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Better urban planning

The Productivity Commission completed its inquiry into New Zealand's urban planning system. The final report, summary material, inquiry submissions and research reports are available below.

Urban landscape with cityscape in background


  • Our brief
    1 November 2015
  • Consultation and engagement starts
  • Issues paper
    9 December 2015
  • Submissions closed 9 March 2016
  • Draft report
    19 August 2016
  • Submissions closed 3 October 2016
  • Final report
    29 March 2017
  • Evaluation

The inquiry

The Government asked the Commission to review New Zealand’s urban planning system and to identify, from first principles, the most appropriate system for allocating land use to support desirable social, economic, environmental and cultural outcomes. We were asked to look beyond current arrangements and consider fundamentally different ways of delivering urban planning. Read our brief here.

What did the inquiry find?

The Commission’s report described the challenges of the current system and where key changes will make the most difference. We looked at ways to make a complex and often unclear system more coherent and purposeful.

Our final report made 64 recommendations, including having one law that supports and governs both the built and natural environments. This law should replace the Resource Management Act which, while ground-breaking for its time, has become a point of weakness in the planning system.

The Commission identified ways to make the planning system more responsive so that urban land can shift to different uses over time, there is enough land and infrastructure to meet demand and residents can move easily through cities. The Commission’s report recommended a substantial clarification in statutory objectives, a stronger role for spatial planning; timely, fairer and comprehensive review of plans by independent hearings panels; more tools for councils to fund infrastructure; and better stewardship of the planning system.

Final report

Our report recommended a future planning system that would look quite different to current urban planning and resource management arrangements.

The Commission's recommendations aimed for a system that copes far better with the stresses of growth – such as escalating house prices and inadequate infrastructure – while affording more effective protection of the natural environment.

Insights into local government

Local government insightsThe learnings from this inquiry has informed a Local government insights report. Understand the major challenges for both local and central government, what they need to get right, how to do things differently and the benefits of making these changes - read the report here.

This report brought together the learnings of five of the Commission's inquiries into local government performance: Local government funding and financing (2019); Better urban planning (2017); Using land for housing (2015); Towards better local regulation (2013); and Housing affordability (2012).

Government response

There was been no formal Government response released to this inquiry, however, in July 2019 Hon David Parker's announced a "comprehensive overhaul of the RMA".


An independent evaluation of the Commission’s performance has been undertaken to understand whether the inquiry had the right focus, the right process, whether the engagement and delivery of message was effective, and analysis, findings and recommendations were of high quality. The following evaluation results are available to download: