Housing in New Zealand

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Suburban housing in Dunedin

Housing in New Zealand is based traditionally on the quarter-acre block, detached suburban home, but many historical exceptions and alternative modern trends exist. New Zealand has largely followed international designs. From the time of organised European colonization in the mid-19th century there has been a general chronological development in the types of homes built in New Zealand, and examples of each generation are still commonly occupied.[1][2]

Types of places where people live[edit]

Suburban housing, Devonport, Auckland
Semi detached houses after an earthquake, Christchurch
Art deco apartments, Symonds Street, Auckland

Some of the first divisions of land in 1847 (Otago) were into quarter acre, 10 acre and 50 acre sections.[3] Since that time the trend towards subdivision.[4] While there has been some opposition to townhouse style development, New Zealand cities are becoming more dense.[5] From the 1910s blocks of flats were built in New Zealand's cities. This was given government support from the 1930s when the Labour government built flats in the inner city to replaces slum districts.[6] Many old office blocks and church buildings have been converted to apartments in New Zealand's major centres.

Holiday and mobile homes[edit]

Bach or crib (holiday home), Tasman District, South Island

There are a range houses and similar structures that are used on a temporary basis as holiday accommodation. In the North Island holiday homes are traditional called baches (or batch), while in the South Island (particularly Otago and Southland) they are known as cribs.[7] These are typically purpose built houses or huts, but can also be designed as permint home that have since changed their usage pattern. Baches are typical next to a coast or a lake, but can also be used as a base for hunting or fishing in local rivers.[8] They are well known for a rustic, minimalist and mismatched internal design and furniture. However, large expensive holiday homes are also less commonly called baches.

There also a large range of government hiking and hunting Huts in New Zealand, but staying in them for more than three days at a time is discouraged.[9] Tents, camper-vans and caravans are also common, however New Zealand lacks the large trailer parks of some similar countries.

A new movement to build tiny homes [10]


Many New Zealanders live permanently in structures which were not designed to be homes and are counted as homeless by the government. Homelessness is a difficult statistic to measure and in New Zealand is not typically recorded with same accuracy as other statistics. In 2013 it was estimated by the census that 1% of people in New Zealand live in "severe housing deprivation". This number has increased from previous years.[11]    

In May 2018 the government allocated $100 million to address homelessness over the next four years.[12]

House design[edit]

In 1990 the average new homes was 125 square metres, by 2017 this had grown to 195 square metres.[13] In 1966 the New Zealand Encyclopedia recognized seven basic designs of New Zealand houses.[14]

13th to early 19th Century adapting a tropical culture to a temperate climate[edit]

Maori Chief Tahau in whare mid 1870s.

At first Māori used the building methods that had been developed in tropical Polynesia, altered to fit the more nomadic lifestyle. By the 15th Century Classical Māori communities slept in rectangular sleeping houses (wharepuni). The wharepuni were made of timber, rushes, tree ferns and bark, they had a thatched roof and earth floors.[15] These building also had a front porch which was an adaptation to New Zealand's climate and is not found in tropical Polynesia. In the southern South Island were aquaculture was not possible a semi nomadic way of life led to seasonal camps that could be repaired on the groups return. The effect of European housing methods led to a mix of designs with Maori adopting windows and high roofs.

19th Century building a better Britain[edit]

Cottage, Sydenham, Christchurch
Villa, Royal Oak, Auckland

Houses from this period are divided into cottages and villas. The first houses built in New Zealand were cottages.[16] Villas were the larger and more expensively built equivalent. The typical villa has the kitchen to the rear of the house and separate from the dining room, as food preparation was meant to occur out of sight.[17]

Early 20th Century American influences and responses[edit]

California Bungalow, Paeroa
Art Deco house, Waterview, Auckland

The 20th century started with big Edwardian houses and neo-Georgian architecture[18] From the late 1910s the Californian bungalow became more popular. the design has a lower pitched roof and ceiling height than the typical New Zealand villa and was therefore easier to heat.[16] This coincided with the popularity of the Hollywood film industry, which incorporated American clothes, furniture, cars and houses.

