11 Nov 2015

Cultural sites could lose their protection

6:39 am on 11 November 2015

Auckland Council is moving to cut red tape around developments near culturally protected areas, but local Maori warn there could be repercussions.

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Photo: 123rf.com

There are 3600 Sites of Value to Mana Whenua in the unitary plan, and the council wants to get rid of 1373 of them.

Work within 50m of the sites needs resource consent, and potentially consultation with local iwi.

The council said cutting the number of sites was urgently needed to ease the burden of resource consent on landowners and developers.

Independent Maori Statutory Board chair David Taipari said it could cause future planning problems instead.

"Where the sites are existing, by removing them, is misleading to the developer or the property owner anyway, because they should be aware of such.

"Because the implications on them, should they get a consent and begin works and then uncover stuff, will see them fall into another process under the New Zealand Historic Places [Act]."

The council was also being premature, he said. Submissions on dropping the sites went to an independent hearings panel, but that the panel hadn't come back yet - and still the council was pushing to get rid of them.

Ngai Tai ki Tamaki chair James Brown said the losses were vast.

"In the fear of not naming the ones that are just as significant I won't name any now, but the list is vast.

"The areas too are significant areas within the coastal region, the landscapes, as well as those that are in iconic landscapes, have equally the same importance."

In making the recommendation, the council said its own audit had found the 1373 sites were duplicates, at an unconfirmed location or had not been assigned value by Mana Whenua.

Ngati Whanaunga Society chairman Michael Baker said it was risky for places to lose protection simply due to a lack of information.

"There is a danger on removal of any sites and that's protection of that site, and that's primarily why those sites were first identified.

At this stage, simply to remove something because of a lack of information, may not neccesarily be the best way forward."

'It's a positive step' - developers.

Property Council New Zealand chief executive Connal Townsend welcomed the change, saying house prices were bumped up by extra provisions including for mana whenua, volcanic cones and heritage.

"None of these have been economically factored in to the (unitary) plan.

"Each one in their own small way adds extra years onto the average mortgage, adds so many extra tens of thousands of dollars on to the average purchase price of a new home.

If we keep all these different provisions, we're never going to achieve the housing target."

In an emailed response to RNZ questions, Auckland Council General Manager Plans & Places John Duguid confirmed the recommendation to withdraw sites was being made before an independent hearings panel released its findings.

He said the panel was due to make its recommendations to council in July next year, after which time council will make its final decisions.

"Council staff are proposing the withdrawal of the sites due to the fact that there were some errors (such as some sites not being of Maori origin or were duplicates) or there is insufficient information to confirm their location." Removing such sites would improve the overall robustness of the remaining 2227 sites.

The recommendation will be put to the council's development committee tomorrow.

The Council meeting agenda can be found here (point 14).

Additional notes with the sites that could be struck off can be found here (starts at page 229).

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