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New planning process for housing intensification rules

New planning process for housing intensification rules

New planning process for housing intensification rules

Thursday 28 October, 2021

On 19 October 2021, the Government introduced the Resource Management (Enabling Housing Supply and Other Matters) Amendment Bill (the Bill) which will require councils in Auckland, Hamilton, Tauranga, Wellington, and Christchurch to adopt medium-density residential standards (MDRS). These standards will allow, at a minimum, the building of 3 houses, each up to 3 storeys high without land use consent, whereas currently most district plans only allow one home up to 2 storeys.  The new housing density rules are intended to the number of houses in New Zealand by making it easier to build new houses, however we note that subdivision consent may still be required by each council to create new property titles for the land on which these houses will be built.

In order to ensure that councils can quickly adopt and implement the new MDRS, the Bill also introduces a new intensification streamlined planning process (ISPP), which is proposed to be quicker than the standard plan change process under Schedule 1 of the RMA, and which councils can use when making or changing their district plans to introduce the MDRS or to speed up the implementation of the intensification policies in the National Policy Statement on Urban Development.

Intensification streamlined planning process (ISPP)

The ISPP includes the following standard steps:

  1. Pre-notification consultation and engagement with iwi about the intensification plan.
  2. The intensification plan is notified; the MDRS rules have immediate legal effect from this date (that is, the usual statutory position that would not see the rules have immediate legal effect until after Step 7 below, does not apply).
  3. Submissions on the notified intensification plan.
  4. Further submissions on the notified intensification plan.
  5. Independent hearings panel (IHP) to conduct hearings on the intensification plan. The council can choose to conduct an optional pre-hearing mediation.
  6. IHP provides report to council with recommendations.
  7. Council makes its decision. (If the council does not agree with the IHP’s recommendations, the Minister for the Environment will become the decision maker.)
  8. Intensification plan becomes operative.

Independent hearings panel (IHP)

The IHP will conduct hearings on the intensification plan and report its recommendations to the council. The IHP is not limited to recommendations on the submissions and can include recommendations on other matters related to the intensification plan.

Decision making within ISPP

The council is the primary decision maker on the intensification plan, but the Minister for the Environment becomes the decision maker on any IHP recommendations that the council chooses not to adopt. The Minister can decide to accept the IHP’s recommendations or make alternative decisions.

No appeals

If an intensification plan goes through the ISPP, there is no right of appeal to the Environment Court.  This is a deliberate statutory direction to ensure that intensification plans are operative by mid-2023. In contrast, if councils proceeded under Schedule 1 of the RMA, the plans would not be operative until August 2024 at the earliest.

The Bill was introduced on 19 October 2021 and there will be a three-week period for submissions on the Bill, likely starting in late October. The Government intends to pass the Bill by the end of this year, with councils starting to implement it by 2022. The ISPP is a big change for councils, and it will be important to get the process right, particularly for the associated subdivision process.


If you have any questions about the ISPP, or you would like help to make a submission on the Bill, our experts (listed below) can help.

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