As a response to American influence and nostalgia for Britain a style of houses were built which conspicuously emulated older English styles. Spanish mission style from the late 1920s with grand triple arches and twisted Baroque columns.[19] Modernism (Art deco) of the 1930 was designed to be functional with smooth surfaces and a flat roof.[20]

Late 20th Century Neo-colonial and Mediterranean styles[edit]

State housing had a big influence on the way homes were built in New Zealand from the 1940s to the late 1960s.[21]

21st Century building habits[edit]

In the early 21st Century New Zealanders built in variety of styles that borrowed from a variety of previous influences.[16]

Integration with the environment[edit]

In some conspicuous locations in area of natural beauty it is required by local councils to blend the house design with the surrounding environment.[22]

Passive climate control[edit]

Houses can be built to maximize the heat gained during the day from the sun and retain it overnight.[23]

Natural building martial revival[edit]

With increased affluence and environmental concerns a small but growing number of houses are built with semi processed natural materials and traditional building methods.[24][25]


Heating and insulation[edit]

Glass fibre, polyester, polystyrene, wool and paper are all used for insulation in New Zealand.[26] Home insulation in New Zealand can be heavily subsidised by the government.[27]

Some local councils are restricting the kind of wood and coal burners that can be used in order to improve air quality.[28]

Water and sewerage[edit]

In 2017 about 80% of New Zealanders where on water purification distribution systems that supplied more than 100 people. Of these 96% met the bacteriological standards for water quality, while 81% met all the relevant standards.[29] The remaining 20% of New Zealanders typical live In rural areas where rain, streams and bores are commonly used as water sources.

Large properties can process or store their sewage on site. [30] Grey water can be reused for purposes other than drinking. This recycling is required by some New Zealand councils..[31]

Construction and regulations[edit]

The Building Act 1991 was replaced by the Building Act 2004[32][33], this introduced a licensing for building designers, builders and related trades. Councils were required to be subject to regular quality control procedure checks, however, council building inspectors remained unlicensed.[34]

Alteration regulations[edit]

Most alterations to homes need to be certificated, there are also limits on houses of historical importance.

Illegal building practices[edit]

While all building practices that do not comply with the Building Act are illegal, some are also specifically banned.[35]


Three broad categories are available for suburban house foundations concrete slab, a concrete block basement foundations and an elevated floor with a crawl space.[36] Footing depth varies with soil type and slope, with either a floating polystyrene slab or more rarely piling.  

Earthquake risk and construction[edit]

Earthquake risk zones before and after the Christchurch earthquakes.

New Zealand distribution of earthquakes is highly regional, with the eastern North Island and western South Island having the highest occurrence.[37] However earthquakes can occur anywhere in New Zealand and their magnitude is only one factor in determining the expected damage.[38]

The Christchurch earthquake had a large effect on the earthquake risk zones for buildings. Particularly in the South island were information about the earthquake risk from the Alpine fault was included.[39] A more subtle change was made to move parts of Christchurch from the low risk zone.

Home ownership and economics[edit]

In 2017 63% of New Zealanders owned their own home this includes those who have an outstanding mortgage on their property and 33% live in rental properties.[40] This is the lowest rate of home ownership since 1951. This is partly due to the increase in New Zealand house prices which since 1990 have increased faster than any other OECD country.[13]

