Now this shocking revelation from Councillor Dick Quax……..
Council staff unable to promise improved consents process despite cultural facilitators
Auckland Council staff have been unable to give assurances to council members that consenting processes will improve despite council hiring extra people to facilitate dealings in the process between applicants and Maori, says Councillor Dick Quax.
“This means the Council has hired extra staff to perform functions which council executives have no idea they can carry out effectively and efficiently.
“This is ridiculous and unprofessional. I questioned officials whether applicants would just deal with the Iwi identified by the facilitator as relevant to the resource consent application. They were unable to provide an assurance that this would be the case.”
It was recently disclosed that nearly 4000 sites of value and significance to Maori in the Auckland area would require a “cultural impact” assessment by mana whenua from up to 19 Iwi before work can begin on these sites under resource consent council rules.
“Should a tribal group from as far away as the Waikato feel they have an interest in the particular site covered by the consent application there is nothing to stop their involvement regardless how dubious their links might be.
“The reality of all this, is that Council is now running a parallel consenting process with 19 Maori tribal groups having consenting authority in Auckland.
How can it be fair to single out 3600 sites across the city, the majority with no proven link to past Maori occupation, and require the property owner to go cap in hand to the local iwi for a CIA, as part of the resource consent process Auckland Council proposes for any new building or other earthworks on the site?
The NZAA complains that in the majority of cases, no investigation was made by an archaeologist or mana whenua representative before a site was included on the proposed Unitary Plan list.
If they had checked, they would have found that "many of the sites are small shell middens, most of which do not appear to have any associated settlement remains. They are generally of low to moderate archaeological significance and would not meet the historic heritage criteria for scheduling in the proposed Auckland Unitary Plan." The NZAA says that on past experience, small isolated shell middens have not been seen as having high cultural significance by mana whenua.
Planning law expert Professor Ken Palmer is also raising doubts about the legality of the proposed reforms. Hopefully they will be abandoned before the lawyers get to test them. An additional piece of red tape is the last thing home-owners and developers need as they "intensify" the city. Spare a thought for mana whenua, too, as they are forced to scrabble around in other people's backyards on some cultural lucky dip.