Payments for Cultural Impact Assessments should be refunded

ContactLee Short, Chairman
Democracy Action
09 281 5173
[email protected]

Auckland, Mar 10, 2017 - FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Pro-democracy group, Democracy Action, says the High Court's dismissal this week of the appeal by the Independent Maori Statutory Board against the decision by Auckland Councillors to accept the Independent Hearings Panel’s recommendation to remove the ‘Sites and Places of value to Mana Whenua’ from the Unitary Plan, gives every reason for the Council to refund amounts paid for the unnecessary and costly cultural assessments. 

Since September 2013 Auckland property owners with one of these purportedly sites of value on or near their properties have had to seek cultural impact assessments (CIAs) from iwi when undertaking more than minor earthworks.

 “Money paid to iwi for CIAs must be refunded”, says Democracy Action spokesperson, Lee Short.
“The Court’s decision is further confirmation that the Council inflicted additional costs and uncertainty on property owners for little or no justification. For many, it meant paying thousands of dollars to iwi representatives for cultural impact assessments, with no safeguards in place to protect the applicant from the risk of exploitation. Now that the process has been abolished, those applicants should be entitled to full reimbursement from Auckland Council”.
“The decision from Justice Wylie may also cause problems for the Government, in that it highlights the potential flaws of ‘co-governance’ type arrangements in relation to resource consent approval processes. The Resource Legislation Amendment Bill, which is currently before Parliament, broadens the scope of ‘Iwi Participation Arrangements’ to cover consenting and monitoring. The proposed law would impose on all Councils special rights and privileges for iwi in regards to resource consents."

"The Government should take note of Justice Wylie’s decision and make substantial changes to the Bill if the legal problems experienced by Auckland Council are to be avoided.”
“There must be strong safeguards in place to prevent councils from outsourcing consent decisions to unaccountable iwi representatives, with no appeal or review safeguards.”


Democracy Action Incorporated appeared as one of the interested parties in the Independent Maori Statutory Board’s appeal against Auckland Council’s removal the 3600 Sites and Places of Value to Mana Whenua, and references to cultural landscapes, from the Unitary Plan.
Democracy Action submitted that the decision made by Auckland Councillors was lawful and proper, given there was little evidential basis for the initial inclusion of these 3600 sites and the resulting obligations placed on property owners.
Between the inclusion of the sites in September 2013 and their removal from the Plan in August 2016, the Council required resource consent applicants with a site of value either on or within 100 metres their property to obtain iwi sign-off on whether an application required a CIA.
Auckland Council confirmed at various times that the sites of value were not actually visited during the development of the Unitary Plan, not before it was notified nor during the hearings process. Nor were affected property owners notified. Instead, the Council’s decision to introduce the sites was based on desktop analysis.  By the end of the hearings process, 2,213 sites remained. The Council had found many inaccuracies, including over location, the extent of the sites, whether they actually were archaeological sites or just natural features, or whether they were even of value to mana whenua. 
In his decision, Justice Wylie found that “at best, only some 140 of the 2,213 sites proposed were the subject of specific submissions and evidence from mana whenua, and that only 16 were supported by detailed evidence at the hearing”.