Government involvement[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Taonga, New Zealand Ministry for Culture and Heritage Te Manatu. "3. – Housing – Te Ara Encyclopedia of New Zealand". teara.govt.nz. Retrieved 2018-12-09.
  2. ^ "Early Housing in New Zealand — With particular reference to Nelson and Cook Strait Area | NZETC". nzetc.victoria.ac.nz. Retrieved 2019-01-26.
  3. ^ West, Jonathan (2017). The Face of Nature: An Environmental History of the Otago Peninsula. Otago University Press. ISBN 9781927322383.
  4. ^ diana@wordfusion.com, Diana Clement Your Money and careers writer for the NZ Herald (2016-01-21). "Do the maths before you divide". NZ Herald. ISSN 1170-0777. Retrieved 2018-12-09.
  5. ^ "'Unliveable': Five townhouses less than 1m away". nzherald.co.nz. Retrieved 12 December 2018.
  6. ^ Taonga, New Zealand Ministry for Culture and Heritage Te Manatu. "Inner-city living – Te Ara Encyclopedia of New Zealand". teara.govt.nz. Retrieved 2018-12-10.
  7. ^ "Is it a crib or a bach?". Otago Daily Times Online News. 2012-12-28. Retrieved 2018-12-09.
  8. ^ Taonga, New Zealand Ministry for Culture and Heritage Te Manatu. "5. – Beach culture – Te Ara Encyclopedia of New Zealand". teara.govt.nz. Retrieved 2018-12-12.
  9. ^ "Huts". www.doc.govt.nz. Retrieved 2018-12-09.
  10. ^ "Tiny houses". New Zealand Geographic. Retrieved 2018-12-09.
  11. ^ derek.cheng@nzherald.co.nz, Derek Cheng (2018-02-11). "Homeless crisis: 80 per cent to 90 per cent of homeless people turned away from emergency housing". NZ Herald. ISSN 1170-0777. Retrieved 2018-12-10.
  12. ^ "Government announces $100m plan to fight homelessness". Stuff. Retrieved 2018-12-10.
  13. ^ a b Andrew Coleman (2017-05-15). "Why does New Zealand keep building such massive houses?". The Spinoff. Retrieved 2018-12-09.
  14. ^ McLintock, Alexander Hare; James Garrett, A. N. Z. I. A.; Taonga, New Zealand Ministry for Culture and Heritage Te Manatu. "Characteristic House Types – Seven Basic Styles". An encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock, 1966. Retrieved 2018-12-09.
  15. ^ Taonga, New Zealand Ministry for Culture and Heritage Te Manatu. "Māori housing – te noho whare – Te Ara Encyclopedia of New Zealand". teara.govt.nz. Retrieved 2018-12-10.
  16. ^ a b c Taonga, New Zealand Ministry for Culture and Heritage Te Manatu. "3. – Housing – Te Ara Encyclopedia of New Zealand". teara.govt.nz. Retrieved 2018-12-09.
  17. ^ "Design: Styles of the city". NZ Herald. 2000-06-30. ISSN 1170-0777. Retrieved 2018-12-11.
  18. ^ Taonga, New Zealand Ministry for Culture and Heritage Te Manatu. "2. – Domestic architecture – Te Ara Encyclopedia of New Zealand". teara.govt.nz. Retrieved 2018-12-10.
  19. ^ McLintock, Alexander Hare; James Garrett, A. N. Z. I. A.; Taonga, New Zealand Ministry for Culture and Heritage Te Manatu. "Characteristic House Types – Seven Basic Styles". An encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock, 1966. Retrieved 2018-12-11.
  20. ^ Ltd, BRANZ (2010-08-07). "History | BRANZ Renovate". History. Retrieved 2018-12-11.
  21. ^ Ltd, BRANZ (2010-07-16). "1940-60s | BRANZ Renovate". 1940-60s. Retrieved 2018-12-11.
  22. ^ "Waitakere Ranges heritage area bush design guide" (PDF). www.aucklandcouncil.govt.nz. 2017.
  23. ^ Ltd, BRANZ (2018-12-12). "Key features of designing a home with passive design". Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  24. ^ "Natural Building Techniques". Earth Building Association of New Zealand. 2015-08-02. Retrieved 2018-12-10.
  25. ^ "Earth Building Association of New Zealand". Earth Building Association of New Zealand. Retrieved 2018-12-10.
  26. ^ "Paying for home insulation". New Zealand Government. Retrieved 2018-12-10.
  27. ^ "Paying for home insulation". New Zealand Government. Retrieved 2018-12-10.
  28. ^ "Timaru resident's firewood spend doubles with new burner". Radio New Zealand. 2018-06-11. Retrieved 2018-12-10.
  29. ^ "Annual Report on Drinking-water Quality 2016-2017". Ministry of Health NZ. Retrieved 2018-12-09.
  30. ^ Employment, Ministry of Business, Innovation and (2016-12-14). "Onsite sewage systems - Smarter Homes Practical advice on smarter home essentials". Smarter Homes. Retrieved 2018-12-09.
  31. ^ Employment, Ministry of Business, Innovation and (2016-12-14). "Reusing greywater - Smarter Homes Practical advice on smarter home essentials". Smarter Homes. Retrieved 2018-12-18.
  32. ^ Employment, Ministry of Business, Innovation and. "Building Act 2004". Building Performance. Retrieved 2018-12-09.
  33. ^ Employment, Ministry of Business, Innovation and. "Building Code compliance". Building Performance. Retrieved 2018-12-09.
  34. ^ "Failings of the Building Act 1991 – Were these a cause of the leaky building crisis? Breaking down the Building Act 2004: What does it really mean? « Legal Vision – Leaky Building Lawyers". Retrieved 2018-12-09.
  35. ^ Employment, Ministry of Business, Innovation and. "Warnings and bans on building products". Building Performance. Retrieved 2018-12-09.
  36. ^ "House Foundations - The Pros & Cons of 3 Different Types". Home Ownership Tips, Guides, Tricks and Tradespeople. 2015-03-04. Retrieved 2018-12-10.
  37. ^ "Earthquake risk zones » Seismic Resilience". www.seismicresilience.org.nz. Retrieved 2018-12-09.
  38. ^ "Major changes to earthquake strengthening rules". Stuff. Retrieved 2018-12-11.
  39. ^ Bull, William B. (1996). "Prehistorical earthquakes on the Alpine fault, New Zealand". Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth. 101 (B3): 6037–6050. Bibcode:1996JGR...101.6037B. doi:10.1029/95JB03062. ISSN 2156-2202.
  40. ^ corazon.miller@nzherald.co.nz @c0ra_z0n, Corazon Miller Reporter, NZ Herald (2017-01-09). "Home ownership rates lowest in 66 years according to Statistics NZ". NZ Herald. ISSN 1170-0777. Retrieved 2018-12-09.