'We don't come in at the back end of the consenting process'

By Taroi Black

A local hapu in Taitokerau is one of the first to sign a Resource Management Act agreement with the Northland Regional and Whangarei District Councils. The agreement gives the hapu a say in planning proposals at the start of the process.

The Crown is aiming to provide more opportunities for tangata whenua to be involved in the RMA processes. 

Patuharakeke Trust Board environmental/taiao unit manager Juliane Chetham says the agreement, Manawhakahono a Rohe (MWR), signed with the two councils details the parties' expectations on issues relating to the environment. 

"Mana whenua will be represented at a governance level with councils soon. We're going to have decisionmaking at a standing committee level."

The agreement means the Crown will provide better opportunities for early consultation by the Patuharakeke hapu, which has cultural concerns over issues such as the government exploring moving Auckland's port to Whangarei.

There from the outset

"We don't come in at the back end of the consenting process and other RMA processes, so that we're there from the outset and we can help shape policies and consents work and fit in our rohe."

Northland Regional Council Chair Penny Smart, who signed the MWR agreement on behalf of the regional council at the Takahiwai Marae at the weekend, says the vision of the binding agreement is ‘He waka hourua eke noa’.

"If there are any plans changed or any regional plan review Patuharakeke will have input into that as far as say the appointment of hearing commissioners the engagement processes, any areas of significance", Smart says. 

"As far as the RMA processes go, I think getting this agreement formalised was approximately three years but as I say even before the agreement was signed there was a lot of input from iwi and hapu within Taitokerau, especially Patuharakeke, through our Maori advisory group." 

Funding and resourcing will now be available for Patuharakeke environmental management plans to ensure there is a Maori-based environmental monitoring structure. The MWR agreements are some of the first since Poutini Ngai Tahu was signed by the West Coast Regional Council in late October. 

Chetham concludes, "If you're not embedded in the early planning and policymaking, you end up fighting at the back end of a consent process. You end up going through a really adversarial process. They arer costly and time consuming."