Wellington Scoop

Cutting red tape, to allow three homes on one site, without resource consent

Report from LDR
Labour and National shared a stage at Parliament today to announce major changes to turbocharge urban density rules, laying down the gauntlet to councils and raising hopes for first-time house buyers.

In a rare show of bipartisan cooperation, ministers of New Zealand’s two biggest parties joined forces at the Beehive to announce an overhaul of planning rules designed to dramatically accelerate growth in medium density housing.

Housing minister Megan Woods and environment minister David Parker stood alongside National leader Judith Collins and housing spokesperson Nicola Willis to unveil plans to slash red tape and force councils to move toward greater urban density.

It is the first time National and Labour have shared a stage to announce a policy breakthrough since then opposition leader John Key joined then prime minister Helen Clark in 2007 to announce a compromise on the controversial “smacking bill”.

New legislation will free the way for up to three homes, each as high as three storeys, to be built on almost all sites without requiring a resource consent. The government says modelling by PWC suggests the changes will lead to “at least 48,200” and “as many as 105,500” new homes being built within the next five to eight years.

The parties have agreed to bring forward implementation of the National Policy Statement on Urban Development (NPS-UD), which obliges councils to allow intensification.

“New Zealand’s housing shortage is being made worse in our biggest cities by limits on the number and types of houses that can be built,” Woods said. “These changes will enable more homes that are attractive to first-home buyers to be built in areas closer to their work, public transport and community facilities.”

There will be some exemptions to the medium density rules, “where intensification is inappropriate”, Parker said. “Such as where there is a high risk of natural hazards, or a site has heritage value.”

In most cases, he added, the new rules “will have immediate legal effect as soon as plans are publicly notified by councils by August 2022”.

National’s Housing and Urban Development spokesperson Nicola Willis said the Housing Supply Bill is a “win-win” for homeowners and renters alike.

“New Zealand has some of the most unaffordable housing in the world. The impact of our housing shortage reaches right across our communities, robbing too many of the aspiration of home ownership, leaving thousands homeless and fuelling inequality,” she said. “Today National and Labour are coming together to say an emphatic ‘yes’ to housing in our backyards.”

Collins said the new legislation will save “time, cost and complexity that too often greets those who want to build new dwellings”. She added: “It is important to note that nothing in the Bill forces people to build more density. This is simply about removing barriers that can get in the way of sensible development. I am pleased that in addition to measures supporting intensification the Bill will also allow local authorities to fast-track private-plan changes for new greenfields development.”

Local Government New Zealand spokesperson Jason Krupp said the organisation was disappointed not to have been consulted before the announcement.

“We are the main planning institution in New Zealand and we would have been eager to help the government refine its proposal before the announcement rather than afterwards,” he said. “This is particularly because with the amount of reform currently underway there are real capacity constraints across the sector and we need to work in a coordinated way to get through them.”

Emma McInnes, an urban designer, city planner and former member of the advocacy group Generation Zero commended “an outstanding strategy” for making housing more affordable “in a way that reduces our impact on the climate”.

She said research revealed a household living closer to the core of the city uses less than 25 per cent of the fuel spending of a household on the fringe of West or South Auckland, which will make a “massive difference for both affordability and emissions and it’s the kind of grown-up city-building that Tāmaki Makaurau desperately needs”.

She also warned against seeing the changes as an end to special character or heritage homes.

“It’s critical to remember that zoning changes don’t force anyone out of their heritage homes overnight, and that over time we need to celebrate a diverse mix of new and old buildings. As that is what makes great cities – not blanket suburb of villas with white picket fences.”

NZ Herald: Where you won’t be able to build in Wgtn, because of flood risk.

The National Policy Statement on Urban Development is part of a wider programme of reform that impacts areas traditionally overseen by local bodies The “three waters” reforms overhauls management of waste, storm and drinking water, while work is under way to replace the Resource Management Act, one of the country’s most important and divisive pieces of legislation, with the Natural and Built Environments Act. The government is also reviewing the future of local government as a whole and working through climate change provisions.

