Māori respond to Government's proposed Fast-Track Approvals Bill

Kapiti iwi Ngāti Toa only need to gaze out their office window to see the environmental impact of sped-up building processes. 

They look out across Te Awarua o Porirua (Porirua Harbour), which was once the pātaka kai (food source) for the iwi. 

However, Ngāti Toa chief executive Helmut Modlik said that all changed in the 1950s and 1960s.  

"The Government of the day decided this was a perfect place to intensify housing. And so, the equivalent of the fast-track development in that era took place," Modlik said. 

"The sedimentation then began down into our harbour. The pollution began. And within 20 years, our beautiful food basket, the pātaka for Ngāti Toa, was turned into a polluted pond - barren and toxic." 

This was forefront of mind when the iwi, alongside Te Atiawa ki Whakarongotai and Ngā Hapu o Ōtaki, led a protest to Parliament last month. 

Then earlier in June, thousands marched on Queen Street in Auckland in protest of the Fast-Track Approvals Bill. 

Climate change campaigner Mike Smith was there. 

"We've got companies who are trying to mine in our pristine environment up north, but we've just got to send a clear message to them - that they'll be in for a world of trouble," he warned. 

"We will stand up and resist you with everything that we've got, and we will stop you." 

The Bill is designed to streamline and speed up consenting times for large-scale developments, such as roading, housing and mines. 

A whopping 27,000 people and organisations put forward written submissions on the Bill, which is currently before the select committee. 

Founder of environmental consultancy Poipoia, Tina Porou, has been heartened by the "overwhelming response by whānau, hapū and iwi". 

"In a nutshell, what the Bill says is that we want to reduce bureaucracy so consenting can be done faster. Now, that would be fine, except what they've said are the barriers are Māori and the environment." 

Some submitters have described the Bill as "undemocratic" as three ministers have the power to sign off on the projects, regardless of the recommendations of the expert panel. 

"The initial reaction was over my dead body," Modlik said. 

However, he said, he would be supportive if the ministers didn't have that overriding power. 

"We're all in on development. We're building houses out of the wazoo here ourselves," he said. 

"It's not true that... you either have development or you have pollution. And ministers are not experts." 

High-profile housing developer Ian Cassels, co-owner of The Wellington Company, is supportive of the Bill. 

"The mechanisms of bureaucracy are highly frustrating for us... because different wheels spin in different directions. And before you know it, you're compounding the time," he said. 

The company has submitted an expression of interest for a fast-track consent for its mixed-use development in Paraparaumu on the Kapiti Coast. 

The development proposal on the old farmland is for a "15-min community" with 1000 houses, retail, restored wetland, roading and retirement homes. 

They've applied for a consent through the Resource Management Act, but part of the area is characterised as wetland, which has prevented them from obtaining a consent. 

"The longer we take to build houses, the more misery people are suffering," Cassels said. 

"We're wasting the opportunities for New Zealanders to get better housing right across the board with huge amounts of slowness, bureaucracy and worry." 

But Modlik doesn't want developers in his backyard. 

"Without doubt, they live in some leafy suburb somewhere, right or in some lovely place with sea views, right, so the idea that they might leave their home and come to our home and make a mess, you know, that ain't going to happen," he said.  

"And I actually would encourage New Zealanders huri noa te motu... don't stand for anyone anymore making a mess in your home."