The Government has introduced a Bill that proposes amendments to the Resource Management Act 1991 to bring forward and strengthen the National Policy Statement on Urban Development 2020.

One of the key drivers of housing unaffordability in Aotearoa New Zealand is a shortage of housing. Overly restrictive planning rules are one of the barriers to building more homes in the places where they are needed the most.

In July 2020, the Government released the National Policy Statement on Urban Development (NPS-UD). The NPS-UD is a powerful tool that supports greater housing density and requires councils to plan better for growth.

The councils in New Zealand’s main urban areas – Auckland, and greater Hamilton, Tauranga, Wellington, and Christchurch (Tier 1 councils) are making good progress towards implementing the NPS-UD. However, it will not be until 2024 when the impacts of the NPS-UD really start to be felt. Between then and now, more needs to be done to build more homes.

The Government has announced it will introduce legislation to increase housing supply in New Zealand’s five largest urban areas – Auckland, and greater Hamilton, Tauranga, Wellington and Christchurch.

There are two main proposals in the Bill

A new planning process to help councils to implement intensification policies in the NPS-UD

The Bill introduces a new planning process to support tier 1 councils to implement the NPS-UD’s intensification policies quicker. The Bill proposes a new planning process to support councils to implement the intensification policies in the NPS-UD. This will be called the Intensification Streamlined Planning Process (ISPP).

The ISPP is based on the existing streamlined planning process under the Resource Management Act, but is intended to be faster, easier, and less costly for councils. The ISPP would enable the intensification outcomes to be achieved at least a year earlier, in 2023 rather than 2024.

Medium density residential standards in New Zealand’s main urban areas to enable a wider variety of housing choice

The Bill proposes Tier 1 councils will be required to apply medium density residential standards from August 2022.

These new standards will allow people to develop up to three homes of up to three storeys on most sites without the need for a resource consent. Exemptions will apply based on qualifying matters set out in the NPS-UD, such as heritage areas and natural hazards.

The ISPP will also be used to implement the MDRS by the required councils/urban areas.

Some Tier 2 urban areas may be required to implement the medium density standards if the Minister of Housing and Minister for the Environment consider there is acute housing need.

The proposed legislation will clarify some of the intensification requirements in the NPS-UD for councils

The Bill proposes changes to policy 3(d) in the NPS-UD for Tier 1 councils (This will simplify and will better clarify some of the intensification requirements and reduce workloads for these councils. The policy 3(d) will be changed to focus solely on accessibility, rather than accessibility and demand, and will be more directive about how accessible areas should be identified.  

Accessible areas include suburban town centres with good access to public transport and community facilities such as pharmacies, supermarkets, and libraries.

These changes will give councils more flexibility to upzone in the areas they consider appropriate.

List of Tier 1 and 2 councils  

Tier 1 urban environment

Tier 1 councils


Auckland Council


Hamilton City Council, Waikato District Council, Waipā District Council


Tauranga City Council, Western Bay of Plenty District Council


Wellington City Council, Porirua City Council, Hutt City Council, Upper Hutt City Council, Kāpiti Coast District Council


Christchurch City Council, Selwyn District Council, Waimakariri District Council


Tier 2 urban environment

Tier 2 councils


Whangarei District Council


Rotorua District Council

New Plymouth

New Plymouth District Council

Napier Hastings

Napier City Council, Hastings District Council

Palmerston North

Palmerston North City Council

Nelson Tasman

Nelson City Council, Tasman District Council


Queenstown Lakes District Council


Dunedin City Council

Find out more and opportunities for input

Once the Bill is introduced to Parliament, there will be an opportunity for the public to submit on the proposals.