Work to achieve consensus between Labour and National has been closely guarded, with many MPs on both sides only learning of the plans in recent days.

Political commentator Ben Thomas, a former press secretary in the Key government, said such cross-party announcements have proven to be good for opposition politicians in the past, noting that both John Key and Todd Muller benefited from supporting the government on the anti-smacking and zero carbon legislation, respectively.

“If you look at the smacking bill, the government’s intention was to get some political cover, as they didn’t need it to pass the legislation, but by bringing the popular leader of the opposition along, it was seen as a bit of a masterstroke by Clark at the time,” he said.

“In this instance, the flipside is that for Judith Collins, it’s very good for her position and creates that sense of gravitas. And it’s very good for Nicola Willis in terms of her reputation and in terms of the visuals, to be standing there with the government announcing policy, which is something opposition parties just don’t get to do by definition.”

Thomas said local councils will be pushing back against this policy as it will be seen as taking away their decision making power and “overriding the popular will, which of course is nonsense when it comes to local government”.

“Putting aside housing costs and inflation, the biggest growth in Auckland house prices has been in land, so by letting people put more houses on the same amount of land has to be a good thing.”


  1. Lyndon Hood, 19. October 2021, 13:47

    From where I am towards Waterloo station, section after section is getting More Dwellings, so I suppose my only question is how many more before we can have a pub.

  2. Guy M, 19. October 2021, 14:00

    This is a HUGE development – and the fact it is supported by both the Nats and Labour makes it even more important. The ramifications it will have for the architects and house designers of NZ are enormous – mostly good, but also some bad. Its a real game-changer (but doesn’t come into action for another year, so don’t expect immediate changes). In 10 years the country could look very very different. Good design will be even more important than before.

  3. Jim, 19. October 2021, 14:16

    Great move by the government and the opposition. It should certainly help in getting more homes built.

  4. Claire, 19. October 2021, 16:27

    This could cause shoddy houses. The DDP will have to be rejigged and developers could well prefer 3×3 units on the larger sections in the outer suburbs and 4-6 storeys in the city. Or 3×3 in the inner suburbs, cheaper than the higher buildings. So deregulation will rule.

  5. Ray Chung, 19. October 2021, 20:16

    Generally, I prefer housing to be regulated by the councils as at least in theory, they’re more cognisant of the mixture of housing that will remain attractive and functional in their city, whereas central government applying a blanket regulation implies “one size fits all” throughout the entire country. It seems to me that LGNZ has just been a mouthpiece for central government, so bypassing them is not any issue. It seems the key safeguard against having a lot of ghettos built is the 50% coverage rule, but this can be deceiving as well. Building over 50% of a flat section will still allow plenty of space between buildings; but if, like many Wellington sections, a sloping section may have 50% of the buildable area on flat or gently sloping gradient with the balance on an unbuildable slope, three houses will take up all the buildable area and be jammed up from boundary to boundary which will look pretty ugly as well as not having any outdoor space for the residents.

  6. Andy Mellon, 19. October 2021, 20:48

    Lyndon Hood. A pub and a children’s playground would be useful given the intensification around Waterloo/Woburn/Epuni. There’s nowhere for the kids to play near where I am.

    It’ll be interesting to see where Lower Hutt puts its areas of heritage status. Obviously the Patrick Street area in Petone, but there are currently heritage-type areas around Ava Station and Woburn. Will they remain in the Brave New World?

    Hutt City are going to have to improve their pedestrian facilities too given that these intensified dwellings don’t cater for cars. Even around Waterloo Station, there’s some really poor areas for pedestrians that the council don’t seem to be interested in engaging on.

  7. Guy M, 19. October 2021, 21:21

    Claire – you’ve hit the nail on the head about “deregulation will rule” – that is sort of the whole idea I gather. Cutting red tape, as it says in the headline. But don’t worry about the possible “shoddy houses” – in theory they will be better than what they replace. More insulation, so warmer, and drier.

