Auckland's Unitary Plan

Democracy Action is alarmed by a number of provisions in the Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan (PAUP) that provide one class of citizens, loosely defined as “Mana Whenua”, with new and substantial powers over Auckland’s resources and the private property of its citizens.

This erosion of our democratic values brings with it higher development costs and time delays, opaque decision making, inevitable conflicts of interest, and an unacceptable risk of corruption.

Several of the most concerning parts of this ‘proposed’ Plan are already in effect despite them being a radical change to the resource consent processes. We are particularly concerned about the rules pertaining to:

·         Sites and places of significance to Mana Whenua

·         Sites and places of value to Mana Whenua

·         Cultural Impact Assessments (CIAs)

·         Cultural harvesting provisions 


Concerned about Sites of Value on your property

Write to Mayor Len Brown - click here to download a suggested letter.


Sites and places of significance and of value to Mana Whenua

Under the PAUP Mana Whenua work in co-governance with Council to decide what sites and places will be deemed significant or valuable to them. Chapter B 5.4 outlines a subjective and vague set of criteria for determining this, and recognises Mana Whenua as the ‘experts’ in the process.

There are already over 3600 scheduled sites of value listed in the appendices of the PAUP. It is probable that under the PAUP’s permissive co-governance arrangements this number will continue to grow. 

If a private property owner is in the unfortunate position of having their property designated a ‘site or place of value to Mana Whenua’ any minor work cannot involve any excavation or earthworks and will need to be undertaken under the supervision of a mandated Mana Whenua representative under Chapter J5.2, 2.3. This is an unreasonable restriction on individual property rights.


Cultural Impact Assessments

The PAUP requires resource consent applicants to obtain a ‘cultural impact assessment’ from unspecified ‘iwi authorities’ if their proposed work may have adverse effects on ‘Mana Whenua values’ and iwi decide a CIA is needed. Earthworks on or within 50 metres of a site of value of Mana Whenua is a restricted discretionary activity and will require a CIA.

There is no obligation under the Resource Management Act 1991 for resource applicants to consult with any person about the application. The PAUP changes this. Under Chapter G 2.7.4 if an iiwi group decides a cultural impact assessment should be conducted they will have full discretion over how long it will take and what it will cost.

This is not speculation. Democracy Action was shocked to hear Sir Bob Jones story about iwi looking to charge $90 per hour to conduct a six to eight hour CIA to install a window in a 17 story commercial building!

CIAs may be required by any number of Auckland’s 19 iwi groups, and could routinely cost as much as $1500.

We expect that CIA’s will prove costly and burdensome for everyday Aucklanders. In many cases CIAs will be required for minor alterations and improvements such as decks, pools, and subdivisions. This will drive up the cost of building and keep the heat on Auckland’s inflated property market.


Cultural Harvesting Provisions

Chapter H5.2.3.3 (2.d.iv) states that Councils may require rural landowners applying for subdivision to protect natural features by providing appropriate access to any sites and places of significance to Mana Whenua.

A similar rule allows the Council to require the landowner to provide for cultural harvest in accordance with tikanga Maori.

The Human Rights Commission has observed that these rules are only triggered by subdivision, and so a landowner has free choice. With respect, Democracy Action does not consider this sufficiently addresses the problem. Once the council has granted consent, the rights cannot be extinguished privately. This will mean that subdivision will no longer be a commercially attractive option for some landowners. Where land is subdivided and on-sold it will create a new risk for the unwary purchaser.

These rules are an affront to the basic tenets of individual property rights upon which our democracy is built.


Water Resource Allocation

The PAUP allows Mana Whenua to work in partnership with council in deciding how freshwater should be allocated. It also gives them first dibs on any potential geothermal resource.

These provisions infringe our basic property rights and fundamental legal norms. Their implementation, in the form of co-governance, runs counter to the fundamental tenets of our proud democratic tradition.

Is your property affected by a Mana Whenua site?

