Six years and $75,000 later Auckland prepares to think about a world heritage status for its maunga.
In March 2007, the Crown declared the Auckland volcanic field was top of its list of potential Unesco World Heritage Sites.
Tomorrow, Auckland councillors are finally being asked to help fund a year-long "evaluation that will inform a future decision on whether to proceed with the preparation and submission of a world heritage nomination file".
Talk about moving cautiously. To geologists perhaps, six years is nothing. But for those of us on human time, it seems an inordinate amount of time to need to hatch the plan to be discussed tomorrow. Not a plan to actually apply for world heritage status, nothing as radical as that. Just an 8-12 month toe-in-the-water "evaluation," which will "inform" the group of bureaucrats and/or politicians who will make the final decision.
This grandly named "decision protocol" will cost $75,000 in "external costs" plus unspecified staff time to prepare, the bill to be split, two-thirds from Auckland Council, one-third, Government.
Given that both the Crown and Mayor Len Brown, in one of his visions, are committed to seeking world heritage status, why all the faffing around? Why don't the assorted local and national bureaucrats and the Tamaki Collective Maori guardians of the maunga save themselves a year of meetings, and a six-figure sum, and just get on with preparing the application proper. After all, we know that's what's going to happen eventually.
If they took that short cut, the cash saved could go towards flossying up the volcanoes, a token beginning, to make up for generations of neglect.
A bit of tender love and care towards the maunga might also help convince the Unesco inspectors who turn up to consider our bid, that we actually believe all the glowing references to our spiritual attachments to the cones that will pepper the application. As every real estate agent will tell you, first impressions are everything. Mow the grass, repair and paint the front fence, throw out the manky pot plants - that sort of thing, if you want to get a good result.
And it would only be following through with one of the strategic directions of the Auckland Plan which commits to: "Acknowledge that nature and people are inseparable, to achieve World Heritage status for the Auckland volcanic field by 2020."
Yet when the mayor proposed this year's budget last December, he allocated a meagre $388,000 for new spending on the volcanic cones. The final figure is yet to be revealed. Divided by 50, it isn't a lot.
As for the Government, the only sign of it opening its wallet is the pledge of $400,000 that Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson waved around last year when he and the representative of the assorted claimant tribes of the Tamaki Collective initialled their Treaty settlement deal last June. But that money wasn't to fund new signage, or visitor facilities, or landscape restoration. It's a one-off payment for more bureaucracy, to fund the set-up costs for a co-governance body, made up of iwi, Crown and Auckland Council representatives, who will govern - under strict guidelines - 14 of the main cones.
It's all back to front. If we're real about selling our place as a world heritage site, then we shouldn't be trotting off to Unesco with what, in the real estate trade, is called a "do up" or a "deceased estate."
The report drools about the potential "economic benefits" that would be derived on becoming "a global tourist destination" as a result of world heritage status. But there's no mention of the need for prior investment to achieve this dream. Neither does the report address the major complication that the tri-partite Maunga Authority to be set up when the Treaty settlement eventually gets parliamentary approval, only has a governance role over part of the field. Nor does it address the question of on-going funding.
The Crown has restored limited governance and ownership rights to 14 volcanic cones to local tribes as part-restitution for past wrongs. But it has offered no funding stream for the ongoing upkeep of these reserves. These are all issues that need resolving.
In the context of the new intensified compact city, these volcanic reserves are green lungs to treasure, even without their heritage connections. It's time we started appreciating that, and not just because of a hope that with a bit of fast talking, we could convert them into a tourist trap.