Auckland Council row over cultural sites

  • 08/11/2014

Documents released to 3 News have revealed accusations of subterfuge by Auckland Council over a controversial part of its Unitary Plan.

What's more surprising, the attack comes from within, from councillors who say radical and far-reaching provisions have been sneaked through by officials with little discussion. But the council strongly denies the accusations.

Auckland's unitary plan has earmarked 3600 sites as possibly having cultural significance.

"Some of them were basically middens, a few shells where somebody had a feed of pipis maybe 200 years ago, and all of a sudden it becomes an archaeological site of value," says Auckland Councillor Dick Quax.

House owners nearby who want resource consent might now have to pay iwi for a cultural impact assessment.

"It's part of a precautionary process to make sure we don't destroy sites without knowing what their cultural values are," says Auckland Council chief planning officer Roger Blakeley.

In one case, property magnate Sir Bob Jones wanted to install a large window in a commercial property near one of the sites and was told to contact 13 iwi for approval. However, most people have avoided this so far; of 6000 resource consents processed over the past six months, only 12 have had to go through a Cultural Impact Assessment.

No one is arguing that areas of cultural significance should go unprotected – far from it. But they want firm evidence to support any site that is included and they simply don't believe all 3600 sites are justified.

An independent hearing panel will review the process and people's concerns, but that could take a couple of years.

Letters passed to 3 News show some councillors feel duped, saying it's a "mystery how this politically sensitive matter" was endorsed with "seemingly little discussion".

Councillor Mike Lee was also unhappy with the size of the buffer zone around each site and claimed the details were slipped in by subterfuge. He told 3 News he stood by his comments.

"I believe there's a political agenda involved," says Lee Scott from Democracy Action. "I don't think it's open government, and if this is the decision-making process in Auckland City then it is dysfunctional."

"That's not right," says Mr Blakeley. "It was a decision by council made in Aug 2013. It was not slipped through by subterfuge."

3 News

source: newshub archive