  8. K, 19. October 2021, 21:51

    Excellent news! Bring on the 3-storey townhouses everywhere on every street in Wellington! This is sorely needed, and really the shot in the arm the disastrous housing situation needs to be remedied.

  9. JAB, 19. October 2021, 22:42

    Neither labour or national show any interest in penalties for homes that are unoccupied – instead wanting us to build more rabbit hutches. Surely our young people deserve better than small apartments to rent forever under all these top down unconsulted planning rules. (I’m feeling strong echos of the Lange Douglas government here).
    But how does this actually work. I’m assuming that subdivision and sale are not allowed otherwise the 50% rule is likely to be violated. So will these be rental only? and if a granny flat then the owners will under the tenancy laws be stuck with any arms length tenants that they may acquire?

  10. D'Esterre, 19. October 2021, 23:08

    Ah, the brave new world of greater deregulation! What could POSSIBLY go wrong?

  11. Brenda Pilott, 20. October 2021, 9:39

    Seems to me that everywhere is going to look like Johnsonville now looks. Infill with 2-3 storey townhouses, quite dense, cars parked on the road. Tiny courtyard/deck for some. Not pretty but functional. And not cheap. Basic 2 bed townhouse is getting on for $800k. [via twitter]

  12. LGNZ, 20. October 2021, 9:44

    Without sustainably funding infrastructure, the bipartisan housing announcement is unlikely to fix the crisis. [via twitter]

  13. Thomas Coughlan, 20. October 2021, 9:47

    Everyone’s acting like they’ve never seen politicians promise to build 100,000 houses before. [via twitter]

  14. Morris Oxford, 20. October 2021, 10:21

    Under the new set-up how do you charge your electric car?

  15. Lint filter, 20. October 2021, 11:02

    Morris – you’re not supposed to have a car. Two wheels good, four wheels bad. All commuters are equal but some are more equal than others.

  16. Claire, 20. October 2021, 11:34

    Most cyclists own cars. That doesn’t fit with the Utopian dream, or is it Dystopia.

  17. Lint filter, 20. October 2021, 12:19

    Nightmare is the word you’re looking for I think Claire.

  18. Richie Bestingface, 20. October 2021, 13:31

    Cr Matthews mocking her fellow councillors on Twitter for their genuine concerns around this proposal. Who said there was disunity at the council?

  19. Jim, 20. October 2021, 13:48

    Lint – correct, with 95% of our road dedicated to private vehicles it’s disgraceful that we would consider sharing this with other road users.

    Claire – We don’t want to go down the route of Northern Europe. With all their cycleway infrastructure, Germany, Netherlands, Denmark etc have turned into dystopian nightmares.

  20. Kara, 20. October 2021, 18:40

    A suggestion for more intense housing is for councils to ensure that each 3 level building has immediate access to green space around buildings for vege and fruit growing. Each apartment would also need sufficient balcony space for hanging washing out. A roof top area for socialising wouldn’t go amiss.

  21. K, 20. October 2021, 18:51

    Tens of thousands of wellingtonians already live in dwellings without car parks and there isn’t chaos everywhere that I am aware of. Plus this will be decided by the free market – if people don’t want to buy townhouses/units without car parks, then developers will not build them. Besides with this new 3 storey allowance then there is plenty of room for ground floor garaging as is common for 3 storey townhouses.

  22. Claire, 20. October 2021, 19:15

    K: Who are the ten of thousands you speak of? Newtown has a big problem with parking and the car-free new block people on Constable Street constantly circle for carparks.

  23. Ray Chung, 20. October 2021, 19:19

    I spoke with a WCC planner today about the implications of this and he said the WCC allows deviation from the current District Plan anyway. For those of you who don’t know, the current DP allows two dwellings on a single section as of right, but one project that came to mind is in Bannister Avenue in Johnsonville where a house was bowled and 14 units are being built. However, he said the three-level allowance was new and the market needed to be tested whether this would be enticing to people.

