Ngāti Pāoa accuse Council of disregarding evidence

By Talisa Kupenga

The Auckland Council has voted to abolish the Sites of Value to Mana Whenua clause in its Unitary Plan despite results from a 2015 council and mana whenua screening exercise showing more than 2500 sites qualify under criteria to support the clause.

Ngāti Paoa says Auckland Council is disregarding evidence that could uphold the Sites of Value to Mana Whenua clause in Auckland's Unitary Plan.

"Our cultural identity as Māori and as the tribes of Auckland will cease to exist if this decision is upheld,” says Ngati Paoa spokesman Hauauru Rawiri.

The council voted in favour to remove the clause based on recommendations by the Independent Hearings Panel (IHP). The Panel "did not consider there to be a sufficient evidential basis for the schedule" but results from last year's Māori Heritage Project: Sites of Value Screening exercise shows otherwise.

“There has been a disconnect between the information provided by mana whenua to the officials of the IHP,” says Rawiri, “We worked together to establish the value of these sites so we do not understand why the IHP did not recognise these locations.”

The screening exercise run by council in partnership with mana whenua shows more than 2500 sites, at the time the report was filed to the IHP, qualified under the clause based on archaeological data, Google Earth plots of the sites and a list of criteria including attributed mana whenua values and associations.

Iwi are now unclear why the evidence was ignored by both IHP and now the council.

“Based on this evidence we believe the sites of value should be put back into the unitary plan,” says Rawiri.

Auckland Council says it is unable to comment because it is still debating the plan but Rawiri says he would like to see Auckland iwi come together discuss the possibility of a collective strategy.