What’s Actually Going On in Auckland Council?

Auckland Council’s hastily put together draft Unitary Plan was notified on 30 September. With this notification, certain parts of the plan have become operational. Anecdotal evidence suggests this has resulted in significant problems and costs for ratepayers needing Resource Consents.

Layers and Layers of Controls

Restrictions have been placed on people’s private property without any certainty as to the basis or the consequences of these.  These restrictions cover extensive pockets of residential, commercial and public land in Auckland. These are depicted in the following overlays contained within the AUP:

  • Sites and Places of Significance to Mana Whenua (i.e. “traditional authority over an area”).
  • Sites and Places of Value to Mana Whenua.*
  • Significant Ecological Areas (SEAs)
  • Outstanding Natural Features
  • Outstanding Natural Landscapes
  • Outstanding and High Natural Character and Coastal Areas

Many of these sites have been farmed, subdivided, built on and planted by their owners for generations. The features suddenly needing new levels of protection are often not explained in any way.
* Note: 3,600 of the above sites of value/significance have appeared, with more to come.

Iwi Approvals Required

Should landowners want to do anything on such a site and thus need a Resource Consent, they are first obliged to engage with Iwi to see if they consider there’s a need for a Cultural Impact Assessment (CIA) or an Archaeological Assessment (AA). Iwi approval may be required for any removal of native vegetation, even if it is only a tiny plant.

The Council will give the landowner the Iwi Authority contacts to engage with. There could be any number of these. Six is not unheard of and 12 are possible in some areas. This is on the basis that the Resource Consent process can’t start until landowners have obtained CIAs or alternatively, written confirmation that none was necessary from each of the nominated Iwi Authorities.

Anecdotal evidence is that the process is messy, undefined and dodgy – For example:

  • This takes considerable time. Reportedly it is taking several weeks or months for Iwi Authorities to reply to a landowner’s initial approach. In some cases, they do not reply at all.
  • Some Iwi Authorities will want all the Resource Consent documentation. They may also ask for an Archaeological Assessment costing thousands of dollars for a site that isn’t even considered a Significant Heritage Area. Even if the Council advises that this is not required, Iwi still have the authority to insist.
  • Each Iwi Authority comes up with its own costs for these services. Some figures quoted by individual Iwi have been $nil, $450, $1,500 + GST or from $1,500 +GST upwards. One couple found they could be spending up to $10,000 among several Iwi Authorities when it was still unclear whether any assessment was necessary at all. This even before paying for the official Resource Consent.
  • In one case a representative of an Iwi Authority asked that the payment be made into a personal bank account, with no invoice nor mention of documentation.
  • The number of Iwi Authorities with actual historic links to the site can be questionable. There have been reports that some Iwi are displeased that other tribes are involved.
  • While an ‘engagement’ may be all about one issue (trees, for instance), Iwi can still take the opportunity to examine the site for any evidence of a Maori presence, e.g. middens, terraces, etc. Any such discovery would, of course, expand the whole process.

Where Does Council Stand on This?

Nobody in the Auckland Council seems to know what is involved or how much the process should cost.

  • Council staff don’t even know which are the relevant Iwi Authorities to approach for a CIA, nor if they have the correct contact details, let alone whether the contacts are qualified to perform assessments.
  • The tribes have no regulations or guidelines to follow, or limits on the fees they can charge.
  • It is reported that some Council staff are concerned, and feel the process is unreasonable. They recommend Aucklanders make a submission on the Unitary Plan (by 28th February) in an effort to get some improvement to this process.

Call This a Democracy?

These layers of private property restrictions have been slipped into Auckland’s bylaws without any explanation of what they are, and what they are protecting. There has been no community education and discussion about them, let alone any mandate given to impose them.  Most Aucklanders wouldn’t have a clue whether their properties are affected.

These restrictions give Iwi Authorities undefined, unspecified rights to come onto private properties, search around for something/anything, make recommendations about what can or can’t happen there, and charge as they see fit.  This situation affects well-established residential properties as well as new ones.

Please Help!

There’s a last opportunity to prevent this flawed plan being set in stone – submissions close 28 February 2014.

The Plan is on the Auckland Council website and in hard copy at some Auckland libraries and Council offices. Unfortunately, the Plan is not clear, nor easy to navigate or understand.

A sample submission form will be available for downloading from www.1law4all.kiwi.nz soon.

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