Development of a national guide to encourage well-functioning and high-quality housing.

Medium-density design guidance is variable throughout many urban areas of Aotearoa New Zealand. Following the Government’s passing of the Resource Management (Enabling Housing Supply and Other Matters) Amendment Act, this national guidance was a unique opportunity to encourage well-functioning and high-quality design, to achieve positive outcomes for New Zealand housing.

The Ministry for the Environment (MfE) was seeking the delivery of a national medium-density design guide that incorporates te ao Māori perspectives relevant to medium-density housing. The focus of the guide is on three-unit developments up to three storeys in height that are permitted under the Medium Density Residential Standards (MDRS). The guide also draws on kaupapa Māori design, understanding specific knowledge, considerations, and protocols associated to kāinga.

As the main target for the guide are property owners and small-scale developer the text and graphics of the guide needed to be clear and easy to understand. As the guide would not hold a statutory status, the objective was to create a guide that was easy and attractive to read which was done by including clear and colourful graphics and by focusing on the benefits of incorporating the guidance into the developments.



Worked with

Desna Whaanga-Schollum
Jacqueline Paul
Jade Kake
Ministry of Housing and Urban Development

Project date



Best Practice Award | Strategic Guidance | NZPI Annual Awards

The guide needed to be developed within a very constrained timeframe to enable the opportunity for local councils to incorporate the guidance within their own plan change documentation within their timeframe to notify their respective intensification plan changes. Because of this the team had to work fast and efficiently.

To ensure that the guide would be relevant and suitable to use in all relevant Tier 1 territories across the country, the project team consisted of designers and consultants from across the country and included urban design, landscape architecture and Te Hīhiri.

A Māori partnership approach was recognised as an important part of the process and early engagement with Māori Design professionals resulted in a Kaupapa Māori Design approach with Te Ao Māori concepts. Representatives from Nga Aho assisted in the preparation and review of the guide to ensure that Māori design principles were well represented.

The process targeted engagement process with local councils and professional institutes to ensure the national guide was aligned with existing local guidance and expectations. Te Ao Māori perspectives were incorporated in this guidance through a series of hui with Māori design professionals.