  24. JAB, 20. October 2021, 20:14

    This prioritises the investor/developer grabbing land, building densely but then renting with the government continuing to pour accommodation subsidies by default into investor hands. A resource consent is still needed to subdivide for sale. If you thought we had it bad with damp cold houses, then this will turbo charge the problem. Yimbys have just become a landlord/developer cash cow. It will lock land up in inner cities in the hands of the fortunate few as a monopoly.

  25. JAB, 20. October 2021, 20:30

    Kara: Plan has one metre side and rear yards and 2.5 metre front yard. Ground floor needs 15 sq metres of outside space (say 9 ft by 15 ft) and upper floors 8 sq metres (say 6ft by 12ft. Heights are 12 metres mostly which is about the height of a two storey plus peaked roof of a heritage house. So any gardening is likely to be mushrooms only and nothing so green as a washing line. I am truly sorry to be writing something like this because our young people deserve a great better than this developer/ landlord paradise subsidised by the taxpayer in terms of the accommodation supplement.

  26. Ray Chung, 20. October 2021, 20:31

    I’m also interested in knowing where these tens of thousands of houses without car parks are. In Fraser Avenue, the development of townies there don’t have enough car parks so residents park their cars on the street blocking two-way traffic. As you say Claire, parking is a real problem in Constable Street and side streets in Newtown and this will be exacerbated with three-storey houses being allowed. Rebecca Matthews is ecstatic about this but none of these houses will be cheap and even PWC say they won’t reduce the price of housing but developers will be salivating with this announcement.

  27. K, 20. October 2021, 21:04

    Claire: most of the dwellings in older Wellington city suburbs don’t have off street parking, and there are thousands of apartments that don’t have parking either.

  28. nemo, 21. October 2021, 8:32

    Claire, if people are lucky enough to live on Constable St, then they shouldn’t need a car at all. There’s heaps of buses up and down that road.

  29. Jim, 21. October 2021, 8:54

    JAB – you want young people to have better housing but then object to any changes that would allow this to happen. It is being reported this morning that students can no longer afford to live in Wellington so are not enrolling to study here. Rents are through the roof and higher than in Auckland. An increase in supply will help reduce rents – we can see that from the evidence in Auckland and Melbourne.

  30. Claire, 21. October 2021, 9:56

    K/nemo: my point is those people still have cars and parking is a competitive game. So taking away carparks is magical thinking in the land of utopia.

  31. Vape fluid, 21. October 2021, 11:44

    The anti-car brigade seem to think people only want to get into the cbd for work 9-5. Can’t wrap their minds around people needing cars to get to other parts of Wellington for work and other activities 24 hours a day.

  32. Jim, 21. October 2021, 12:01

    Claire – that’s why people are actively trying to improve alternative modes of transport – public transport and cycleways.

  33. Amacf, 21. October 2021, 12:08

    The new announcement should not be that scary. Three-storey multi-unit developments are becoming common throughout Newtown. In the last few years there have developments in Rintoul Street just north of the Village at the Park retirement development, Princess Terrace, the Ferguson and Arney Street development and Regent Street alongside Carrara Park. The last of the list is an example of four three-storey townhouses and one two-storey townhouse as a terrace development on what was previously the site of a single house on a section of about 700 sq metres. They all seem to have been able to be close to or within the current height limit for inner city development too.
    The new development now at the frame stage going up opposite the entrance to the zoo, that has been featuring in photos on Stuff, is for three double-storey town houses on a site of about 300 sq m. All will have single off-street parking. They will be superior to the four-storey 2 bedroom apartment development in Constable Street.
    Brownfield townhouse developments such as these are much less intrusive than the 4 to 6 storey developments that will be permitted throughout the Newtown area in the proposed Draft District Plan.

  34. Claire, 21. October 2021, 12:51

    Amacf: yes Newtown people are happier with those developments which you mention. (It’s the design that matters.) Much preferred to the out of scale larger ones in the DSP. There is still room for larger builds on empty or underutilised land in the Mansfield – Riddiford street areas. Also Newtown has been able to put an extra dwelling in the backyard for some time.

