Your Council

Plan Change 20A: housing standards

A review of the housing, site and subdivision rules.

Housing styles have changed over the years from villas, bungalows and state houses, to modern and mono-pitch designs.  Section sizes are reducing and new houses tend to be larger. 

The planning rules for housing and subdivision set out a common development code for all new building and alterations.  This is about matters such as providing on-site sunny and private open space, not shading your neighbour house or invading their privacy, and ensuring sites have enough green space.

Housing construction or alterations currently do not require a specific resource consent, provided that the design is consistent with the permitted development standards contained within the District Plan.  

Council has received mixed feedback on whether the current development standards are working with respect to infill subdivision and houses that 'fit' with existing street character.

Note - these standards are also used to assess Subdivision applications.  The Standards are separate to the Building Code requirements for construction. 

What are the proposed changes

A summary of the changes are outlined below.  Some of these are illustrated to help explain what the changes mean. For full details on the proposed changes refer to Appendix 1: Proposed District Plan Provisions.


Dwelling setback from side and rear boundary

PC20 House diagram1


Amended Rule Separation Distances

Proposed change:    any dwelling facade must be located 1.5m from any side or rear boundary.

Current rules:   Facade of a dwelling containing a window to a habitable room must be located 3.0 metres from any side or rear boundary.  This includes bedrooms  living rooms and lounges. All other facades must be located 1.5metres from any side or rear boundary.

Why is this changing:   This change allows for better use of the site and increased site planning flexibility while still allowing for good privacy.

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Garages and Accessory Buildings in front yards


Amended Rule Separation Distances

Proposed rules:    Where a site has frontage to a public road,  a free-standing garage or carport must be located a minimum of 4m back from the street boundary, and any accessory building or garage, whether freestanding or adjoining the dwelling, shall be recessed a minimum of 1m behind the front facade of a dwelling.  

Current rule:   A garage or accessory building can be located up to 1.5m from the street boundary.

Why is this changing:   This change ensures that the fronts of houses are visible at the street edge, and the street is not dominated by garage doors or blank facades.

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Garages and Accessory Buildings in rear yards


Amended Rule Separation Distances

Proposed rules:    Garages and accessory buildings must be located a minimum of 1.0m from any side or rear boundary, except in the following situation:

-the building is no longer than 8 metres in length along the boundary, and

-the building facade facing the boundary contains no windows, and

-the building is less than 2.4m in height.

Current rule:   A garage or accessory building must be a minimum of 1.0m from any side or rear boundary.

Why is this changing:   This change allows for better use of the site and increased site planning flexibility while still allowing for good privacy.

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Fencing at the street front and next to public space

 PC20 Fence Diagram Street ViewPC20 Fence Diagram Overview

PC20 Fence Diagram










New Rule Fencing

Proposed change. 

Fences area Permitted Activity provided it complies with the Performance Standards detailed in Clauses (a) - (d)

(a)      The maximum height of fencing is 1.8metres except as provided below:

(b)      Where a fence is erected along a property boundary directly adjoining public open space (reserve, walkway or park):

(i)        The fence must not exceed 1.1 metres in height for more than half the property boundary length; or

(ii)       If the fence is of Open Construction, the fence must not exceed 1.8 metres in height.

(c)     Where a fence is erected along aproperty boundary directly adjoining a road frontage:

(i)        A maximum height of 1.1 metres applies except that solid fencing may be erected to 1.8 metres over not more than 1/3 of the frontage width, and

(ii)       No part of a fenceabove 1.1 metres in height shall be located within 1.8 metres of a driveway.

(iii)      If the fence is of Open Construction, the fence must not exceed 1.8 metres in height.

(d)     Where a side fence is within the front yard or next to a driveway, and within 3 metres of the street edge, a maximum height of 1.1 metres applies.  Should a side fence connect to that part of any front fence on the same lot which is permitted by (b) above to rise to 1.1 metres, it may also rise to the same level.

(e)     Where a fence is erected on the road frontage of a corner site, the requirements of (a) -(c) shall only apply to one road frontage.

Definition: Open Construction  means able to be viewed through, and with not less than 65% openness over the elevation of the fence. Open areas exclude any surface of the fence which is solid, but may include wire mesh, or wrought iron or similar elements with a facing edge not thicker than 12mm and spaced at not less than 80mm centres.


Fencing plays an important role securing private property, however extensive high fencing can shut-off private space from the public realm.  Low front fences are one of the factors that contribute to greater safety of both public and private realms.  Low front fencing in the front yard and adjacent to driveways ensures that drivers exiting lot are able to view the footpath, which minimises potential conflict with pedestrians.

Fencing requirements ensure that the visual connection between private property and the public space is not completely lost, but allows for differing orientations of frontages, where for example the street is on the north side of the lot.  In that circumstance, a resident might reasonably wish to achieve some private open space on the sunny side of the house, close to the street edges and that should be accommodated. 

The extent of high front fencing (that is 1/3 of the whole street frontage, along a street)still allows informal surveillance of the street from dwellings, and avoids monotony along the street edge. 

Current rule: No Standards.  Fence height controlled by Building Act.  

Why is this changing:  This is to ensure high front fences do not dominate the street edge and allows for the connection between the house and the street and public open space, which contributes to the attractiveness of the street, security and public safety.

Low front fences next to driveways will minimise risk of cars backing out and colliding with children and other footpath users.

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Private outdoor space

PC House Diagram 2

Amended Rule On-site Amenity

Proposed change: Living court required to accommodate a 4.5m diameter circle.  Minimum area of 36m2, and other standards unchanged.

Current rule: Living court required to accommodate a 6.0m diameter circle.

