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Cultural impact assessments: balance needed

Media release
17 October 2014

Cultural impact assessments: balance needed

“Protecting Auckland’s cultural heritage is a key part of Auckland Council’s job but so is making sure consent applicants don’t find themselves tied up in unnecessary red tape,“says Roger Blakeley, Auckland Council’s Chief Planning Officer.

“There is always a balance to be struck.”

Dr Blakeley was responding to public debate about the proposed Auckland Unitary Plan provisions concerning mana whenua including a public meeting tomorrow organised by the group Democracy Action.

He says the rules in the proposed Unitary Plan regarding sites of significance or value to mana whenua were brought in following feedback the council had received on the draft plan asking for more protection for cultural sites and places.

The Unitary Plan hearings process is now underway and the Independent Hearings Panel will review the rules as people have their say.

The Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan (PAUP) provides greater emphasis on the consideration of Mana Whenua values, establishing a framework for Auckland Council and Mana Whenua to work together.

It contains a range of provisions relating to Te Tiriti o Waitangi, intended to meet the council’s broad obligations under the Resource Management Act.

“In the meantime, we need to keep focusing on a balanced, workable approach. The ‘Cultural Impact Assessment’ that critics have been complaining about isn’t new – it’s been around for years.”

It is currently required in a very small number of cases where a property is near a site that is of value or significance to mana whenua and involves changes that could potentially impact those sites. This can include, for example, former burial sites or pa sites.

In the last six months, Auckland Council has processed over 6000 resource consents and less than 200 of them (3%) triggered a possible assessment. There have been 50 site visits and 12 cultural impact assessments formally requested in that time.

“As a council we’ve worked closely with iwi to find ways to minimise the impact on landowners and have introduced a facilitation service to simplify the process.

“This involves the council contacting iwi on behalf of the applicant, and the iwi will say whether an assessment is needed. Most people are taking advantage of the facilitation service.

“There is a misconception that these assessments involve some kind of veto from iwi. They don’t. They are about iwi providing expert advice. The council takes that expertise into account, but it is the council that makes the decision.

“While we continue working towards the right balance, it’s good to remember just how important protecting our Māori heritage is to Aucklanders – including recent arrivals who really embrace this aspect of their new home. It is our point of difference in the world. Like other global cities, we want to retain our heritage, as an important part of our culture and identity.”

Ends

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