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What's the Special Character Area Overlay?

Do you own a property in a special character or heritage area? Thinking about a new development, or additions to an existing dwelling but not sure where to start? Then this blog series is for you! This is the first blog in our new series, all about developing in special character or heritage areas. The blogs will be full of useful tips and information, to help you on your development journey.

But first, let’s start at the beginning:

What’s the Special Character Area Overlay?

In Auckland, the Special Character Area Overlay in residential zones (or “SCAR” as its often shortened to) is an overlay shown in the maps of the Auckland Unitary Plan. You can access the maps here. The SCAR affects the development that you can do on your site, what requires resource consent and the issues that Auckland Council will be assessing as part of a resource consent application.

What’s the purpose of the Special Character Area Overlay?

The Special Character Area aims to manage the historic special character values that have importance, relevance and interest to communities in a specific location. Different areas of Auckland have been identified with specific values such as aesthetics, physical or visual qualities that contribute to important heritage character. A Special Character Statement has been prepared for each area which defines these values and describes why these should be protected. The Special Character Statement is a good starting point to understand the special values in your area that Auckland Council is trying to protect.

Due to the specific resource consent requirements with undertaking additions and alterations (or adding new buildings) to a dwelling within the Special Character Area Overlay, it's important to engage an architect and planner who are experienced in working in special character and heritage areas. An experienced architect and planner will be able to help guide you on the scale, location and design of alterations and additions which may be appropriate for your home.

What can I do without resource consent?

A very small amount of work can be undertaken to dwellings in the SCAR without having resource consent. This could include for example minor maintenance, restoration or repair that like for like- this includes the design, form and appearance, so look of the dwelling doesn’t change.

Almost all additions and alterations to a dwelling (except for minor rear alterations which use the same design and materials to the existing dwelling) will require resource consent. It’s important to choose a planner experienced in this area to help you with your resource consent application. Your resource consent planner will work with your architect to ensure that the changes proposed are appropriate and consistent with the objectives of the Auckland Unitary Plan and help the resource consent application process run smoothly.

Need more advice?

If you’re planning on undertaking additions and alterations to your home or constructing new buildings in the Special Character Area Overlay, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us at Planning Plus. Our experienced team will help guide you through this process, working with you and your architect to achieve the outcome you need. You can contact us on or (09) 427 9966.

Helen is a Principal Planner at Planning Plus® and has over 15 years’ experience in planning and environmental consulting.

Helen's experience includes the preparation of resource consents, compliance monitoring, environmental auditing, community consultation and environmental fund coordination. Her background has provided her with a wide range and thorough understanding of technical and environmental inputs.

Helen holds a Bachelor of Applied Science (Environmental Science) and Bachelor of Business (Management) Conjoint Degree and is an Associate Member of the New Zealand Planning Institute.


As with all our blogs this information is preliminary in nature only and correct at the time of writing. It is not intended to substitute for your own investigations or obtaining specific advice on your proposal from professionals. Planning Plus LtdTM is not liable in any way for any errors or omissions.

© Planning Plus Ltd 2023

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