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Alf Filipaina: Fears over iwi input misguided

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It's important for all Aucklanders that the council seeks expertise on the cultural impact of its projects.
Alf Filipaina: Fears over iwi input misguidedA burial site was discovered beside this North Shore bottle store. There is already protection for sites of significance but the plan extends their reach. Photo / Sarah Ivey

Rules are all about balance - making sure bad things don't happen, without getting in the way of the good, the new, the fun or the functional. Just ask any police officer, teacher or parent.

The same goes for planning Auckland's future. There are so many awesome things we want to protect. Our beaches, harbours, heritage buildings, environment and cultural heritage. But sometimes protection can get in someone's way - and over the past 18 months we've seen people passionately arguing very different sides of various debates about Auckland's planning rules.

Some of those arguments are pretty simple: people either like mangroves, or want to clear them, or they're not that bothered. Others are much more complicated. The council's role has been to get the balance right - give protection while helping Auckland grow and thrive, with people free to do things they should be able to do.

The same goes for protecting Auckland's cultural heritage and values with Cultural Impact Assessments (CIAs).

The good news is most people want broadly the same thing: to protect that heritage with rules that are workable and fair for all. But I don't think we've got that balance quite right. Yet. That "yet" is critical, because I can see the council and iwi are making good progress.

First we need to clear a few things up, because this is a sensitive issue and it needs steady heads and responsible reporting. There have been many things said and written about these CIAs and some are simply wrong.

When might you need a CIA? Broadly this is when a resource consent has an environmental impact that could impact on mana whenua values, such as water extraction, discharging into the sea or disturbing ecological areas; or if it's in an area that has a site of significance to mana whenua, or a site of value based on archaeological records.

These sites are shown on the Unitary Plan map (www.aucklandcouncil.govt.nz/unitaryplan).

The council will contact iwi on your behalf, and the iwi will say whether a CIA is needed. This is not - despite some misreporting - about "approval". As one Herald columnist said last week, "Despite what the rabble-rousers say, the iwi will not have the final say." Instead, this is about asking iwi for their expert advice. The council will take that expertise into account, but it is the council that makes the decision.

Costs are an iwi decision and vary.

However, we know iwi are looking at efficient ways to provide advice and to allay fears about costly and lengthy processes.

I know one iwi isn't charging at all for minor developments, while another has seen about 100 applications and hasn't required a CIA for any of them.

CIAs aren't new. They've been around for years and there is already protection for sites of significance in existing plans. However, the rules in the proposed Auckland Unitary Plan extend their reach, and this followed feedback last year on the draft plan asking for more protection.

So ... why is this needed?

Simply put, it's something Auckland needs to get better at. Sometimes this is about physical things, like burial sites or old pa sites, sometimes it's about cultural meaning.

My hopes go further. This isn't just an issue for Maori - it is important for all of us. Whether Maori, Pakeha, Pasifika, European, Asian; whether you have recently arrived, or have called Auckland home for generations.

We are heading towards becoming the best city in the world to live. The best city to share fun and pride with our friends and families and to fulfil our aspirations for the future. Our heritage, values and identity are essential to that.

When the Auckland Plan talks about Auckland's Maori identity being its point of difference in the world, this is about it being a source of strength and celebration for all Aucklanders, something that makes our city special. So the rules are a big step forward in not just recognising, but also celebrating, our cultural heritage and values.

They embed the role that mana whenua can play as the kaitiaki of Auckland - and fulfilling that role for everyone.

The rules help Aucklanders have their say based on what's really proposed, not alarmism.

And to make sure we get that balance right.

Alf Filipaina is an Auckland councillor.

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