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Sacred Sites Another Hassle For Farmers

29 April 2004

Sacred Sites Another Hassle For Farmers

A blanket sacred-site designation over a large swathe of rural properties west of Whangarei represents more unjustified expense and bureaucratic hassle for affected land owners, said Denis Anderson, a spokesman for the Northland branch of Federated Farmers of New Zealand (Inc).

His comments follow an Environment Court ruling which forces about 700 property owners to seek cultural clearance from a Whangarei marae before undertaking some development work requiring resource consents.

"The interim ruling is heavy handed and encumbers land owners with another layer of red tape which will take time and money to cut through," Mr Anderson said.

Sacred-site assessments are not unusual but what is extraordinary is the sheer scale of this designation over a very large area of land.

"The ruling unfairly puts the onus on land owners to assess whether their land has a sacred site. That obligation should instead be sheeted home to the group which thinks the site might be sacred, rather than the out-of-pocket land owner.

"If they think it's sacred, they should have the responsibility of identifying these specific sites," Mr Anderson said.

In other parts of the country a typical archaeological or cultural assessment costs at least $1000. That is in addition to costs of gaining a consent under the Resource Management Act, which in many instances is already a tortuous and expensive process.

Mr Anderson said that most farmers did not mind being custodians of sites recognised as important, sacred or in the national interest, but were annoyed at being lumbered with the job of identifying where they are.


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