  35. Groggy, 21. October 2021, 15:21

    Nemo and Jim. So tradespeople shouldn’t aspire to live in Constable Street? Or should they carry all their tools and materials with them on the bus or bike? Not everyone uses a car only for commuting to work, for many it is their daily office. But bad luck for them, they aren’t wanted in Newtown.

  36. Jim, 21. October 2021, 16:17

    Groggy – no of course not. The less unnecessary travel by private car (because they can use alternatives) the better it is for those who need vehicles for work – like trades – or for those who need them due having disabilities etc. There is a silly hysteria around not providing car parks and encouraging cycleways/PT use. It’s certainly not dystopian.

  37. Alpherae, 21. October 2021, 20:21

    Types of housing potentially covered under “up to three homes, each as high as three storeys” include:
    – a stand-alone house with living space on two floors and the garage/utility rooms directly underneath, leaving more space for a large garden;
    – as above, but the ground floor includes an self-contained granny flat;
    – an American-style duplex that looks exactly like all the other family homes on the street except for having two front doors;
    – Moroccan-style courtyard house with both private and shared rooms (this could work quite well in industrial areas or on busy roads);
    – a pair of semi-detached townhouses with separate garages and gardens;
    – a pair of stand-alone townhouses with separate garages and gardens;
    – a set of three two-up-two-down flats with the road frontage on the south side and private courtyards on the north side;
    – a tree-filled section with three tiny homes and a garage with enough space for 9 bikes and a shared car;
    – a terraced block on the high street of a suburb or satellite town, with retail/food on the ground floor, then offices above, and flats above that with a window box and/or a balcony front and back. Parking and a service lane in the back.

    Medium density does not automatically mean no greenery or no garage. It’s just a matter of imagination and (good) design.

  38. Ray Chung, 21. October 2021, 20:34

    JAB, these empty houses – do you mean the council-owned ones or private houses? If the council ones, I agree that the council should rent them out to stop them becoming derelict. If the privately owned ones, I don’t believe the council can appropriate them legally.
    Jim: who’s going to decide what necessary or unnecessary travel is? It’s not for us to say whether they should own or use cars, but if off-street car parks aren’t provided with these new apartments, the owners will need to park on the street and that’s not desirable for all road-users and especially buses, fire engines and trucks. Claire is correct: Newtown streets are jammed with cars parking on the narrow streets now so these new rules will acerbate the problem.

  39. Ray Chung, 21. October 2021, 21:04

    Alpherae; as much as I agree that we need more housing, the properties that you’ve described won’t necessarily be built here. What has been dictated here has no such conditions, not that we’ve been told about at any rate. Developers here have one objective: maximise their profit! Why would they spend more on design if they’re not obligated to?

  40. JAB, 21. October 2021, 22:30

    Ray: I was thinking of a Vancouver-style extra tax/rates on homes/apartments that are in the major centres and are unoccupied most of the time (quite possibly with overseas owners). Vancouver found it pushes them back into occupancy – rental – and the good thing is that they are built and here now. There are also secondhand eldercare licences to occupy units which take time to sell and could perhaps after discussions with the various parties also be pushed into the rental market.
    Jim: I am not saying “don’t build.” I would far rather a community-led solution as I have said before. Frankly the Yimbys deserve a lot better than this proposal. It ties them up in the “renting as a cash cow for developers and investors market” for longer and makes it harder for FHB.

  41. JAB, 21. October 2021, 22:45

    Jim/Claire: Transport. Imagine 50 people on an electric bus and 50 people on cycles. Which is more compact and gets there faster. The bus I guess. Cycling is private transport.

  42. Jim, 22. October 2021, 7:29

    Ray – I’m not trying to dictate who owns cars – that’s up to the individual. I was pointing out that just because there are alternative modes of transport doesn’t mean that people like builders will be forced to use them. it’s a silly analogy often brought up by those who get upset by the idea of funding something that isn’t just a road for private vehicles.

    If people want all new units to have garages, then we should also insist that all the existing dwellings do the same. If this means chopping a garage into the front room so be it. Don’t want a garage or car? Tough luck!