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Payments for Auckland Council CIAs should be refunded


10 MARCH 2017

Pro-democracy group, Democracy Action, says the High Court's dismissal this week of the appeal by the Independent Maori Statutory Board against the decision by Auckland Councillors to accept the Independent Hearings Panel’s recommendation to remove the ‘Sites and Places of value to Mana Whenua’ from the Unitary Plan, gives every reason for the Council to refund amounts paid for the unnecessary and costly cultural assessments.

Since September 2013 Auckland property owners with one of these purportedly sites of value on or near their properties have had to seek cultural impact assessments (CIAs) from iwi when undertaking more than minor earthworks.

“Money paid to iwi for CIAs must be refunded”, says Democracy Action spokesperson, Lee Short.

“The Court’s decision is further confirmation that the Council inflicted additional costs and uncertainty on property owners for little or no justification. For many, it meant paying thousands of dollars to iwi representatives for cultural impact assessments, with no safeguards in place to protect the applicant from the risk of exploitation. Now that the process has been abolished, those applicants should be entitled to full reimbursement from Auckland Council”.

“The decision from Justice Wylie may also cause problems for the Government, in that it highlights the potential flaws of ‘co-governance’ type arrangements in relation to resource consent approval processes. The Resource Legislation Amendment Bill, which is currently before Parliament, broadens the scope of ‘Iwi Participation Arrangements’ to cover consenting and monitoring. The proposed law would impose on all Councils special rights and privileges for iwi in regards to resource consents."

"The Government should take note of Justice Wylie’s decision and make substantial changes to the Bill if the legal problems experienced by Auckland Council are to be avoided.”

“There must be strong safeguards in place to prevent councils from outsourcing consent decisions to unaccountable iwi representatives, with no appeal or review safeguards.”

The Court's judgment is available at: http://www.democracyaction.org.nz/judgement

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