We've been getting a lot of questions from members of the public wanting to know whether their property could be affected by the PAUP's Mana Whenua provisions. Although some types of resource consent activities (such as discharging into water or air) may trigger 'cultural impact assessments' regardless of where they are in Auckland, the main impact is likely to be initially felt by property owners within 200m of more than 3,600 sites of value to Mana Whenua.

Auckland Council has a mapping program that allows you to search for your property.

Here's our guide to use it:

1. Go to (if a pop-up box appears - 'click to continue')

2. Search for your address in the search bar.


3. On the left hand side (in the 'layers' tab)

3.1 Untick "Zones"
3.2 Untick "NonStatutoryInformaiton"
3.3 Next to the tick for "Overlays" press the "+" button (a sub menu should appear)
3.4 Ensure that only "Sites and Places of Significance to Mana Whenua" and "Sites and Places of Value to Mana Whenua" are ticked.


The purple triangles are sites of significance to Mana Whenua while the purple shaded areas are sites of value. Note that even if your property does not have a purple triangle, if it is within 250m it is affected. 

Video footage: PAUP public meeting

Video footage of our recent public meeting on the Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan is now available online via our YouTube channel.

At the conclusion of the meeting, there was a fascinating Q&A session where Democracy Action supporters asked questions of Chief Planning Official Roger Blakeley. Click below to watch.

The other videos are also available by clicking 'read more'.

Response from Human Rights Commission to Franks Ogilvie on PAUP

On 30 July Franks Ogilvie submitted a letter to Dame Susan Devoy, Race Relations Commissioner, in order to highlight how the PAUP breaches New Zealand's domestic and international human rights and anti-racial discrimination obligations.

A copy of this letter can be found here.

Franks Ogilvie received a response from the Human Rights Commission on 1 September. The Commission said:

Whether to exercise the functions in section 5 of the HRA is at the discretion of the Commission. However, it would be difficult for the Commission to do as you say since our interpretation of the rights you have identified is not the same as yours. We also consider that the Local Government (Auckland Council) Act 2009 mandates this type of provision.

The Commission's full response can be read here.

The Herald on PAUP meeting

The NZ Herald has just published a story on our Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan campaign:

Group opposes iwi approval rule for consents

An organisation has been launched to oppose a new Auckland Council rule requiring owners to seek iwi approval for work on their land.

Democracy Action founder Lee Short, an Auckland businessman, said he was appalled the rule became operational on notification of the proposed Unitary Plan this year.

The rule, in the Unitary Plan, requires applicants carrying out work on 61 sites of significance and 3600 sites of value to mana whenua to obtain a "cultural impact assessment" from one or more of 19 iwi groups.

Democracy Action has organised a meeting on October 18 for 1100 objectors to the rule to pool information and get better prepared to submit to an independent hearing panel.

Mr Short said Democracy Action was a small group at this stage. He had held meetings in Orewa, Epsom and Karaka on the issue, attracting about 60 people each time.

"Elected councillors seem to have been led by the nose.

"(Former Labour MP) Shane Jones denounced the proposed Unitary Plan provisions ... when they emerged, but since then there has been silence from others who should be leading on the issue.

"Ordinary people like me have to call for adherence to simple and fundamental democratic rights and traditions," Mr Short said.

Council chief planning officer Dr Roger Blakeley has defended cultural impact assessments, saying they are part of protecting Auckland's cultural heritage.

He told the Herald this month that in the past six months, fewer than 200 of 6000 resource consents have triggered a possible cultural impact assessment. There had been 50 site visits and 12 assessments had been formally requested.

Property magnate Sir Bob Jones and constitutional lawyer Stephen Franks will be speaking at the October 18 meeting at the Aotea Centre at 1pm.

To RSVP to the meeting click here.

Democracy Action submission to the PAUP

Click here to read the original submission made by Lee Short on behalf of Democracy Action on the PAUP. It reads:

The purpose of the Resource Management Act (RMA), which the Auckland Unitary Plan is prepared under, is ‘to promote the sustainable management of natural and physical resources’. However, there are passages within the Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan which go far beyond what is the required to meet the terms of the RMA. We believe the Auckland Unitary Plan is being used as a vehicle to promote a political programme, which would result in significant constitutional change.

