Alf wonders what the taniwha thinks about things, as he lurks beneath the streets of the Queen City.
Maybe he is a she.
But whatever the gender, above ground it is being said the wee rascal could upset plans for an Auckland city rail link tunnel.
It seems a bit late in the day for the Auckland Council’s Maori Statutory Board to be sounding a warning to transport planners.
But better late than never, eh, when you are dealing with a taniwha, who – we are told – lived in an ancient creek running past the Town Hall and down Queen Street.
This taniwha has found a champion in board member Glen Wilcox who
…has asked Auckland’s transport committee to give consideration to the taniwha – which the Ngati Whatua iwi call Horotiu – as it plans the $2.6 billion tunnel project.
“What’s being done about the taniwha Horotiu who lives just outside here, and that tunnel will be going through his rohe [area]?” asked Mr Wilcox.
Alf is not too sure from the Herald report what should be done about the taniwha.
His inclination is to pop down and ask Horotiu if he would care to be relocated.
Compensation, naturally, would come into things.
Alf suggests an above-ground relocation because – according to the Herald – the tunnel is planned to pass under the former Waihorotiu Creek, known to Auckland’s European settlers as Ligar Canal.
The creek now runs through concrete stormwater pipes to the Waitemata Harbour.
The prospect arises that Horotiu would welcome being assisted to a location where he can bask in the sun and enjoy the fresh air.
The Herald gives us cause not to be dismissive about Horotiu, because the presence of taniwha is apt to get local Maori very excited and obstrucive.
In 2002, the presence of a one-eyed taniwha called Karu Tahi stopped work on the Waikato Expressway, and part of the new road was rerouted.
Another sacred guardian’s presence resulted in an on-site protest during construction of the Ngawha Prison, near Kaikohe.
Alf recalls the delays in each case.
He especially recalls that it wasn’t the taniwha that did the stalling. The stalling – and the disruption – was caused by Maori who went out to bat for the taniwha.
In the Auckland rail case, Maori Statutory Board chairman David Taipari is saying that Wilcox is raising a question of consultation, and the taniwha question did not surprise him.
“Our independent board members participate as full members of these committees.
“They raise these matters as part of the considerations of the council.
“They should be all raising these questions about who has been engaged, who has been consulted and what processes have been undertaken to ensure everyone has had an opportunity to be involved,” Mr Taipari said.
“Glenn in his role has highlighted a serious deficiency because no one really responded to his question.”
A great deal of blatting is going on about consultation, when it should have happened and how much is enough.
Mayor Len Brown, for example, is saying:
“I am satisfied that appropriate consultation with iwi on the proposal has occurred since it was first raised and will continue to occur.”
And an Auckland Transport spokeswoman said the Beca consultancy had consulted Ngati Whatua about the project in November 2009 and again in December last year to provide an update.
Councillor Cameron Brewer says Wilcox had “let off the T-Bomb” by raising the prospect of a taniwha in the way of the proposed downtown rail link.
“The whole issue should have been put to bed with Ngati Whatu by now, not tabled this week.”
We should note that the Environment Court ruled almost 10 years ago on Taukere, the Northland taniwha.
It said it respected the rights of people to believe in spiritual, metaphysical taniwha, but the court was part of a secular state.
The Resource Management Act required it to consider the well-being of physical people.
The one thing glaringly missing from the Herald’s report is any suggestion the taniwha has been consulted.
He (or she) might be happy to have trains rattling nearby.
And if he (she) isn’t happy, well, a bit of negotiating should do the trick.
Free travel for life on the train could be part of an acceptable package.