Auckland councillors have voted to scrap blanket protections for sites of value to Mana whenua and buildings built before 1944 in the first day of arguments over the city's long-term planning rulebook.
Auckland Council's governing body on Wednesday sat down for the first of what may be a week of meetings to hammer out the Unitary Plan - which will dictate what can be built in Auckland for at least a decade and could dramatically change the city's density and shape.
Among the thousands of pages of recommendations - which have proposed rezoning and expanding the city to make room for 400,000 new homes - the independent panel that drafted the plan called for current protections for 2213 of sites of value to Mana whenua to be scrapped - saying there wasn't enough evidence to justify protection for all of them.
Councillors on Wednesday agree, voting 12-6 to scrap the rules - which previously meant owners of land within 50 metres of sites had to contact Mana whenua to make sure there was no cultural impact from construction.
Sites will now need to be verified as being of cultural significance to gain special protections.
That came despite recommendations from council planners to keep the rules, saying there was a "risk of ongoing loss and degradation".
In another major decision, councillors also voted to drop a blanket protection for buildings built before 1944, as recommended in the draft plan.
Some Councillors argued the overlay giving protection to all pre-1944 structures had only been put in temporarily until better controls were in place, and that important buildings would be protected by a special character test and other heritage rules.
"You can't have it both ways. You can't increase density and protect every pre-1944 building. Otherwise you spread out into the paddocks and fields... Somewhere something's got to give," Deputy Mayor Penny Hulse argued.
"I love old buildings and I am old... We're all ageing, but it doesn't necessarily mean we're fabulous. And I think the same goes for buildings."
Earlier in the day, the council opted to bypass its Development Committee in the Unitary Plan decision process, meaning the Independent Maori Statutory Board was cut out of the final debate on the plan - although this decision was backed by the board's members.
The governing body now until August 19 to make its final decision on the plan.