A synopsis of the key issues from the draft changes to the unitary plan in response to the Government’s housing legislations


On 19 April, Auckland Council announced the draft proposed changes to the Unitary Plan. See the council web page for details. The announcement contains the following:

  • GIS map viewer where you can compare the existing and proposed new zones
  • consultation document and background information explaining the upcoming changes
  • links to provide feedback. Feeback is sought until 9 May
  • timeline of the change process until 2024.

Why this change and why now?

The change to the unitary plan is mainly due to the following two Government legislations.

1. The National Policy Statement on Urban Development (NPS-UD)

2. The Medium Density Residential Standards (MDRS) contained in the Resource Management (Enabling Housing Supply and Other Matters) Amendment Act 2021

The RMA amendment Act requires Auckland Council to notify changes to the unitary plan by 20 August 2022.

Key changes signalled in the draft change

1. Following four new residential zones have been introduced:

  • Mixed Housing Urban (MHU) Zone – Modified
  • Terrace Housing and Apartment Building (THAB) Zone – Modified
  • Two-Storey Single Dwelling Residential Area
  • Two-Storey Medium Density Residential Area

The MHU-Modified and the THAB-Modified zones are proposed in response to the MDRS and the NPS-UD respectively. The later two zones looks like introduced by the council to manage areas affected by the qualifying matters or the area where the council may considers the higher density zones would be inappropriate.

2. Most of the existing Single House, Mixed Housing Suburban (MHS) and MHU zoned land looks like changing to the MHU-Modified zone. That means the majority of residential land in Auckland is likely to be MHIU-Modified after this change. See the draft zones in the council GIS viewer.

See below before and after comparison of the Central and Eastern suburbs before and after the proposed zone changes.



For a detailed legends to the above before and after maps, go to the council GIS viewer.

(Images courtesy: Auckland Council website)

3. Land within the walkable catchment has been proposed to be zoned Residential – Terrace Housing and Apartment Building Zone (THAB) – Modified.

THAB zoned land located outside the walkable catchments is signalled to retain the existing zone.

4. 3×3 development (3 dwellings of 3 storeys) on a lot will be a permitted activity in the MHU-Modified zone.

5. Residential standards in the MHU-Modified zone are more permissive than those in the current MHU zone. See a comparison in the table below

5. Residential standards in the MHU-Modified zone are more permissive than those in the current MHU zone. See a comparison in the table below

StandardsMHU (existing)MHU-Modified
HIRB​3m + 45°​4m + 60°
Front yard2.5m1.5m
Building coverage45%50%
Outlook space6m x 4m4m x 4m
Landscape area35%20%

6. The Terrace Housing and Apartment Building – Modified zone will enable 6 storey buildings.

What is it going to look like?

Generally speaking:

  1. Larger building footprint and bigger building envelope due to more permissive residential standards
  2. Buildings may be brought closer to the street due to the reduced front yard
  3. Buildings may be built closer to the side and rear yard due to more generous HIRB. This may result in some shading of the adjacent properties, especially those that are located adjacent to and south of the THAB-Modified zoned land.

3×3 development in the MHU-Modified zone may look like this from the street

(Image courtesy: Auckland Council website)

What to watch out for when the plan change will be notified on 20 August 2022?

  1. The draft zoning will change in the notified version. Check the GIS viewer post-notification. The draft version largely doesn’t matter. It is the notified version that will have legal effect.
  2. Check the text section of the unitary plan once it is notified.
  3. There are many unknowns at this stage. For example, what approach will the council take on the qualifying matters? What about the Special Character Areas? Where will it apply? Similarly, how will the council approach subdivision in the 3×3 development, or 3+ lot subdivision in the MHU-Modified zone?
  4. Some changes such as the MDRS standards will take immediate legal effect from the date of notification of the plan change. There may be some exceptions to this but largely this means the council will have to assess consent applications from 20 August 2022 on the basis of the MDRS standards as in the notified unitary plan.

Final words

This is a big and complex change. The largest since the unitary plan was made operative in part on 15 November 20016. There are still many unknowns at this stage. It is a change in progress. The commentary above should not be treated as professional advice. If you are looking for professional planning advice, drop an email at

Thanks for reading

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