A recent contributor, Yo Heta-Lensen (NZ Herald, April 11) critiqued co-governance arrangements between the Crown and iwi.
The focus was on Auckland's Tūpuna Maunga Authority – the iwi-Auckland Council co-governance entity established to protect and manage Auckland's tūpuna maunga, and its plan to replace exotic trees with native trees and plants on Ōwairaka (Mt Albert).
As longstanding members of the authority, we are clear that the various arguments fail to measure up.
If anything, it is the track record of the Tūpuna Maunga Authority which showcases how co-governance arrangements can deliver significant benefits.
The authority oversees 14 prominent tūpuna maunga across Tāmaki Makaurau, like Takarunga (Mt Victoria), Maungakiekie (One Tree Hill), Maungarei (Mt Wellington) and Ōwairaka.
These "volcanic cones" had, for more than a century, been administered by various city and borough councils which allowed some to be destroyed and houses to be built on others. Buses, trucks, and cars drove up their narrow roads. Sheep and cattle grazed on them.
Very few people were aware of their deep cultural, historical, geological, and archaeological significance to many across the community.
Take Maungawhau. The name means "mountain of the whau tree". It erupted through the lava flows of the earlier Maungakiekie/One Tree Hill volcano around 15,000 years ago. Much of the lower slopes and lava flow field are now hidden beneath the suburbs of Mt Eden, Epsom, and Newmarket.
For centuries, it was home to many tribes – where the people lived, cultivated, and died.
The lower slopes were used as gardens and living terraces. The mountain and its earthworks are one of the largest constructed fortresses in the southern hemisphere.
The tribes of Tāmaki Makaurau have maintained and continue to exercise their customs, rituals, songs, and karakia at Maungawhau.
In its 160-odd years under council management, few resources were allocated to conserve and protect this taonga, let alone enhance it. Since the Tūpuna Maunga Authority's establishment in 2014, we have reduced traffic to only a handful of vehicles a day – having installed electric gates with an access code for people with limited mobility.
The livestock has been removed (as has the damage it caused). Footpaths and walkways have been built to protect the maunga from the millions who collectively walk there.
Similar initiatives are under way across all the maunga we administer.
The Ōwairaka revegetation plan has been contentious for some (while many others support it), but no one disputes the fundamental strategy behind it – to restore native flora and fauna to these iconic landscapes to improve the environment and biodiversity, and to enrich these places for all Aucklanders.
Heta-Lensen finds fault because the authority is a "Crown construct". Quite apart from the Treaty of Waitangi partnership between the Crown and iwi, so too are councils, schools, and charities – being entities established under legislation.
The maunga would not have been returned to mana whenua and the authority would not exist but for the parliamentary mandate settling the Crown's breaches of the Treaty.
She also criticises the authority for not enough consultation. The authority is comfortable it has fulfilled all its obligations to notify and consult. The same arguments are made on a regular basis against pretty much anything Auckland Council does.
The Tūpuna Maunga Authority's vision for the maunga is one where the maunga are restored and the centuries-old Māori cultural identity of these places of significance is celebrated and revered.
That is why the view shafts from pa site to pa site are now also protected. The removal of livestock means the cultural and archaeological fabric is protected for everyone to benefit. The support of mana whenua, council, and the communities is important and appreciated.
That is all supported by the authority's award-winning integrated management plan, the first of its kind, seven maunga strategies, and an annual operational plan. All of these have gone through rigorous consultation, including public notifications and hearings.
We have upgraded the tracks on many of the maunga and planted more than 100,000 native plants – including 37,000 last year.
We have ensured the network of European heritage tunnels on Maungauika (North Head) are restored and protected; built an award-winning information centre at Maungawhau; developed car parking infrastructure, making some of the most popular green spaces in the wider Tāmaki Makaurau; and are restoring native trees at the tihi (summit) of Maungakiekie.
Future plans include community māra kai (community gardens), pā tūwatawata (historical fortifications), and other cultural infrastructure. We have undertaken extensive pest control to see rabbits entirely disappear from some of our Tūpuna Maunga and in incredibly low numbers on the rest.
This is without mentioning myriad community groups, sports clubs, and volunteers catered for in the Tūpuna Maunga work programme.
Taken together, the tūpuna maunga are the most significant sites in Auckland, culturally, archaeologically and geologically, and shape the identity of our city.
There is now strong mana whenua and council support for the proposal to have the tūpuna maunga receive Unesco World Heritage status as global recognition of their mana
(a bid being led by the Department of Conservation and supported by the Ministry of Culture and Heritage).
There will be some who continue to oppose change or perceive the Tūpuna Maunga Authority as a costly co-governance structure – a Crown construct, but the authority is committed to playing a key role in helping all Aucklanders to rediscover and cherish the tūpuna maunga that proudly adorn our city's vibrant urban landscape.
• Paul Majurey (Marutūāhu) is an iwi leader, independent director and lawyer who chairs the Tūpuna Maunga Authority.
• Alf Filipaina (Ngāti Mahia, Ngāti Hamoa) is an Auckland City Councillor and is deputy chair of the Tūpuna Maunga Authority.