But consultation with iwi is good for you, Sir Bob – and they have ideas to improve your designs too

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Aucklanders have long looked like a spineless bunch of tossers, more anxious to be politically correct than to stand up for their property rights against the outrageous demands of local authorities and the tangata whenua.

Or – and there is another way to look at this – Aucklanders recognise that some members of their community are special and should be allowed to dictate to them what they may and may not do.

These special citizens, of course, are the city’s indigenous persons who have increasingly been empowered to influence development decisions.

Auckland’s readiness to subject themselves to the demands of indigenous persons can be seen today in this report in the NZ Herald.

The article deals with an Auckland Council rule that requires building owners to seek iwi approval for work on their land.

Some stroppy citizens want this requirement abolished.

But others are perfectly willing to cough up their hard-earned money to appease the indigenous persons.

Aprilanne Bonar, who sought consent to build a new garage and swimming pool on her property in Titirangi, said she had had a positive and practical response from two iwi, Ngati Whatua and Te Kawerau Iwi Tribal Authority, for a cultural impact assessment costing $500, including an archaeologist visiting the site.

“They [iwi] do have an interest and do have a say but their attitude was let’s get on and do it,” she said.

How evenly is the rule being applied?

Let’s get the answer to this one from an indigenous person.

Ngai Tai Ki Tamaki representative Dave Beamish said yesterday that iwi were being selective about where they wanted to apply the rule, which was valid.

Uh. oh. So the application of the rule is subject to en element of caprice or something.

But some ballsy bugger from Wellington is challenging the way things are being done in the Queen City.

Property magnate Sir Bob Jones will be at a public meeting next month seeking abolition of an Auckland Council rule requiring building owners to seek iwi approval for work on their land.

Sir Bob vented his frustration at the rule in a weekly Herald column this month after his company had to contact 13 iwi before it could remove an 11m concrete block wall and a window and replace it with a glass frontage for a ground-floor restaurant.

He called the process a racket and a classic case of bureaucrats worrying about cultural correctness without thinking through the consequences.

One iwi, Ngai Tai Ki Tamaki, said permission was not required for the work, but asked Robt Jones Holdings to consider it because their ancestors, centuries ago, gathered in the vicinity in the area, Sir Bob said.

The council’s chief planning officer, Dr Roger Blakeley, says protecting Auckland’s cultural heritage is a key part of the council’s job.

So, too, is making sure people did not get tied up in unnecessary red tape. Or is it brown tape in this case?

Dr Blakeley said the council had been working with iwi to find ways to minimise the effect of the requirement on landowners and had introduced a facilitation service to simplify the process, which Sir Bob said did not occur in his case.

So this Blakeley bugger doesn’t want to get rid of red tape. He just wants to reduce its length.

The aforementioned Dave Beamish, not unexpectly, had something to say about Sir Bob’s column. He said it was unbalanced (a bit like a co-governance arrangement that gives a local authority and an iwi equal say).

But we learn from him one of the benefits of a consultation.

The indigenous persons will be keen to impose their design ideas on the applicant.

Mr Beamish said the iwi was approached by Sir Bob’s planning consultants and at a cost of less than $300 came up with a suggestion for an opportunity to incorporate a bit of local history into the design.

“It’s about revealing to the public a little bit of local history not apparent in a modern cityscape.

“Tamaki Makaurau – Auckland – has got 1000 years of history,” he said.

Another Wellington bloke with more balls than your typical Aucklander comes into the story.

He is lawyer and former Act MP Stephen Franks, who represents several of those making submissions to the council.

He reckons the ill-defined powers of consultation are being turned into de facto veto powers.

You would have thought Aucklanders would want to put the kaibosh on that sort of nonsense.

Let’s see what happens next.

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