zones currently allow only a single dwelling per site and have two-storey height restrictions in urban residential areas.

The Act requires councils in the greater urban areas of Auckland, Hamilton, Tauranga, Wellington, Christchurch, and Rotorua Lakes district to apply the MDRS to most of their existing residential areas as part of their plans from August 2022. Other (tier 2 and 3) councils experiencing acute housing needs may also be required to include the MDRS in their plans.

These standards will enable people to develop up to three dwellings on each site, each being up to three storeys, without needing to apply for a resource consent. This is provided all other rules and standards in relevant plans have been complied with.

Tier 1 council and Rotorua Lakes district plans must include the MDRS shown in the table below (or standards that enable more intensification than these) from August 2022.

Residential units per site
  • Maximum 3
  • Maximum 11m + 1m for qualifying pitched roof
Height in relation to boundary
  • Maximum 4m high + 60 degree recession plane
  • Minimum:
    • 1.5m (front yard)
    • 1m (side yard)
    • 1m (rear yard; excluded on corner sites)
  • Excepting where two adjacent buildings have existing/proposed common wall
Building coverage
  • Maximum 50% of net site area
Outdoor living space (per unit)
  • Minimum 20m2 for a ground floor space, with min dimension of 3m
  • Minimum 8m2 for a balcony, patio or roof terrace, with min dimension of 1.8m
  • Must be accessible from the unit
  • May be grouped into a larger communal space.
Outlook space (per unit
  • Minimum 4m x 4m (principal living room)
  • Minimum 1m x 1m (all other habitable rooms)
Windows to street
  • Minimum 20% glazing on street-facing façade (windows or doors) for residential units facing the street
Landscaped area
  • Minimum 20% grass, plants or tree canopy coverage, across ground level of developed site

Medium-density residential standards factsheet [PDF, 1 MB]

A new planning process 

The Act introduces a new planning process that supports councils to implement the intensification policies from the NPS-UD. This is called the Intensification Streamlined Planning Process (ISPP).

The ISPP is based on the existing streamlined planning process under the RMA but is intended to be faster and easier for councils, and less costly over the medium to long-term. The ISPP enables the intensification outcomes of the NPS-UD to be achieved at least a year earlier than they would have been without the new Act.

Councils across Auckland, Hamilton, Tauranga, Wellington and Christchurch, and Rotorua Lakes district are now required to use the ISPP to incorporate the MDRS into their plans. The MDRS will have immediate legal effect by August 2022.

National medium density design guide

MfE has developed a national medium density design guide following engagement with councils, iwi and Māori organisations, and industry stakeholders.

The purpose of this guide is to encourage high-quality, well-functioning developments permitted under the MDRS.

It is intended for anyone interested in the design and development of medium-density housing in Aotearoa New Zealand, particularly small-scale property owners or those with limited experience in more complex residential developments.

See the National medium density design guide.

Next steps

MfE and Te Tūāpapa Kura Kāinga - Ministry of Housing and Urban Development officials are now supporting tier 1 councils and Rotorua Lakes Council to publicly notify the changes to their district plans by 20 August 2022.


Guidance on implementation

Information for the public