The dispute at Ihumātao continues. Many commentators have expressed their opinions and I think it is reasonable to say that progress is being made. However a clear way forward is yet to be established.
The Auckland Volcanic Cones Society has always emphasised the landscape importance of the disputed land. It has not changed from this position. No other commentator seems to deny this importance either, including Fletcher NZ, who made some concessions to landscape in their original development plans, even if they were deemed not to go far enough.
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For this dispute to be solved, there will have to be a decision that satisfies most parties.
Total satisfaction for everyone is probably a dream and even for those genuinely seeking a solution, some compromise is going to be necessary.
The Auckland Volcanic Cones Society has sought public ownership of this land as its best protection. Any development at Ihumātao is going to seriously diminish the landscape values of the two volcanoes in the adjoining Ōtuataua Stonefields Reserve. But is there another ownership model that could still satisfy the concerns?
The Government has repeatedly expressed fear about the difficulties for the Treaty of Waitangi settlement process if they purchase this land and give it back to one iwi. It could well be a situation of one step forward and two backward, if some chain reaction of further compensation is set off. Moreover, with just one iwi owning it, they may in turn develop it themselves and compromise the unique landscape values.
The iwi themselves appear to dispute who has mana whenua status over this land. There have been a number of well-reasoned opinions on this subject which point to complexity rather than to a solution. The question now is how to work through all this.
The society believes that the model of the Tūpuna Maunga o Tāmaki Makaurau Authority needs to be looked at carefully as this may provide the answer. An approach should be made to it. The maunga authority is a collective of iwi, not just one, who share common ownership and ideals for the region's volcanoes. There is a unity in this organisation that is missing in the present dispute. The Maunga Authority has also demonstrated a strong willingness to defend the landscape values of the maunga.
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While the various iwi actually own the maunga as part of the Treaty Settlement process, this is countered by the Reserves Act which still guarantees public access to them. It is a special arrangement that does not necessarily follow into other settlements from the Waitangi Tribunal.
If the land at Ihumātao is purchased by the Government and given to the Maunga Authority, would this really derail all the other settlements? With the Reserves Act provision would not the land effectively always remain a public purchase rather than a further Treaty settlement?
It is along these lines that the Auckland Volcanic Cones Society would say that a resolution of this dispute could be found. All parties need to start thinking constructively.
The maunga in Auckland are always enhanced by having as much open space around them as possible. This is best apparent with Maungakiekie/One Tree Hill. For the maunga to have true landscape value you need to have views not only both to them and from them, but also you need to have a clear view of their sides in order to appreciate their form.
This landscape fact is acknowledged in the Unitary Plan and we still have the chance to get it right at Ihumātao for the two volcanoes here.
• John Street is the chairman of the Auckland Volcanic Cones Society Inc.