Hastings district councillor Bayden Barber is confident there's a genuine desire to improve processes in regards to recognising the cultural values associated with areas considered of outstanding significance.

He was reacting to the independent review released yesterday that highlighted shortcomings in the consenting process that allowed a non-notified track to be built on Te Mata Peak.

Mr Barber said the findings reinforced an awareness that the situation could have been handled differently.

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"We have talked among ourselves as councillors and with management and there is a desire to ensure cultural values are incorporated into the district plan and consenting process - there's going to be changes and improvements, no one wants this kind of thing to happen."


In terms of outstanding natural landscapes, he said triggers for council staff to bring an issue to the attention of iwi were discussed, and also what support would help them with this decision making.

"What this debacle has highlighted is there has been gaps in staff training and awareness, not just in planning but across the board, and Sandra [Mayor Sandra Hazlehurst] is looking at allocating portfolios to councillors around relationship management with iwi, marae and hapu.

"There's been some hard lessons here but also a willingness and an opportunity for the council to improve its relationships and cultural awareness."

Rap over the knuckles

After the track was built in December last year, the Environmental Defence Society (EDS) threatened legal action against the council, but reversed its stance after Craggy Range Winery decided to restore Te Mata Peak to its original condition.

EDS chief executive Gary Taylor said the council-commissioned review conducted by Matthew Casey QC showed that the society was on solid ground with its contention that the council had acted unlawfully by not notifying the resource consent.

"We think the council collectively, and the officials involved, should be hugely embarrassed by what's been a monumental stuff up - poor quality control, poor oversight and poor original decision making.

"This review is a pretty comprehensive but a polite rap over the knuckles by a QC."

A resource consent would be needed to restore the hillside and he said the society had written to the council expressing its view that the resource consent to do this work would not need to be notified.

"It's basically removing any adverse environmental effects rather than creating them - although it should have been notified in the first instance, there would be a danger in notifying the consent for the restoration that it could construct a de-facto referendum on the first proposal and get bogged down in litigation in that context."

He said the society was relying on Craggy Range to adhere to its undertaking to restore the land, and that the winery had reaffirmed that intention to them.

Craggy Range Winery chief executive Michael Wilding said the focus was on commissioning a technical remediation assessment by an independent specialist to validate the remediation strategy that was discussed with Hastings District Council, mana whenua and other stakeholders at a meeting at the council in early January.

"We've also had advice that we should get the plan independently reviewed to ensure there can be full confidence in the plan, which we have agreed to do."

He said he expected this process to be completed by the end of March, at which point a further opinion on the resource consent process required for the remediation plan would be sought.