The Tupuna Maunga Authority is presently imposing its car ban on Mt Victoria-Takarunga with a minimum of consultation and all but ignoring the normal political channels for approving such a major change to a local maunga.
In December 2016, the Devonport Takapuna Local Board voted not to support the car ban until the Maunga Authority has consulted with it over likely effects.
The Local Board sought to define the impacts, and if necessary to defend the rights, of the Takarunga Playcentre, the Devonport Primary School, the Depot Arts Centre, the Michael King Writers Centre, and the Devonport Folk Club all existing on the mountain's flanks, as well as a Ports of Auckland radar station and a Watercare reservoir on the summit, and a local minibus that takes out-of-town visitors up to perhaps Auckland's greatest summit view.
All are affected by the decision, at the least by parking problems, and at most by having to close down, as would happen if the Devonport Folk Club, presently standing above the lockout gate, had to manhaul instruments up the mountain in the rain.
There's been plenty to discuss, plenty of fears to allay, but the formal consultation requested by the Local Board hung in limbo for a year before being finally scheduled for December 2017. That meeting was then postponed, and the next thing any of us with an interest in local affairs heard of the Maunga Authority's proposal was a letter received last Tuesday stating work to install the vehicle barrier arm would begin on Thursday.
The postponed December meeting with the Local Board had been rescheduled for Friday. It therefore took place after contractors had already set in place the concrete footings and the electrics for the new barrier.
It seems fair to say the Tupuna Maunga Authority proceeds on a predetermined track, irrespective of local concerns. It's fair to say that here, as with other examples of its secrecy and speed, it proceeds by ambush.
Should the Authority seek some indication of local approval before imposing its will? I think so, perhaps particularly for Devonport where half the village is built on the maunga's slopes.
If we go back in time to the Mt Eden-Maungawhau car ban, it was the Albert-Eden Local Board that began the process, banning the big buses from the summit in 2011. The local "Friends of Maungawhau" also weighed in, so that when the Maunga Authority was established in 2014, it rode community support to complete the process, taking all cars off Maungawhau as from January 2016.
The Herald had run a poll in January 2015 that showed 58 per cent of Aucklanders favoured the Mt Eden ban, but the same poll also showed only 28 per cent of Aucklanders favoured extending that ban to the other five summits which then had vehicle access.
The Albert-Eden Local Board had convinced its population, and you might think the Maunga Authority would therefore go out of its way to work with other local boards, and to popularise the car ban beyond the Herald poll's low 28 per cent approval. But its main strategy was to take its car-ban plans into closed workshops, without public reporting.
The result: in November 2016, it announced, seemingly fully formed, a plan for another five summit car bans. The Devonport Takapuna Local Board responded immediately with a resolution that withheld its support, though on a split vote. The Maunga Authority's public response was to say a local board had no final power to intervene.
How right is that? The Maunga Authority's 2014 setup legislation transferred ownership of Auckland's volcanic summits to Maori treaty claimants, though the cones retained their public reserve status.
Such status was no doubt the reason for the then Minister of Treaty Negotiations, Chris Finlayson, saying while ushering through the prior maunga Deed of Settlement, "There will be no changes to existing public access and use rights."
The Maunga Authority also has to administer the cones having regard to "the spiritual, ancestral, cultural, customary, and historical significance of the maunga to Ngā Mana Whenua o Tāmaki Makaurau". Okay, hence the summit bans, but how popular are they, actually?
Under its legislation the Maunga Authority must also have regard to "the common benefit of Nga Mana Whenua o Tamaki Makau Rau and the other people of Auckland." I think it's likely, by letters to the Herald and other evidences, the Authority has not to date persuaded "the other people of Auckland" or even those "mana whenua" I personally know, that car bans on all the maunga are welcome.
Nor can you ride willy nilly over the access and parking problems the policy entails. The Tupuna Maunga Authority's conduct in imposing its car ban on Mt Victoria-Takarunga in the way it has is damaging to its reputation.
• Geoff Chapple is a journalist who lives in Devonport.