A controversial rule requiring owners to seek iwi approval for work on their land has been rejected by councillors making decisions on the Unitary Plan.

They have voted 12-6 not to overturn a recommendation from an independent hearings panel to abolish the rule.

Council officers had argued that reinstating the rule will enable the council to better meet its legal obligations to Maori. They say there is evidence of 2213 sites and places of value to Maori and a risk of ongoing loss and damage to sites without protection.

The six councillors who wanted to retain the rule were Mayor Len Brown, deputy mayor Penny Hulse, Chris Darby, Cathy Casey, Ross Clow and Mike Lee.

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Mr Lee said he had never supported cultural impact statements, but did support sites of value to mana whenua.

Councillors who wanted to abolish the rule were Arthur Anae, Cameron Brewer, Bill Cashmore, Linda Cooper, Chris Fletcher, Denise Krum, Calum Penrose, Dick Quax, John Walker, Wayne Walker, Penny Webster and George Wood.

Wood expressed the view of many councillors when he said the rule had got itself into disrepute from the get-go when 3600 sites were put into the rule - later reduced to 2213.

"This should be a robust process and one that has public confidence. That is not the situation at the moment."

Wood said sites and places of value to Maori should be properly assessed through a plan change, instead of the halfway house at preset.

The decision followed a twist this morning when members of the Maori Statutory Board opted out of the process.

The meeting broke up after 75 minutes when the council's development committee voted to move the final decisions to the governing body.

Watch the meeting here :

This followed a decision by the two Maori Statutory Board members on the development committee, David Taipari and Liane Ngamane, not to go through a two-step process of debating the final decisions at the committee and then the governing body, where they are not members.

Taipari, who chairs the Maori Statutory Board, said the board was happy with the recommendations from council officers, which would ultimately go to the governing body.

"We voted in favour of our position of supporting the plan, the recommendations of the officials and enabling the governing body to complete the process,"Taipari said.

Asked if they wanted to avoid bad behaviour by councillors(some of whom have opposed unelected Maori Statutory board members having a say in the final decisions), Taipari said there was a question about behaviour.

"But our role is to assist council to design and execute policies and plans and we think we have done that," he said.

Development committee chairwoman Penny Hulse said the Maori Statutory Board had provided leadership and clarity to a difficult stage in the process.