It has been quite some time since we covered the issue of Cultural Values Assessments (CVA). This does not mean they are no longer an issue. To the contrary – the taniwha has been quietly working in the background, sharpening its teeth – as evidenced by reports on a project undertaken to research the effectiveness of the CVA process for influencing resource management and consenting in Auckland, and recommending ways to increase iwi/hapu involvement in the resource consent process.
Data for the research project was obtained between September 2017 and August 2018 through a mixed methods approach, including internal document review, literature review, Cultural Values Assessment contact log, interviews and focus groups with Auckland Council consent planners and compliance officers, iwi/hapu representatives, and resource consent applicants and/or their agents, including consultant planners, engineers and surveyors.
What has become obvious from reading the reports is that far more is expected than CVAs just being documents prepared by iwi to assist local authority planners in decisions regarding resource consents. It is suggested that CVAs have a broader application - “As a future-oriented tool, CVAs could also be employed in regard to all council plans, strategies and policies”. Additionally, rather than seeing CVAs as potentially a one-off transaction or legislative necessity to ‘tick off’, some also view them as part of an ongoing relationship, a partnership. (Ngāi Tai ki Tāmaki). The Technical Report by Dr Claire Gooder (May 2018) mentions that that mana whenua view CVAs as a negotiation, opening the lines of communication and the start of an ongoing relationship with reciprocal obligations and duties. Dr Gooder’s report is linked below:
Dr Gooder writes: “This literature review is designed to contribute to the assessment of mana whenua values and interests by placing CVAs within the literature on colonisation, Crown/Māori interaction, the Treaty of Waitangi, mātauranga Māori, Māori and Western planning models, and indigenous rights”. (p.6 Executive summary)
The latest Technical Report (June 2019), by Jacob Otter, Esther Rootham and Carina Mearesby on behalf of Auckland Council's Research and Evaluation Unit, is linked below:
In summary, the research found a general dissatisfaction amongst iwi about the current extent to which their cultural values and interests are being taken into consideration in resource consent decision-making. Iwi felt that engagement could be tokenistic, that they are not really considered to be Treaty partners by Auckland Council and applicants, and that this was unlikely to change until they are empowered to properly engage in decision-making.
Please see below some points raised in the latest report. However, to fully understanding the issues, please read the reports linked above.
Expectations expressed by iwi representatives include:
- their interests and cultural values should be reflected in the processing consent planner’s decision, the conditions, and/or the advice notes;
- that their values are understood and respected by all the participants in the process;
- that engagement in the resource consent process be early, continuous, and constructive;
- early engagement on resource consent applications meant prior to lodgement, before the applicant had become too wedded to a particular idea or proposal. However, this early engagement should be late enough, so due diligence had been done, enabling kaitiaki to give an informed perspective of the development;
- continuous engagement is also important. This means that applicants be kept updated on an application as it progresses, including any changes or negotiations that occur which might impact the activities. Continuous engagement also includes engagement post-application, especially if mana whenua sought to be involved in cultural monitoring.
- Involvement in decision-making is fundamental to their cultural values and interests. Even positive environmental actions that do not involve them can undermine their interests and authority if they are unable to exercise the rights they believe are associated with their ‘mana whenua’ status.
- Iwi representatives expressed interest in taking a more active role in compliance activities, and because of their role in monitoring and compliance, one kaitiaki suggested they be given “honorary powers” to formalise this part of their work.
- Iwi are seeking to create a relationship with, and accountability from landowners as a means to enact their cultural values. One kaitiaki gave the following example applicant who does not understand the cultural value of relationship building:
“There is one in ____, that they weren’t too bad engaging with us, but we did get a pou that’s going out the back of the development, and we had a bit of negotiating with what it was going to be. I mean, basically I was emailing the agent; it was about ownership, because we sort of said, "Well the pou is, even though you’re paying for it, it belongs to the iwi," and I think he was scared that we might take it away if we got annoyed with him, or something, and he said, "But I’ve paid for it, it’s mine, you can’t do that," and I said, "We own it as in like it’s part of us, it’s our whakapapa, all this sort of thing.
… I said, "Do you understand?" and he said, "Not really, but it’s a condition of my consent, so just go ahead," and that disappointed me actually, because up to that point, I thought he had, from reading the CIA, had gone, had said yes, I want to do this, but no, it was a condition of his consent. I want people to want to do it [hitting the table gently for emphasis]; I don’t want people to do it because they have to do it grudgingly, and this is guy is grudgingly doing it unfortunately”.
The report suggested there are two significant barriers to ensuring CVAs shape resource consent decision-making, being:
- the lack of capacity of consent planners to translate CVA input from mana whenua into the terms required for justifying decisions and conditions in the statutory planning process;
- the lack of Auckland Council monitoring and oversight of the CVA process places significant pressure on individual mana whenua who may already lack the resources, time and staffing to be able to engage in all cases in which they have an interest.
Recommendations include the council offering iwi tangible support to empower their involvement in the resource consent process. These include:
- building capacity through training and professional development for mana whenua groups, proposing that Auckland Council with mana whenua co-design and deliver resource consent training for mana whenua. Additionally, Auckland Council should consider offering other forms of professional development opportunities for mana whenua representatives. Such initiatives could be resourced by Auckland Council and coordinated through the Mana Whenua Cultural Values Working Group. It is suggested this include regular networking events with mana whenua in other regions on relevant themes, e.g. influencing groundwater consents, having mātauranga Māori considered in decision-making;
- Auckland Council should consider providing administrative support to mana whenua to assist their engagement in the resource consent system, suggesting options such as staffing, office space and technology; training; scholarships, internships and secondment opportunities to expand the long-term capacity within mana whenua to engage in resource management decision-making.
Is there an expectation mana whenua status trumps private property rights?
The term ‘mana whenua’, used extensively throughout the report, is alarming. According to the Technical Report’s glossary mana whenua ‘refers to the people of the land who have mana or customary authority; their historical, cultural and genealogical heritage are attached to the land and sea. This suggests iwi/hapu have authority over the land, a concept which at odds with private property rights.
The Maori Dictionary has a more extensive definition, to see please click HERE.