James_Graham.JPG James Graham, who apologised to mana whenua on behalf of council during the hearings. Photo / Warren Buckland

Hastings District Council has apologised to mana whenua over the way it handled the Craggy Range track resource consent process.

During hearings held at council to gain consent to remove the track, council's principal advisor for relationships, responsiveness and heritage James Graham said he wanted to apologise on behalf of the council.

"The Hastings District Council apologises to the community for the Council's incorrect processing of the resource consent to allow for the track to be developed.

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"Specifically, I stand here today representing council, and I apologise to mana whenua in that the appropriate marae and hapu were not consulted, not engaged."

He said had the correct resource consent application been followed, the expense, time, commitment, energy and resource could have been avoided.

The Craggy Range track up Te Mata Peak was popular with walkers before its closure. Photo / File
The Craggy Range track up Te Mata Peak was popular with walkers before its closure. Photo / File

He said the experience had taught council a lot about engaging with mana whenua, but council was saddened it took such a poor decision to learn those lessons.

"At the end of the day, it comes down to something that is at times perceived as trivial, and that is just sitting down, having a cuppa and talking with mana whenua, hapu, marae, kaumatua and or whanau."

He said appointing tangata whenua representatives to council's standing committees was an example of what council is doing to try and improve its relationship with tangata whenua.

Commissioner Rau Kirikiri acknowledged the apology, but questioned the robustness of council's processes which allowed the track to be built.

In response Graham said he hoped the track was the last big mistake made by council in terms of engagement with mana whenua.

It has proved a costly mistake for council, restoring the landscape is expected to cost $150,000, not including $50,000 for the resource consent.

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In total Hastings District Council has already spent $450,000 on the eastern escarpment, including $360,000 on cultural and landscape assessments.

Hearings are being held over Tuesday and Wednesday for the council to gain resource consent to remove the lower portion of the track.

Prior to the track being built in 2017, Craggy Range Winery sought a non-complying resource consent to be used as a walking track, bundled with the resource consent needed for the earthworks.

Consent was granted on October 16, 2017 and the majority of the track completed by early December 2017.

Council's lawyer Laura Bielby said concerns were raised by iwi and the wider community before it was completed and work was put on hold.

She said the track was never completed or officially opened but was accessed by the public during the summers of 2017 and 2018.

The upper section of the track was restored to it's original landscape in November 2018 after it was found to be a hazard.

Work included covering the track with soil, planting and using biodegradable coconut matting over exposed earthworks, as is proposed on the lower part of the track.

Independent commissioners Paul Cooney and Rau Kirikiri heard from council on Tuesday morning about their application.

On Tuesday afternoon they heard from people who had submitted on the issue, submissions continuing in to Wednesday.

In written submissions, those supporting the councils application work primarily cited cultural and aesthetic reasons.

Those opposing cited cost and possible further damage, as well as the tracks recreational value.

In total 26 submissions were received, 23 in favour, three opposed.