Taniwha are everywhere. These mythical creatures of Maori legend haunt the natural landscape to be summoned forth by any believer who wants to frighten mere mortals planning to tamper with nature.

The proposed Auckland central underground rail connection - still of mythical status itself - is the latest project to face the apparition.

Taniwha are scary, not in themselves but in the damage they do to the credibility of Maori consultation.

No doubt to leaders such as Auckland Mayor Len Brown, a taniwha is interpreted as a concept, a symbol of something, perhaps the Maori reverence for the life force they see in all things.

But he would not relish the task of explaining that to his citizens.

He knows that many would think he is trying too hard to rationalise something they are inclined to regard as simply primitive, something no modern society should have to deal with.

People such as Glen Wilcox, the Auckland Council's Maori Statutory Board member who raised the taniwha against the rail project this week, embarrass their cause.

A Ngati Whatua cultural adviser has explained that taniwha can mean many things.

He believed Mr Wilcox was using it to assert the need for Maori to be consulted on the rail route the council is about to designate.

The Maori board plainly is being consulted, and will continue to be if the project finds the finance to go any further than the route designation.

The council has a right to expect more from the board than a reminder that Queen St had a creek.