How do I find out what I can build on my property? Where do I start?
The new medium density residential standards (MDRS) apply to most properties in residential zones that are not subject to a ‘qualifying matter’, or exemption to limit building heights and density in some areas.
The plan change is proposing to change some of Auckland’s residential zones. Most residential properties in Auckland's urban areas are proposed to come under one of three zones:
- Terrace Housing and Apartment Buildings Zone (now allowing for buildings of six storeys or more)
- Mixed Housing Urban Zone (now allowing for three dwellings of up to three storeys)
- Low Density Residential Zone (qualifying matters apply, limited to two storeys)
To find out what zone a property is now in and whether there are any qualifying matters applied to it, visit the Plan Change 78 map viewer.
Click here for a simple guide to accessing your property summary.
The following zones are excluded from the new Medium Density Residential Standards:
- Large Lot Zone
- Rural Coastal and Settlement Zone
- Offshore islands (e.g Waiheke)
- Single House Zone and Mixed Housing Suburban Zone in small settlements where 2018 census recorded population as less than 5,000 (e.g. Wellsford)
What is a qualifying matter?
Qualifying matters are characteristics that limit building heights and density in some areas, such as sites of cultural, historic, or ecological significance, areas with natural hazards, or where there are certain infrastructure constraints.
The new medium density residential standards apply to most properties in residential zones that are not subject to a qualifying matter.
Click here for more information.
If I comply with the MDRS standards and have no qualifying matters, can I go ahead and start the building process?
As with any new development, there is potential impact on the environment and other people. It therefore remains a requirement that new developments comply with all the relevant rules and standards within the Auckland Unitary Plan before construction begins.
Although the new medium density residential standards remove the need for most property owners to seek resource consent or approval to develop their properties for up to three dwellings, there are other resource consenting requirements in the Auckland Unitary Plan that remain.
It is therefore likely that any property owner who intends to utilise the new medium density residential standards will require resource consent approval to subdivide the site, as well as assess the earthworks needed for construction of the new dwellings.
All building plans will still be subject to a building consent process, and as part of this assessment, Auckland Council will consider if any resource consents are also required. If any are needed, the building consent will be paused until resource consent has been obtained.
Auckland Council’s resource consents team advises anyone looking to develop their property to discuss with their industry professional (planner, architect, surveyor, draftsperson, builder) what regulatory requirements they can expect before construction can begin.
Do I still need to make a resource consent application so council can check if I need an additional consent?
If the MDRS applies to you, first speak with your industry professional (planner, architect, builder) to find out if you may need resource consent for your development, they will be able to advise you on if and when you need to apply for a resource consent.
What are the other types of resource consents?
A resource consent is approval from Council to carry out a project that has an impact on the environment or could affect other people.
A resource consent may come with conditions that help manage the effects of your project.
For example, if you remove trees or vegetation to build your house, you may have a resource consent condition that requires you to plant some native trees after the building is finished.
Examples of situations where you may need to apply for a resource consent include:
- developing or subdividing land
- taking or damming of water
- Flooding or inundation risk
- discharging contaminants into water, soil or air
Click here for more information.
Will everyone need a Subdivision Consent?
It’s likely you will need a subdivision resource consent if you are building additional dwellings on your property that you intend to have separate titles for, but first speak with your industry professional (planner, architect, draftsperson, builder) to find out what regulatory requirements you can expect.
But the government says I no longer need a resource consent, so why is Council telling me I still need all these resource consents?
Although the new medium density residential standards remove the need for most property owners to seek resource consent or approval to develop their properties for up to three dwellings, there are other resource consenting requirements that remain as part of the Auckland Unitary Plan and Resource Management Act.
It is therefore likely that any property owner who intends to utilise the new medium density residential standards will require resource consent approval to subdivide the site, and for example, assess the earthworks needed for construction of the new dwellings.
Important to note, the Auckland Unitary Plan is broader than just the new medium density residential standards for enabling more height and density. Any standards or rules in the AUP that are not superseded by the Density Standards of the MDRS continue to apply.
This includes other zone rules and standards that are not a Density Standard, for example Land Disturbance and Transportation. In addition, all regional standards apply. This means that many proposed “permitted” developments that comply with the MDRS Density Standards may still require resource consent approval for other reasons.
Do I need to tell my neighbours about my plans (public notification)?
If your development for three dwellings or less on a residential site complies with the MDRS and other relevant Auckland Unitary Plan rules and standards then your development will be a permitted activity, removing the requirement for a resource consent and thus also removing the requirement for public notification.
There are new notification provisions as part of the MDRS that will impact developments of four or more dwellings that do not come into immediate legal effect until the conclusion of the statutory decision-making process.
How can I object to a development?
