Sir Bob Jones writes: Recently, a shop tenancy changed in a modern 17-storey Auckland CBD office building owned by my company. The previous tenant had blocked off some of its window which we now intended putting back to the conventional shop front. At this stage, sit down with a stiff drink and accept my assurance I’m not making this up. For we were then informed by a planner my Auckland office uses for council dealings (which can be laborious) that under the new council rules, changes to a building’s appearance require resource consent and we would be subject to penalty if we simply put back the window.
Bob Jones on Auckland Council's cultural impact requirements
If that’s not outrageously absurd enough, things then became truly Kafkaesque and illustrate why the Government, against ill-considered opposition parties’ objections, wishes to tone down the Resource Management Act. For we were then told that under the new Draft Unitary Plan, not yet enacted, our building being within 50 metres of a designated Maori heritage site, we needed RMA approval (for a new shop window, for God’s sake), this instantly forthcoming at a cost of $4500 plus the approval of 13 iwi.
$4,500 for a new window!
The council refused to advise the addresses of these iwi outfits, yet added that without their consent, we can’t put back the window. So the planner located then wrote to the 13 iwi, ranging from Taranaki to Whangarei. Five replied stating they had no concerns while others said they were considering the matter, presumably calling huis to weigh up this window crisis.
One respondent bearing that fine old Maori name of Jeff Lee, representing something called Ngai Tai Ki Tamaki, contacted the planner. Look up their website if you have tolerance for Maori “sacred footstep in the earth” guff, although it’s 100 per cent on the mark with its proclamation: “Our vision is only limited by our imagination.”
I’m sceptical about Mr Lee’s vision but have no doubt about his imagination, for after advising the planners verbally that no Cultural Impact Assessment Report was required for the window, he nevertheless asked them to consider it – brace yourselves – given his ancestors, centuries ago, gathered in the vicinity.
Lee then wrote, outlining his terms for “assessing the window’s cultural impact” which, he said, would take him “a total of six to eight hours”. For this he sought $90 per hour plus GST and “travel expenses of 0.77c p/km.” Very reasonable!
The council has designated 61 sites across Auckland and nominated 3600 others “of interest”. Undertake earthworks (swimming pool, building foundations, a shed etc) within 50m of a scheduled site and one must engage (pay) iwi.
None are of Stonehenge moment but instead claptrap such as “our ancestors beached canoes nearby” and the “feather-gathering” ilk.
A candidate for Mayor in 2016 should pledge to get rid of this nonsense, and they’ll win in a landslide. Shane Jones attacked the policy when he was an MP as political correctness gone mad or something like it. It does nothing for actual cultural heritage – it is simply a massive compliance cost.
Source: Sir Bob Jones “Bureaucrats Wallowing in Cultural Correctness”; New Zealand Herald, 9 September 2014: http://www.nzherald.co.nz/opinion/news/article.cfm?c_id=466&objectid=11321027