Sites of Significance and Value

When the Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan (the Plan) was first published, we were alarmed by several provisions that provided 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.

We could see the erosion of our democratic values would mean higher development costs and time delays, opaque decision-making, inevitable conflicts of interest, and an unacceptable risk of corruption.

The most concerning parts of the proposed Plan were already in effect, despite being a radical change to the resource consent process. We were particularly concerned about the rules around what were called "Sites and places of significance to mana whenua", "Sites and places of value to mana whenua" and Cultural Impact Assessments (CIAs).

The Plan proposed mana whenua work in co-governance with the Council to decide what sites and places would be deemed significant or valuable to them. The Plan outlined a subjective and vague set of criteria, recognising mana whenua as the ‘experts’ in the process.

This process was on top of over 3600 sites of value listed that had already been listed in the appendices of the Plan. It is probable that under the PAUP’s permissive co-governance arrangements this number would continue to grow. 

If a private property owner was in the unfortunate position of having their property designated near a ‘site or place of value to mana whenua’ any minor work could not involve excavation or earthworks, and would need to be undertaken under the supervision of a mandated mana whenua representative. Obviously, this was an unreasonable restriction on individual property rights.

Furthermore, the Plan required resource consent applicants to obtain a ‘cultural impact assessment’ from unspecified ‘iwi authorities’ if their proposed work may adversely affect ‘mana whenua values’ and/or iwi decided a CIA was needed. Earthworks on or within 50 metres of a 'site of value to mana whenua' were deemed a 'restricted discretionary activity' and would automatically require a CIA.

Note, there was and is still no obligation under the Resource Management Act 1991 for an applicant to consult with any person about their application. This Plan was changing that. If an iwi group decided a cultural impact assessment should be completed, they would have full discretion over how long it will take and what it will cost.  Any number of Auckland’s 19 iwi groups may have required a CIA, costing an applicant as much as $1,500.

This was not speculation on our part. We were 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!

We expected that CIAs would prove costly and burdensome for everyday Aucklanders. In many cases, CIAs would have required minor alterations and improvements such as decks, pools, and subdivisions. This would have driven up the cost of building and kept the heat on Auckland’s inflated property market.


So concerned about what this would mean for unsuspecting Aucklanders, we sought legal opinions and submitted to every hearing we could. Below is a summary of our submissions. In the end, wise heads at the Council prevailed, and the governing body voted to remove these clauses.  Although the Independent Maori Statutory Board took the Council to the High Court, the Court upheld the decision of the governing body. A win for democracy in Auckland!

If you want to get in touch with us on this, please email [email protected]


November 2014 Alternative Policies on the Scheduling of Sites of Significance to Mana Whenua

February 2015 Kenneth Palmer Statement of Evidence

February 2015 Kenneth Palmer Statement of Evidence - Supplement

June 2015 Oral Submission - Summary of Legal Points

June 2015 Oral Submission - Further Points of Evidence


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