Brown tape circling Auckland

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Len Brown is a man of culture. Whether it?d putting on cultural dress or working overtime in the Ngati Whatua room, the mayor is known for his hands on approach.

Auckland Council are trying to copy their dear leader and this time it?s property owners that are getting screwed.

Auckland Council is sticking with a new rule requiring owners to seek iwi approval for work on their land.

The council has confirmed its support for the “cultural impact assessments” in the proposed Unitary Plan, or new planning rulebook for the city.

Some amendments have been agreed by the council’s Auckland Development Committee to ensure the requirements only apply in situations where there is the potential for a resource consent to have an adverse impact on the cultural values of Auckland’s Mana Whenua.

“This will be the council’s position going into mediation with Aucklanders who have made submissions on this aspect of the Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan,” said chief planning officer Dr Roger Blakeley. “The council remains open to discussing the views of submitters and exploring ways of reaching a common ground.”

When the rules came into effect in September 2013, concerns were raised about the difficulty applicants might have engaging directly with Mana Whenua to confirm whether or not a cultural impact assessment is required, and if so, how one might be prepared.

Duncan Garner recently gave the council a good whack in his column about how the Aucklanders are being choked to death by RMA green tape and now the council?s cultural assessment brown tape.

This is exactly the sort of crap National should have got sorted out by now.

To address these concerns, the council set up a facilitation service in March last year which has dealt with almost 300 applications in that time. Of those, 36 resulted in Mana Whenua confirming an assessment was required. This is from a total of over 10,000 resource consent applications in roughly the same period.

“The council has received a considerable amount of positive feedback about the cultural impact assessment facilitation service and intends to continue it into the foreseeable future,” Dr Blakeley said.

“Protecting Auckland’s rich cultural heritage is fundamentally important as our city grows. Maori cultural heritage is a key component of this,” he said.

“The council’s proposed Auckland Unitary Plan takes a step forward from the work a number of Auckland’s former councils had undertaken in addressing this issue. The requirements do not provide Mana Whenua with a ‘right of veto’ over development in Auckland.

So no right of veto, but a right to impose whatever hefty ticket-clipping fee they like.

“They are a critical tool that ensures the council is in an informed position when it comes to assessing the impacts of development on cultural heritage and the values held by Mana Whenua, but ultimately decisions still rest with the council,” Dr Blakeley said.

Lee Short, spokesman for Democracy Action, an organisation set up to oppose the rules, said: “The cost of cultural impact assessments is imposed by Mana Whenua, the decisions are made by Council and property owners are left to pick up the bill.”

“The 3,600 designated sites of value to Mana Whenua have, to date, not been verified by the Council.”

“The council appears completely unwilling to verify if these sites of value to Mana Whenua even exist. The designation of these sites as being of value simply has no basis in fact. Many sites have been disturbed, destroyed or no longer exist.”

More brown tape to protect things that might not even exist ? and with property owners picking up the tab.

The council seem to like to bang on about cultural heritage but when push comes to shove look pretty unwilling to get off their arse and have a look to see if it even still exists.

Maybe if they did they might start to wonder why these regulations are protecting the cultural heritage of an old dump.

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