MDRS – New Housing Rules – Auckland Intensifies

Written by Peter Reaburn | Director | Cato Bolam Consultants

In August 2022 Auckland Council introduced a plan change (Plan Change 78) that incorporates the new Medium Density Residential Standards (MDRS), required by the RMA Amendment Act 2022 (New Housing Supply Standards). The purpose of the RMA Amendment Act is to rapidly accelerate the supply of housing and help to address some of the issues with housing choice and affordability.

A large number of submissions have been received on Plan Change 78.  The hearings process has commenced and it was intended that decisions be finalised in early 2024. That timeframe has now been set back a year to allow time for Auckland council to address the implications of recent major flooding events.  There has also been a direction that Council consider a large area of the isthmus that was not included in Plan Change 78 – the “Light Rail Exclusion Area”.  It will now not be until 2025 that decisions will be made.  Within that time there will be an election and most recently some doubt has been generated that the legislation may be changed further.  So this is very much a “watch this space” process but in the meantime there are uncertainties that apply, including in relation to how resource consent applications that may rely in part on the MDRS are assessed.

If and until things change, over much of Auckland’s residential urban area, and subject to meeting the new standards, the new housing rules now enable 3 storeys and 3 dwellings per site as of right, provided that the site is not subject to a “Qualifying Matter” (this is further explained below).

The new standards are:
Dwellings Permitted 3
Building Height 11m + 1m for pitched roof
Height in Relation to Boundary 4m + 60°
Yards Front – 1.5m

Side/Rear 1m

(yards adjoining water bodies are greater)

Building Coverage 50%
Landscaped Area 20%
Impervious Coverage N/A (does not change)
Outdoor Living Space 20m² with a dimension of 3m ground floor 8m² + 1.8m upper floors
Outlook Principal Living Room 4m x 4m

Other Habitable rooms 1m x 1m

Glazing to Street 20%

If the MDRS are not met, or more than 3 units are proposed, then a resource consent is required and the old (i.e. pre-plan change) standards still apply.

The plan change also enables buildings of six storeys or more within walking distances (walkable catchments) from major town centres and public transport nodes.

The new rules substantially change development possibilities over much of the urban part of Auckland, including most areas that have been zoned Single House Zone.  However they do not apply everywhere. For instance, they do not apply in rural villages and towns with a population of less than 5,000 people, or on sites zoned Large Lot.  “Qualifying Matters” also apply in other circumstances, such as where there are natural hazards, infrastructure constraints or areas of bush or other ecological significance. Where areas are subject to a precinct or other overlay, such as viewshafts, those overlays continue to apply.

Most residential properties will be in one of the following three zones:

  1. Terrace Housing and Apartment Buildings Zone (“THAB” Zone – buildings of six storeys or more)
  2. Mixed Housing Urban Zone (“MHU” Zone – now the most extensive zone, allowing three units of up to three storeys high)
  3. Low Density Residential Zone (“LDR” Zone where qualifying matters apply, limited to two storeys)

The Auckland Council website has a zone map viewer that shows the new zonings

View Zone Map by clicking here

View Zone Map MDRS - MDRS - New Housing Rules - Auckland Intensifies
Click image to view zone map

It is important to note that resource consents are still required for subdivision and any non-compliance with standards such as earthworks, and public infrastructure such as stormwater and wastewater must be available to connect to.  The need for building consents is also unchanged.

Cato Bolam can advise on how the new standards may be used on any particular site.

Further reading

Auckland Council Draft Future Development Strategy. The FDS introduces major changes which will have a significant impact on landowners. We discuss the implications for your property here.

Auckland Council Draft Future Development Strategy – Major Changes Proposed


We discuss the new MDRS standards and the potential for your property here.

Property Development: The Importance of Development Feasibility and Initial Concept Designs