Why is this changing:  This change allows greater site planning flexibility, particularly for building on and around existing houses, while still maintaining accepted outdoor private space.

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Renewable domestic energy

Amended Rule Height

Proposed change:   PC20 proposes to allow solar Photovoltaic (PV) panels and solar water heaters to be excluded from building height limits up to 0.5m.  

A specific standard is proposed for domestic scale wind turbines, but resource consent would still be required. 

Current rules:   Solar PV and water heating units must comply with building height rules.  

The District Plan currently contains no guidance on whether a single domestic scale wind turbine should be considered in residential neighbourhoods.  

Why is this changing:   Both these changes are about providing clarity for people considering domestic renewable energy, and reducing the barriers to install such devices.  Domestic wind turbines still require a resource consent as there is uncertainty over noise and visual impact.

The Council adopted a Domestic Energy Strategy in 2011.  Follow the link for further information.

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Mono-pitch Building height

 PC20 Mono-pitch

Amended Rule Height

Proposed change:  The top 1/3 of a monopitch roof end, or a gable roof end (including the eave) may penetrate the recession plane. (A recession plane is a surface inclined towards the interior of a site or zone boundary or from points vertically above a site or zone boundary).

Current rule:  Gable roof ends may penetrate the recession plane by 1/3 the gable end height.

Why is this changing:  This change enables greater flexibility in roof design, and clarifies the approach for mono-pitch roofing.

Street tree protection at subdivision

New Rule Street Trees

Proposed rule:   No driveway or garage may be placed in a location that will require the removal of an established street tree.

Current standard:   No District Plan rule currently exists.

Why is this changing:   This change provides additional protection for established street trees where sites are proposed to be subdivided.

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Exemption of low decks
 PC20 deck

Proposed change:  Decks below 0.5m in height are not subject to building set back from boundary requirements.

Current rule:   Decks are included in the definition of building, and are required to be set back 1.5m from the property boundary.

Why is this changing:  This change enables greater site planning flexibility.

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Minimum section size in Ashhurst, Bunnythorpe and Longburn villages

Proposed change:   The subdivision of property in Ashhurst, Bunnythorpe, and Longburn must maintain a minimum section size of 500m2.

Current rule:   The subdivision of property must maintain a minimum section size of 350m2.

Why is this changing:   Currently the subdivision rules for Ashhurst, Bunnythorpe and Longburn villages are the same as for Palmerston North City.  Feedback is that the 350m2 section size enables development that is not in keeping with the character of these areas.  

Follow this link to a page explaining the current Subdivision rules.

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Number of buildings per section

New Rule

Proposed change:   New Performance Standard for the number of buildings per section, limited to:

  • Two dwelling units; or
  • One dwelling and one minor dwelling unit; or
  • One dwelling unit and one sleep-out

Current rule:   No specific limit exists, however each house must comply with the Performance Standards, including 1 house per 350m2 of land.

Why is this changing:   Changes are proposed to provide certainty for landowners and neighbours about the intensity of residential development.  This approach recognises the differences between private dwellings and other accommodation forms (for example community housing or residential centres).  The proposed plan change also includes new rule for purpose built multi-unit housing development.

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Palmerston North - Gisborne Railway Line Setback

New Rule

Proposed change:    New rules are proposed to establish:

  • a no build area within 25m of the Palmerston North- Gisborne Railway Line, and
  • require new dwellings located within 70m of the Palmerston North - Gisborne Railway Line to meet acoustic insulation standards.

Current rule:    No rules currently exist for development of sites adjacent to the Railway Line.

Why is this changing:    This change ensures that new dwellings constructed in close proximity to the railway line are appropriately designed, and the operation of the railway line will not impact of residents.

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Definition of Site Coverage

Proposed change:    Remove the requirement to set aside 18m2 of site coverage where no garage is shown.

Current rule:     The definition includes a requirement to set aside 18m2 for a future garage if none is shown on building plans.

Why is this changing:    This change provides greater flexibility regarding site development and removing the requirement to construct a garage.

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Aokautere Development Area

New Rule Aokautere Development Area

Proposed change: New dwellings and accessory buildings will be required to be located on "Developable Land" within the Aokautere Development Area (Map 10.7.1).  Dwellings or accessory buildings loated on "Limited Development Land" will require resource consent.     

Current rule: Currently onlyAccessory Buildings are required to be located on Developable Land.

Why is this changing:     Much of the Aokautere Development Area is now established.  Under the current approach, building within the Limited Development Area (formely Undevelopable Area) is assessed mainly in terms of land stability.  However, the gully systems form part of the overarching character of the Aokautere Development Area, and therefore building within the Limited Development Area may impact on character, and affect adjacent property owners.

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External noise limits for heatpumps and mechanical plant

Amended Rule 10.9.1

Proposed change:    Changes are proposed to require noise from external heatpump and mechanical plant to comply with residential noise limits when measured at the property boundary.

Current rule:    The noise rules currently only apply to non-residential activities operating in the Residential Zone.

Why is this changing:     The Council has had complaints about the noise generated from heatpumps.  The proposed change would require new heatpumps and other mechanical plant to comply with Residential noise limits. 

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External Storage of Derelict Vehicles

New Rule

Proposed change:   No activity shall involve the external storage of more than one derelict vehicle within view of neighbouring properties or a public place.

New Definition for Derelict Vehicle: any car other vehicle which is not currently registered and/or not currently warranted, and which for the time being is unable to be driven under it's own power.

Current rule:   No rules currently exist. 

Why is this changing:     Changes are proposed to limit the potential for external storage of derelict vehicles to impact on residential amenity.

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