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Plan Change 20A: housing choice

Plan Change 20A-B includes a number of changes in relation to the housing types that can be constructed in Palmerston North.

Housing choice

The average Palmerston North house is a stand-alone, single-story, 120m2 building with three bedrooms.  The average new home is more like 220m2 and has four bedrooms.

The current District Plan is written with this type of development in mind. Alternatively, apartments, terraced housing and flats require resource consent, and the District Plan does not provide clear development guidance.  

Plan Change 20 is primarily about providing housing choice, but also certainty as to what type housing development and design is appropriate for Palmerston North.

The Housing Needs Assessment completed in May 2011 identifies the changing demographics and housing needs Palmerston North faces. 

What are the Proposed Changes

Proposed Plan Change 20 includes changes to existing housing rules, and introduces new rules for additional housing types:  

Multi-unit housing development (Rule

New standards are proposed for multi-unit Housing development.  This includes terraced houses, apartments, and flats where 3 or more units are being constructed.

The current District Plan includes little guidance on the design of this type of housing development.

Proposed Plan Change 20 introduces standards for in terms of 

  1. The design standards for multi-unit housing.
  2. The locations in Palmerston North where multi-unit housing will be encourage to locate.

The design standards for multi-unit housing

Unlike standard housing,  a different approach is proposed for the design of multi-unit housing developments.  Instead of relying on a set of development standards, the design of multi-unit housing will be subject to general standards AND assessment criteria. 

Standards and assessment criteria

The Standards and assessment criteria can be found in Appendix 1, under Rule

A few of the key proposed rules are as follows:

  • The standard development rules (e.g. height and building set-back) only apply to the external boundaries of the development.
  • Site coverage of 40% is calculated based on the entire development area.
  • Reduced lot size applies.
  • Requirements for private outdoor open space for each unit.
  • Requirement to address stormwater impact of development.
  • No written consent from a neighbour is required if design standards are met.

The locations where multi-unit housing is encouraged to locate

Best practice states that higher density development should be located within walking distance to the city centre, public parks, services, and bus routes. This approach is reflected in the Urban Design Strategy which provides direction on the location for medium density housing in Palmerston North.  Historically multi-unit housing has been allowed in Palmerston North, and this was concentrated around the City Centre and Terrace End.

Proposed Plan Change 20 identifies the following areas as locations for multi-unit housing:

  • City Centre:   sites located within a 800m walking distance from the outer edge of the City Centre.
  • Large Neighbourhood Centres: sites located within a 400m walking distance from the outer edge of the Awapuni, Highbury, Hokowhitu, and Milson Neighbourhood Centres.

City Centre. 

City Centre MUHA












Note the difference between Area A and Area B is as follows:

Area A: means that multi-unit housing must have a unit size of greater than 45m2, but no minimum site area requirements apply.

Area B:  means that multi-unit housing must have a unit size greater than 60m2, and that a minimum notional site area of 150m2 is required for each unit. 

Neighbourhood centres   


PC20 Awapuni MUHA


PC20 Highbury MUHA


PC20 Hokowhitu MUHA


PC20 Milson MUHA

Note the difference between Area A and Area B is as follows:

Area C: means that multi-unit housing must have a unit size of greater than 45m2, but no minimum site area requirements apply.

Area D:  means that multi-unit housing must have a unit size greater than 60m2, and that a minimum notional site area of 150m2 is required for each unit.




Multi-Unit Housing Case studies

This is a new type of development for Palmerston North and it's important to get the details right.  Two case studies have been designed to test the provisions and illustrate the rules.

Case study 1:


Multi Unit Housing Example 1

The first case study is a 13 unit development that includes 3x 1 bedroom, 4x 2 bedoom, and 6x 3 bedroom units. The units are a mix of single and double story buildings. Click on the image to see other views of this development.




Total Units: 13

Site Coverage: 40%

Development Area: 2,431m2


Case Study 2:


The second case study is for 6 larger 3 bedroom larger units, on a slightly smaller site. All units are double story.  Click on the image to see other views of this development.

Multi-Unit Housing Example 2

Total Units: 6

Site Coverage: 40%

Development Area: 1,620m2

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Private dwelling/ standard house R10.7.1.1

The construction or alteration of a dwelling/ house must be designed following a set of development standards.  If the design complies with these standards, no specific resource consent is required.  

Proposed definition:  means any self-contained building or structure, or part thereof, that is used (or intended to be used) for the purpose of habitation by a person or group of people, and which is generally not for public use.

Proposed rules:  A number of changes are proposed to the development standards.  More information on these changes is available on the PC20 housing standards page.

Current standard:   The current development standards are summarised in the Residential Housing Bulk and Location Guide. 

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Sleep-outs (Accessory Buildings R10.7.1.1)

PC20 proposes new rules to clarify that sleep-outs are one housing choice available to meet housing needs. Due to the small scale of these buildings they should be permitted, but subject to a number of development standards. 

Proposed definition: an external bedroom, incidental and physically separated from the primary dwelling, with a maximum gross floor area no greater than 36m2, which may have an en-suite, but which is not self-contained.

Proposed rules:

  • 1 sleep-out per site is permitted.
  • Comply with development standards for dwellings/ housing.

Current rules:   A sleep-out is currently classified as an accessory building. Sleep-outs must comply with accessory building standards.

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Minor dwelling Rule

Minor dwellings are proposed to replace dependant dwelling units in the Residential Zone. The main changes are:

  • Removing the need for the occupier to be a family member, and
  • Removing the need for the building to be removed or integrated into the main dwelling 6 months after it is vacated.

Resource consent would not be required, subject to meeting design standards contained in proposed Rule

Proposed definition: any self-contained dwelling unit with a gross floor area of between 45 and 60m2 on the same site and in the same ownership as the principal dwelling for the purposes of providing accommodation.

Proposed rules relate to: 

  • Building Size, Height and Overlooking, Separation Distances
  • Site Coverage and Number of Buildings, and On-site Amenity
  • Air Noise Control, Turitea / Aokautere Residential Zone Setback, Pacific Drive Extension Water Supply Requirements, and Aokautere Development Area.

Current rules:  A number of standards exist for dependent dwellings. This page contains further information on existing standards.

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Papakainga and other housing forms

The current residential zone contains specific rules for residential centres, retirement villages, and community housing.  

Plan Change 20 proposes to:

  • introduce specific rule for Papakainga Housing.
  • introduce additional Assessment Criteria for Rule and the design of Residential Centres and Retirement Villages.