Council considers protecting Te Mata Peak by making it a wāhi taonga
The option of recognising Te Mata Peak as a wāhi taonga, or sacred place, will be considered by Hastings District Council.
The council's planning and regulatory committee met on Thursday to discuss the adequacy of the Hastings district plan in light of the controversial track cut up the eastern side of Te Mata Peak late last year.
The track, built by Craggy Range winery, was deemed to have "no more than minor" environmental effects when the council issued resource consent, without public notification, in October 2017.
The track's development caused a huge uproar and the winery company said it would remove the track later this year.
* Hastings District Council accepts criticisms of Te Mata peak walkway consent
* Environmental group not happy with Te Mata Peak
* Craggy Range winery to remove Te Mata track
* Environmental group may seek judicial review
* Iwi seeks return of plaque marking its blessing of Craggy Range winery
* Council to review 'butchered' Te Mata Peak
Last month an independent review found multiple issues had not been thoroughly scrutinised by the council, particularly the peak's importance to Ngāti Kahungunu.
This is partly because the peak is not a listed wāhi taonga, or wāhi tapu, and therefore cultural effects were not fully considered.
At Thursday's meeting councillors discussed the fact that if the peak was identified as a wāhi taonga it would mean hapu were treated as an affected party in any resource consent application received by the council.
Any activities involving excavation, modification or disturbance of the ground that would destroy wāhi taonga would be a discretionary activity.
An area can only be declared wāhi taonga if it is advanced as such by the hapu with mana whenua.
The councillors recommended that a workshop be held between them and the Maori joint committee with a view to drafting a variation to the district plan, and to hold discussions with mana whenua about identifying the peak as wāhi taonga.
Mayor Sandra Hazlehurst said "we all agree change needs to occur".
"Our council is going to look into this thoroughly and we are going to ensure that this doesn't happen again," she said.
"We are in this place we never wanted to be. But we're here now and we're now going to improve and make things better," Hazlehurst said.
Councillor Rod Heaps said "we cannot afford to let this happen again".
"This has been so big in the worst possible way for our district. It's divided communities, families, communities against Maori.. And it's still out there. People are still beating each other up over it. It's unfortunate the process came about like this," he said.