Over my long career, I have worked closely with Maori Iwi, and have gained a close relationship with some that will last a lifetime. I respect what most have achieved in the development of their land into busy successful commercial environments. One senior Maori Kaumatua once told me that the land will endure, with reference to land over development. In the same breath however, he declared the need to make the land work for its people. He was right on both counts.
The hard work that goes into converting bare land into a successful commercial environment which produces income for its owners is not an easy process. Preliminary concept designs, then in depth discussions, finally a resource consent and then ultimately building consents, plus the physical building and leasing of the development takes time and money; together with personal commitment. It is a time-consuming difficult process and just achieving a resource consent normally results in breaking open the champagne.
To then lose the resource consent in any development after all the work undertaken would be a bitter pill to swallow. More importantly however, why would one lose a consent once achieved?
The recent Ihumatao debate and land dispute leaves commentators pondering how this could occur given the resource consent process had been achieved and development planned for the land. I am not questioning the rights of any Iwi to claim what is rightfully theirs to own, but rather the ability of anybody to have a consent process reversed in the face of demonstration or occupation. Surely after a lengthy resource consent process the rights of the successful applicant must be protected and honored. Parties who may object to such applications have the opportunity to object during the formal resource consent process. Many resource consent applications are lost due to a fair and reasonable objection being tabled and justly considered.
The reversal of the land ownership and thus the effectiveness of the resource consent and all it stands for leaves future resource consents and applications at risk. Will there be a likelihood of similar reversals in the future? Will major property owners need to build into their applications the need for protection against Crown recovery or takeover? Maybe developers will be cautious as to their future acquisitions and require some assurance and protection against any future repossession. All these factors will have negative impact on future property development.
Further, the successful applicant now needs to be reimbursed for both the land lost and the lost commercial opportunity. How is that reimbursement and negotiation to take place and how are the two levels of reimbursement being negotiated?
Reversing a resource consent application is an unusual step in protection of one's rights and could trigger similar actions in the future.
The rights of property owners to achieve a resource consent is paramount to any development. To deny them the opportunity or to reverse it once achieved is a serious threat to our property processes. Most importantly where to now for this land and its future? It will endure, but its use will either benefit its rightful owner, and allow beneficiaries to prosper or sit vacant for generations to come. The latter is by no means a wise outcome!!!
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