Housing New Zealand has apologised to its minister after its staff questioned the Government's approach to social housing developments in a submission to a select committee.

Two senior Housing NZ planners appeared yesterday before the select committee dealing with a bill to streamline the Resource Management Act and said its housing developments should qualify as nationally significant projects so it could avoid delays caused by neighbours' objections.

They said "greater central government direction" was needed on social housing, and such projects should qualify for the fast-tracking the bill will give to infrastructure projects such as major roads.

Making the submission breached Cabinet Manual rules, which require ministerial approval.

Housing NZ's senior managers did not know about the submission.

Yesterday afternoon, chief executive Lesley McTurk apologised to minister Phil Heatley and said the corporation was trying to have the submission withdrawn.

A spokesman said it appeared to be a "naive mistake" by Auckland staff unfamiliar with Government processes.

As the submission was being made, Labour MPs Grant Robertson and Shane Jones asked the staff whether it was being given with the support of the minister. They replied it was.

Afterwards, Mr Robertson said it was highly unusual for departments to criticise government bills in select committees.

He said it was a sign of how rushed the changes to the Resource Management Act were that staff in a government department had to seek changes through the select committee process rather than through their ministers during the normal Cabinet committee process.

A spokesman for Mr Heatley said the minister had not known of the submission and it did not reflect the Government's priorities. He had accepted the apology from Dr McTurk.

The submission said listing housing projects as nationally significant would help prevent the delays and extra costs caused by objections from neighbours - "a situation commonly referred to as NIMBY [not in my backyard] opposition".

It referred to a Hobsonville development which Prime Minister and Helensville MP John Key had opposed and which National had since decided should not contain state houses.

A Housing New Zealand spokesman would not say whether the two planners would be disciplined as it was an employment matter.

He said their submission was not approved by the corporation's board or managers.

The Transport Agency also made a submission, but a spokeswoman for Transport Minister Steven Joyce said he knew of it and it related to a "minor technical matter".