Bernard Orsman is Super City reporter for the NZ Herald.

Maori Statutory Board opt out of Auckland's Unitary Plan process

The council has put aside seven days to finalise the Unitary Plan, more than three years after the blueprint was launched. Photo / Brett Phibbs
The council has put aside seven days to finalise the Unitary Plan, more than three years after the blueprint was launched. Photo / Brett Phibbs

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.

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.

"Their contribution and support over the past four years has been vital to shaping a Unitary Plan that will deliver a better future for all Aucklanders, and they have brought mana, partnership and sound advice to this process from day one."

The meeting was adjourned until 12.30pm so officers could change the wording on documents to reflect the governing body.

Opening the governing body meeting this afternoon, Mayor Len Brown said the Unitary Plan was the last piece in the jigsaw for the amalgamation of the Super City.

"The reason I support this plan is because it is not the final plan. It will never be the final plan. Every six or seven years we will review it.

It is not like the commandments being handed down from the mountain carved in stone. It is not," Brown said.

The plan, Brown said, was rolling 13 plans from the previous councils into one plan.

"It is time to get it done now and arrived at a conclusion of this extraordinary process."

This afternoon, the governing body has approved several high level recommendations from the independent hearings panel and is working its way through other recommendations that council offers believe should be supported.

Some of these recommendations have been questioned by councillors.

For example, there was an amendment to reject a recommendation from the hearings panel for the Civic Administration Building in Aotea Square to be scheduled as a Category A place.

The panel said it was one of the country's 20 most important modern buildings.

An amendment to reject the panel's recommendation was lost by 11 votes to nine.

Councillors have indicated they want to discuss a recommendation from the panel that all provisions relating to design statements in the plan be deleted.

The council has put aside seven days to finalise the Unitary Plan, more than three years after the blueprint was launched.

The plan sets out what can be built, where and what height buildings can be and will shape the future of the city for decades to come.

Final recommendations from an independent hearings panel include provision for 422,000 new homes to cater for an extra million residents in the Super City over the next 25 years.

This will be achieved by rezoning the existing urban area for about 270,00 new homes, many of them terraced houses and apartments. There is also provision for about 150,000 homes in rural towns like Pukekohe, Warkworth and Kumeu and new greenfield urban areas.

Some of the rough edges in the final recommendations, like no minimum size for apartments and building up to four houses in the mixed housing zones without a resource consent, are expected to rejected.

The decisions will be made by the council's development committee, which includes two members of the Maori Statutory Board, before being approved by the full governing today.

Committee chairwoman Penny Hulse opened today's proceedings by saying the plan had been a long process.

"Everyone has put their heart and soul to make it happen.

"This is not about us as is about the next 30 years of Auckland.Let's be tough on ideas but gentle on each other," Hulse said.

Councillor Mike Lee said it was a historic moment for Auckland.

"The Unitary Plan will significantly influence the shape and nature of Auckland will beyond our lifetimes," Lee said.

By law, the council must notify the final decisions on August 19.

- NZ Herald

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