Labour Maori Affairs spokesman Shane Jones has slammed a new rule requiring Auckland property owners to seek iwi approval to work on sites of cultural and heritage value to Maori, calling it dangerous and an extra compliance cost.
Mr Jones is opposed to the rule in Auckland Council's draft Unitary Plan requiring applicants carrying out work on 3,600 sites of "value to mana whenua" to obtain a "cultural impact assessment" from one or more of 19 iwi groups.
"As someone who was involved in the core group which wrote the Resource Management Act in 1988-1989, never in our wildest dreams did we imagine it would lead to 19 new consent authorities over the Tamaki Makaurau area.
"The proponents need to balance heritage against the cost pressure of developing housing and land so that the final product is affordable," Mr Jones said.
Mr Jones, who is also Labour's building and construction spokesman, said there was a need to be brutally honest about the pressures driving costs to develop and improve the supply of housing.
He said if the rule was left vague and had too much wriggle room, there would be no end of cultural worms that would come to the surface.
"If it is mishandled, it runs the risk of leaving the community with a jaundiced view of Maori heritage," he said.
Mr Jones said the solution was to leave the issue of dealing with sites of significance to mana whenua with the council as the consenting agency.
The proponents need to balance heritage against the cost pressure of developing housing and land so that the final product is affordable.
Gossip and talk on the street about the rule is huge, Franklin ward councillor Bill Cashmore told a heated governing body debate on the issue on Thursday.
Mr Cashmore and other councillors were concerned at how the rule change came about in the late stages of developing the draft unitary plan.
Auckland Deputy Mayor Penny Hulse said there was a need to resolve the issue at a practical level with some urgency.
Council officers in conjunction with the in-house Te Waka Angamua Maori division and Independent Maori Statutory Board are already developing a standard procedure with triggers to identify where a cultural impact assessment is required. They will report to the Unitary Plan committee once they have completed a streamlined process.
David Taipari, chairman of the Maori statutory board, said the matter could have been better handled, but like built heritage, it was important to protect archaeological or sites of significance to mana whenua.
Councillor John Watson said the issue had come out of the blue and he could not understand how anyone could make a submission to the draft Unitary Plan given the gaps in information, such as the thresholds for requiring a cultural impact assessment.
Aprilanne Bonar, who is seeking consent to build a new garage and swimming pool at her heritage listed house in Titirangi, said she had had a positive and practical response from two iwi - Ngati Whatua and Te Kawerau Iwi Tribal Authority - for a cultural impact assessment.
The work cost $500, which included an archaeologist visiting the site.
"They (iwi) do have an interest and do have a say but their attitude was let's get on and do it," she said.
The new rule is one of several in the draft Unitary Plan that has effect from notification on October 1 last year.
The whole proposed rules structure for the implementation of the Cultural Impact Assessments is half baked, the Employers and Manufacturers Association said in its submission on the Unitary Plan sent to the Auckland Council yesterday.
"The whole discussion on CIAs has to be withdrawn and reworked from first principles," said EMA chief executive Kim Campbell.
"The proposed process is riddled with potential for perverse outcomes and unintended consequences.
"It's obvious that it lacks thought and was prepared in haste.
"For instance, the scope laid out for the CIAs is so broad and ill-defined it could mean every resource consent requires one," Mr Campbell said.