Look out, taniwha on the Auckland rail track

By Wayne Thompson

Transport Minister Steven Joyce. Photo / APN
Transport Minister Steven Joyce. Photo / APN

Plans for an Auckland city rail link tunnel could be spiked by a taniwha - a spiritual creature that Maori say is in the way of the project.

The Auckland Council's Maori Statutory Board has warned transport planners of the taniwha, who lived in an ancient creek running past the Town Hall and down Queen St.

Board member Glen Wilcox has asked Auckland's transport committee to give consideration to the taniwha - which the Ngati Whatua iwi call Horotiu - as it plans the $2.6 billion tunnel project.

"What's being done about the taniwha Horotiu who lives just outside here, and that tunnel will be going through his rohe [area]?" asked Mr Wilcox.

In 2002, the presence of a one-eyed taniwha called Karu Tahi stopped work on the Waikato Expressway, and part of the new road was rerouted.

Another sacred guardian's presence resulted in an on-site protest during construction of the Ngawha Prison, near Kaikohe.

Last night, Maori Statutory Board chairman David Taipari said Mr Wilcox was raising the lack of consultation, and the taniwha question did not surprise him.

"Our independent board members participate as full members of these committees. They raise these matters as part of the considerations of the council.

"They should be all raising these questions about who has been engaged, who has been consulted and what processes have been undertaken to ensure everyone has had an opportunity to be involved," Mr Taipari said.

"Glenn in his role has highlighted a serious deficiency because no one really responded to his question."

Mayor Len Brown said last night: "I am satisfied that appropriate consultation with iwi on the proposal has occurred since it was first raised and will continue to occur."

An Auckland Transport spokeswoman said the Beca consultancy had consulted Ngati Whatua about the project in November 2009 and again in December last year to provide an update.

Transport Minister Steven Joyce said the project appeared to be plagued by taniwha.

"It does not massively surprise me," he said. "Treasury found a few fiscal taniwhas as well, so it doesn't surprise me that another one has turned up."

Councillor Cameron Brewer said Mr Wilcox had "let off the T-Bomb" by raising the prospect of a taniwha in the way of the proposed downtown rail link.

"The whole issue should have been put to bed with Ngati Whatu by now, not tabled this week."

The Herald understands the tunnel would pass under the former Waihorotiu Creek, known to Auckland's European settlers as Ligar Canal.

The creek now runs through concrete stormwater pipes to the Waitemata Harbour.

In 2002, the Environment Court - in a ruling on Taukere, the Northland taniwha - said it respected the rights of people to believe in spiritual, metaphysical taniwha, but the court was part of a secular state.

The Resource Management Act required it to consider the well-being of physical people.

- NZ Herald

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