Auckland 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 


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


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.


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.


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.


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.


New information will be published on this page as it comes to hand. Updates on developments will also be included in our regular newsletters.

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Latest updates for this campaign

  • Featured post

    Payments for Cultural Impact Assessments should be refunded

    Auckland property owners stripped of thousands of dollars to undertake cultural impact assessments should be refunded by the Council. The High Court decision to dismiss the IMSB's appeal of the Council's decision to remove the remaining ‘Sites and Places of Value to Mana Whenua’ (read more here), confirmed that the Council has inflicted additional costs and uncertainty on Auckland property owners through these cultural impact assessments with little or no justification since they were first introduced in September 2013.
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  • Featured post

    Win in Court

    Earlier this week we received Justice Wylie's decision dismissing the High Court appeal by the Independent Maori Statutory Board against the decision made by Auckland Councillors to accept the Independent Hearings Panel’s recommendation to remove the ‘Sites and Places of value to Mana Whenua’ overlay from the Auckland Unitary Plan.  Read the ruling here.
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  • Featured post

    Common sense prevails in Auckland

    We are applauding the recommendations of the Independent Hearings Panel to delete Cultural Impact Assessment requirements, and the scheduled “sites of value” from the Auckland Unitary Plan. The Panel clearly recognises the folly of adopting such a flawed system, a system which was in danger of undermining public support for sites of significant historical and cultural heritage. Thank you to all of our supporters, and those who have worked tirelessly to oppose these proposals. We are pleased to see that commonsense has prevailed.
  • Featured post

    Submissions to PAUP oral hearing

    The Democracy Action team have been busy preparing and presenting their submissions against the the Mana Whenua provisions within the Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan. The documents below should serve as a great resource for people interested in learning more about the implications for Aucklanders of the Mana Whenua provisions, and why they should be opposed.
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  • Featured post

    Site of the week 2

    ID#3172, Waiuku The mana whenua provisions don’t just affect sites in downtown Auckland. One of our eagle-eyed volunteers has tracked down ID#3172, which is right in the middle of a new housing development. Our volunteer documents: 
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  • Featured post

    Site of the week 3

    ID#205, East Tamaki Our volunteer documents: “The site is on top of the hill that is the former Greenmount municipal landfill that is being remediated by Auckland Council and will become a park with sweeping views. The area is a huge 54ha, bounded by Harris, Smales and Springs Rds.
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  • Featured post

    Site of the week 1

    ID#2028, Mount Eden The mana whenua provisions don’t just affect homes and businesses, but also community sports groups. One of our volunteers took the time to track down site #2028, which is nestled somewhere on, in or below the Auckland Table Tennis Association building in the Withiel Thomas Park, as the map shows.
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  • Featured post

    Mana Whenua site map

    Below is a map of a number of sites that Democracy Action's army of volunteers have been busy documenting.Sites with red markers have been completed, whereas green markers indicate that they are free to investigate.If you would like to join our ranks of volunteers to assist Democracy Action with the documenting of these sites, or have another skill that can help us with this campaign, please click here.
  • Featured post

    Our letter to Len Brown and Councillors

    Democracy Action has written to Mayor Len Brown and all Councillors to highlight the need for action on the radical Mana Whenua provisions in the PAUP. Our letter to the Mayor outlines how the Mana Whenua provisions has had the effect of being a unilateral decree, and that property valuers believe that the imposed provisions will likely affect property values.You can view our letter to the Mayor and Councillors below
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  • Featured post

    Hearing materials

    The team have made several submissions throughout the PAUP Hearing process. The submissions convey our objections to the mana whenua provisions and outline why we think the radical provisions should be taken out of the PAUP. Please click on the links to read each submission.
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