Anyone is able to share their concerns about a development with council, regardless of whether the development is required to be publicly notified or not. We will consider those concerns against the applicable rules and standards of both the MDRS and Auckland Unitary Plan where they still apply.
Will new developments need to include car parking spaces?
Under the NPS-UD, central government directed all New Zealand councils to remove minimum car parking requirements from their planning documents earlier this year, except for accessible, or mobility car parking, which councils can still require.
Auckland Council is publicly notifying a plan change on 18 August (Plan Change 79) to amend the Auckland Unitary Plan to provide for accessible parking for new developments.
These changes do not have immediate legal effect and the provisions under the Auckland Unitary Plan still apply (E27 Transportation).
What happens if my property is subject to a qualifying matter? Does this restrict the new MDRS rules until everything is decided?
The new medium density residential standards will not apply to properties with a proposed qualifying matter until final decisions are made in 2024 at the conclusion of the statutory decision-making process. At that point, a proposed qualifying matter could be confirmed, removed or adjusted.
What if my property does not have a qualifying matter as part of the plan change, can I now benefit from the MDRS standards?
As required by central government’s changes to the Resource Management Act, its new Medium Density Residential Standards must take legal effect once a plan change is publicly notified, unless a qualifying matter, or exemption to limit building height and density requirements, is proposed.
Where a qualifying matter does not exist, for example a special character overlay, the government’s Medium Density Residential Standards will apply from the 18 August when considering up to three dwellings on a site.
However, as any development has potential impact on the environment and other people, they must still comply with all other rules and standards before construction begins, including checking whether they need an earthworks or subdivision resource consent.
I want to build four dwellings, what is the process?
For developments of four or more dwellings, the new density standards do not take immediate legal effect. This means anyone looking to develop four or more dwellings on a site will still require initial resource consent approval under the current operative rule and standards of the Auckland Unitary Plan.
Given that the new density residential standards will enable significantly higher density development in many locations, Auckland Council has introduced new policies through the plan change to strengthen urban design outcomes. These design considerations include a greater focus on architectural form and detail. This is to ensure that we see ‘density done well’.
My property is within a new walkable catchment, can I develop up to six storeys after August 18?
No. The NPS-UD provisions do not have immediate legal effect and will have to go through the plan change process before they become operative after which time applicants will then be able develop up to six storeys.
However, the medium density standards will apply to the THAB zone, therefore allowing property owners in walkable catchments to build three dwellings up to three storeys without resource consent.
When will the new density rules start changing the Auckland landscape?
Changing the planning rules for what can be built on a property does not mean development must take place. Rather, it provides property owners with more choices about how to use their land and it is entirely up to them to choose to develop their property if they wish.
While the new density rules mark a significant change to Auckland’s planning rules, the region has always been growing and changing and will continue to do so.
Although we are seeing a downturn across the residential construction sector due to building supply and labour constraints, we do expect to see larger developments completed in the next 2-3 years, and medium density developments may start to appear on the landscape within six months of the MDRS coming into effect.
Will Auckland Council will be able to process existing or new applications faster now resource consents are removed in some cases?
Although the requirement for an initial resource consent has been removed for the construction of three or less dwellings complying with the MDRS standards, in many cases developers will still need to apply for resource consent to meet other standards and requirements in the Auckland Unitary Plan, such as Subdivision or Earthworks resource consent.
This change process is significant and in parts complex. Council planners and the wider industry will need time to interpret the new rules and how they intersect with the existing Auckland Unitary Plan. For this reason, Council anticipates a transition period of at least six months before processing times become more efficient. Council is actively recruiting for additional planners to help meet increased demand, as well as looking at creating processing efficiencies.
If property owners no longer need a resource consent approval, how will council check the new density standards are being applied correctly?
All building plans will still be subject to a building consent process, and as part of this assessment, Auckland Council will consider if any resource consents are also required. For any successful building and resource consent application, council has in place a process to monitor the development at various stages to make sure it’s complying with all rules and standards.
- The ‘All or Nothing’ rule
If one or more of the new Medium Density Standards are infringed, for example, the building coverage exceeds the newly permitted 50 per cent of the net site area, then all MDRS density standards cease to have immediate legal effect for an application, and therefore all aspects of the development will revert to the Auckland Unitary Plan’s operative standards.
How can council prevent poor design outcomes?
Given that the new standards will enable significantly higher density development in many locations, Auckland Council has introduced new policies as part of the 18 August plan change to strengthen urban design outcomes, particularly where four or more dwellings are proposed, as there appears to be greater flexibility in these situations.
These design considerations include a greater focus on architectural form and detail, and encourage developments to focus their bulk towards the street, manage visual dominance, shading and privacy effects on adjacent sites; requiring common outdoor living space for developments of 20 or more dwellings with a focus on high-quality landscaped areas; and well-designed on-site waste storage. This is to ensure that we see ‘density done well’.