As the dispute over the track built by Craggy Range Winery on the eastern face of Te Mata Peak reaches its sixth month, work continues behind the scenes to find a way forward that will satisfy all parties.

Just this week Hastings Mayor Sandra Hazlehurst assured a small group of local iwi protesters at the council buildings that a range of people were being brought together to ensure everyone's views were heard.

This followed a statement last week where she said the council would also undertake a cultural assessment, which was critical to the full understanding of Ngāti Kahungunu's perspective.

Read more: Watch: Craggy Range report on Te Mata track disappoints Mana whenua
Supporters to walk controversial Te Mata Peak track on Saturday


The lack of a detailed cultural assessment in the council's current district plan and the challenges that raised for private landowners such as Craggy Range was highlighted by resource management barrister John Maassen in a legal report commissioned by the winery, released earlier this month.

"People organise their lives based on the content of the district plan ... it is not apparent from the plan that a public walking track (as opposed to structures that the plan seeks to minimise) might or could affect cultural associational values in a way that is not addressed by consideration of the plan's landscape and earthworks criteria," he noted.

The gist of his report indicated that it was important that the district plan communicated what the issues were so people could be confident of what was required of them - and in this case that information was not comprehensive enough.

Auckland University senior lecturer Andrew Erueti, whose primary area of research was in indigenous customary law and legal pluralism, said the situation prompted wider questions about the Resource Management Act (RMA).

"It looks like a problem with the RMA, there's been a lot of criticism of the RMA and consultation notification decisions through the Waitangi Tribunal that has been quite pointed.

"The RMA needs to be strengthened - this is a classic example of it not working."

He said the issues highlighted by the track were seemingly becoming more prevalent across the country as Maori raised concerns about their interests in private land.

He cited a controversial case near Auckland Airport where Fletcher Building was developing 480 houses on a block of heritage landscape, a process that had been criticised for a lack of archaeological assessments and consultation with local people.


He said the options for redress were limited and there was a potentially broader conversation to be had in terms of finding different ways for iwi to assert their interests.

"There's something broader about the Crown and its Treaty settlement process, which at the moment does not address issues on private land - it's kind of taboo, it's off the table.

"It seems to me there is a gap not being addressed and there could be a role for the Crown to step in and provide some sort of negotiation process for conflicts like this - some third party mediator or negotiator should be involved."

In the meantime, in the absence of such mechanisms, he said there was little choice but to find a political solution.