Neighbours in Auckland's most prestigious street are fighting moves to tag their properties with a Maori heritage designation.

The Auckland Council supports a bid by Ngati Whatua Orakei to extend a "mana whenua cultural heritage overlay" over about 25 properties at the city end of Paritai Drive in the Auckland unitary plan.

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Inside Story: Cultural collision

Some of the homeowners have engaged lawyers to put opposing submissions to the unitary plan hearings panel. The land was designated a "Site of Value to Mana Whenua" when the Unitary Plan was notified in September 2013 - but the residents say no one told them.

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Under current rules, property owners within a 200m "buffer zone" of these sites may need to obtain a cultural impact assessment from iwi for additions or redevelopment. Mana whenua groups (iwi or hapu whose "customary authority" over an area is recognised) may recommend design changes to recognise the cultural and spiritual significance of the area or to avoid works which cause offence.

Prominent residents objecting include multi-millionaire investor Trevor Farmer and his family, Craig and Cara Turner (Sleepyhead), businessman Paul Halford and wife Glenys, and ad agency director Gilda Kirkpatrick.

Ngati Whatua say the properties have a cultural and spiritual association with a former pa, Onepu Whakatakataka.

"Sites like [this] where ancestors lived, fought, played, died, gardened and prayed have ongoing cultural relevance for iwi and we hope for other Aucklanders too," says Ngati Whatua deputy chair Ngarimu Blair.

The site is one of nearly 3000 across Auckland earmarked for scheduling in the unitary plan as "sites of value to mana whenua".

Another proposed site, at the eastern end of Paritai Drive above Okahu Bay, drew no opposing submissions. Proposed amendments put last week to the unitary plan hearings panel would reduce the buffer zone around sites to a 50m radius.

But in legal submissions for Gilda Kirkpatrick, counsel Derek Nolan says the first she and neighbours knew about the proposed cultural heritage overlay was in April, 14 months after submissions on the unitary plan closed. Ngati Whatua did not provide a map with their original submission and identifying the site as Onepu Whakatakataka-Hobson Pt "meant nothing to Mrs Kirkpatrick or to the other residents [of Paritai Drive]".

Information provided by Ngati Whatua was insufficient to justify the designation, Mr Nolan argued. The cultural overlay "would impose costs, possible loss of value and significant constraints on the owners".

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The headland pa was recorded as "destroyed" more than half a century ago but iwi argue that "intangible" cultural and spiritual values should be recognised when development occurs near valued or sacred ancestral sites.