This is most certainly neither the intent nor the purpose of the RMA.

The plan speaks of partnership arrangements, the transfer of powers and/or establishment of joint management agreements with Mana Whenua. The management of Auckland’s natural and physical resources would be transferred, in part or even in some cases wholly, to one group of citizens, not answerable in any way to the general public or with any obligations to the public welfare. Accepting such provisions into the plan would have a serious impact, not only on the democratic rights of citizens who are not members of local iwi, but also on the council’s ability to act in the best interests of all Auckland citizens.

Therefore, Democracy Action opposes all provisions in the Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan (PAUP) calling for partnership arrangements and agreements, the transfer of powers and/or establishment of joint management agreements.

PAUP campaign announcement

This evening we publicly launched a campaign to fight the Cultural Impact Assessments and the co-governance proposals in the Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan. More information about the campaign is available here.

We are inviting all interested Aucklanders to an information meeting.

The purpose of the meeting is to exchange information on the Mana Whenua provisions, and to learn from experts hints on how to make an effective presentation to the Hearings Panel. 

At the meeting we will hear from speakers with expert knowledge of the new cultural impact assessments, and the implications of the co-governance proposals, as well as information to help you make your presentation as effective as possible.

WHEN: October 18, 2014 at 1pm - 4pm

WHERE: Aotea Centre, 50 Mayoral Dr, Auckland 1010

A call to action

Democracy Action has today launched a campaign to overturn the anti-democratic Mana Whenua provisions that have been enshrined in the Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan (PAUP). We've issued a press release that states:

 A group of New Zealanders have launched a campaign to maximise the impact of objections to anti-democratic privileges built into Auckland Council’s Unitary Plan (“PAUP”).

Democracy Action has organised a meeting on 18 October for objectors to pool information and get better prepared to submit to the Hearing Panel. Democracy Action is a grass-roots association formed to stem the erosion of Aotearoa’s democratic inheritance.

The meeting scheduled for the 18th has already attracted media interest, with Sir Bob Jones and constitutional lawyer, Stephen Franks, announced as speakers.

Sir Bob recently wrote about his experiences with the PAUP, where Mana Whenua sought to charge him for a “Cultural Impact Assessment” in order to grant him permission to alter a window. The fee for this service was quoted at a rate of $90 per hour for six to eight hours of work, plus travel expenses.

It sees the PAUP provisions, and the process under which they are in effect already, when many if not most Councillors do not even know how far they go, or what they mean, as the most pressing example of a loss of understanding of the principles of democracy and equality of citizenship in New Zealand.

Prior to leaving the Labour Party, then-Maori Affairs spokesman, Shane Jones, denounced the PAUP provisions as costly and dangerous when they emerged. Since then there has been silence form all parties on this issue.

This public meeting responds to the Auckland Council’s Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan (PAUP). The PAUP ‘Mana Whenua’ provisions may require, for example, ‘cultural impact assessments’ for certain resource consents within 50 meters of what is currently thought to be around 3,600 sites in Auckland.

The provisions also allow Mana Whenua access to private land, charge for Cultural Impact Assessments without control and gives them priority in water resource allocation.

Despite being called a ‘proposed’ plan, the PAUP came into force the day it was notified. It’s disgraceful in a democracy by decree buy pretend that it’s only a proposal.

We invite all interested members of the public to attend.


When: October 18, 2014 at 1pm-4pm
Where: Aotea Centre, 50 Mayoral Drive, Auckland 1010, New Zealand

The public are encouraged to RSVP here:




Unitary Plan’s parallel iwi consent system causing dis-unity

As we know the Unitary Plan was rushed through the Council last year with extraordinary speed.   Little or no time was given to consider the huge amount of public feedback – nor did the Council officers allow discussion on the serious criticism of the draft plan by legal reviewers.  In fact they went to some lengths to conceal its existence absurdly claiming it to be ‘confidential to management.’

Read more (

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