Northland iwi Ngāti Whātua say it's a "major disappointment" no extension was given for feedback on the Dome Valley landfill plan, despite consultation starting on the first day of lockdown.
But Auckland Council says it will be accepting and supporting late submissions.
On the first day of alert level 4, March 26, Auckland Council publicly notified a resource consent application by Waste Management New Zealand (WMNZ) to develop the new landfill on 1020ha of farm and forestry land in Dome Valley, on the outskirts of the Northland region.
In a separate process council also notified a Private Plan Change application.
• Concerns over Waste Management's massive dump polluting Kaipara Harbour
• Massive landfill to take half of Auckland's rubbish out for public feedback
• New Auckland dump a step closer after Waste Management approved to buy Wellsford land
Submissions closed yesterdaybut Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Whātua chief executive Alan Riwaka said the iwi wanted the consultation period pushed out another month.
"Trying to force these things through while everybody is in Covid-19 is not good," he said.
"We ourselves have just turned our minds to Dome Valley having all of our resources focused in on supporting all our people. We've been working quite hard making sure our people are safe."
Ian Smallburn, general manager of resource consents at Auckland Council, acknowledged and agreed the timing of public notification for WMNZ's Dome Valley landfill proposal was "very unfortunate" but said it was not intentional.
He said the notifications of start date and arrangements were all set well before the lockdown and once notification of this, or any other resource consent application, is under way, Auckland Council cannot stop the process under the Resource Management Act.
Similarly, council cannot extend submission periods for resource consent applications by more than 40 working days and only the applicant, in this case WMNZ, can request an extension to the notification process beyond 40 working days.
Council wrote to WMNZ on March 31 requesting they place both the resource consent application and private plan change request on hold until alert level 4 and 3 had lifted.
WMNZ replied stating that they wished to continue with the planned submission period.
"We know this is disappointing to some; however, council has made every effort to ensure those who wanted to make a submission have been able to, by making all information available online. WMNZ also agreed to courier hard copies or electronic copies to people with no, or limited computer access," he said.
Despite challenges, council had received more than 500 submissions as of Monday evening and more were expected.
Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for WMNZ said it carefully monitored what impact Covid-19 may have had on submissions and believed the number received so far reflected the high level of public awareness about the project.
"We note that the community has had access to the resource consent application documents electronically and in council libraries for a year, since May 2019. This provided an extended period for people to review the material prior to developing submissions," she said.
The spokeswoman said WMNZ had discussed the submission period with Auckland Council several times and confirmed in January that the submission period would be doubled from the normal 20 working days to 40 days.
"Following commencement of the submission period, we then also confirmed with council
that we generally wouldn't oppose any late submissions being accepted by the Hearing
Panel, in case the Covid-19 level 4 restrictions continued for many months and impacted
anyone being able to submit by the deadline."
Council confirmed it would be accepting and supporting late submissions up to when council officer reports are circulated three weeks before the hearing.
Riwaka said it was hard for him to respond without seeing the full comments from WMNZ and council, but said the iwi - which has concerns about the environmental impact of the landfill - were talking about the formal process which did not start last year.
"I think the fact they've declined to extend the consultation period out another four weeks to accommodate the needs of the iwi and the wider communities is a major disappointment. We see it as a small ask to make sure everybody has a say," he said.