Concerns Māori voices won't be heard in 'shovel-ready' projects

By Rukuwai Tipene-Allen

Eleven shovel-ready projects that create jobs have got the government green light but the exclusion of the RMA process has left some iwi members concerned about the lack of Māori participation as treaty partners.

Whangarei hapū and experts are now discussing a collective response to the changes to ensure tangata whenua still have a say in what happens in their region.

The Resource Management Act was set up to ensure the public and Māori had a voice in developments in their area. Juliane Chetham, who has been working in this sector for some years, says although the 11 shovel-ready projects could mean up to 1200 jobs created, there has to be more consideration for Māori health and holistic wellbeing. 
"There's a real concern there's going to be a missed opportunity and we're just going to go back to grey infrastructure, rather than things that provide for cultural health because it's more than just jobs that keep tangata whenua healthy - it's the connection to our taiao, whenua and moana." 

The act is a way in which one can engage with a council and be part of discussions. Chetham says it will be difficult for any hapū that doesn't have functioning relationships with decision-makers. 

Providing for cultural values

"It's the entry point. It's the way into engaging. If you don't have a robust relationship with developers or the council that's your way of engagement. "

The change means there is an expert consenting panel, which will include an iwi authority nominated person, local council staff member and an environmental expert. Chetham says that there is no clear way of telling how that part of the process will work, who will be selected and what their knowledge may be of any given project in any given area. 

"We just don't know how it's going to work. We don't know how the person will be selected. They might have no understanding of our rohe and they might not know the context. Also having been a person who sits on hearing panels, that's a lone voice and perhaps that's a panel of three or four people, so it's hard for individual iwi commissioners who sit on iwi panels like that. We're not convinced that that's going to necessarily provide for Maori cultural values in the process."

The Northland drought has resulted in a project that will see the development of a water storage unit in Ngawha. 
Tāmaki Makaurau has several shovel-ready projects including a pathway spanning from Westhaven to Akoranga while Kaitāia, Pt Chevalier, Raglan, Waitara, the Chathams and Christchurch are all slated for papakāinga housing developments.