March 2017 Local Board Member Report

PurposeLogo cropped

This report covers my Waitematā Local Board Activities during March 2017 as Lead of the Heritage, Urban Design and Planning portfolio; co-holder of the Transport portfolio; Local Board representative on the Parnell Business Association; and member of the Auckland Domain Committee.

Executive Summary

  • Facilitator selected for Reimagining Great North Road community-led plan.
  • Formulating a consistent approach to digital billboards – see Consents section below for more detail
  • I keep track of resource consent applications as they are received by Council, requesting further information, plans and Assessments of Environmental Effects for applications of interest. Significant applications are referred to the relevant residents’ associations for their input which I then relay to planners as part of the Local Board’s input. Reporting of resource consent applications, planning portfolio input, hearings and decisions in the Local Board area for this month is detailed in the Heritage, Urban Design and Planning section of this report under the headings ‘Planning’: ‘Resource Consents’

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What Does It Mean To Make a River a Legal Person?

The River That Owns Itself

Whanganui 1The Te Awa Tupua (Whanganui River Claims Settlement) Act 2016 has been passed by the Parliament of New Zealand and gives effect to the Whanganui River Deed of Settlement signed on 5 August 2014, which settles the historical claims of Nga Tangata Tiaki o Whanganui, the seven Whanganui Iwi who had Treaty of Waitangi claims relating to the Whanganui River. It declares the river to be:

‘[A]n indivisible and living whole, comprising the Whanganui River from the mountains to the sea, incorporating all its physical and metaphysical elements.’ -s12

and that

‘Te Awa Tupua is a legal person and has all the rights, powers, duties, and liabilities of a legal person.’ -s14(1)

According to Attorney-General and Treaty Settlements Minister, Christopher Finlayson:

“The Crown will not own the river bed. The river will own itself. That’s a world-leading innovation for a river system.”

Whanganui 3This marks the conclusion of the longest-running piece of litigation in New Zealand legal history and is particularly remarkable in extending legal personality to the Whanganui River. Although, this is not a first in New Zealand as Te Urewera (a former national park) was granted legal personality in 2014.

The most common confusion about this law is that the river is being made a natural person, the same as a human, with human rights. This was at the centre of much of the mainstream media commentary and some prominent commentators conflated the two concepts of the Natural Person and the Legal Person.

Natural Persons and Legal Persons

So what is the difference? A Natural Person is a human. A Legal Person is one of the many entities that can be created at law. Legal Persons include companies, trusts, incorporated societies, even ships. They are all entities that are capable of having legal rights, duties and obligations such as suing and being sued, and entering into contracts.

Only a Natural Person can have human rights to the fullest extent but Legal Persons can have a right to, for instance, freedom of expression or natural justice. Any right that it makes sense for a Legal Person to have will also be accorded to the river. If the river is by any legal means considered to be supplying goods and services, it will be liable to pay the Goods and Services Tax the same way that a company would. If corporate manslaughter laws were introduced in New Zealand it would be possible that the river could be held liable for the death of anyone who drowned in the river, but the prosecution would still need to prove that the river did something ‘wrong’ – proving this requisite intent seems a very remote possibility.

This all seems very abstract at first blush so it is helpful to look at the origins of this idea and the problems it was designed to solve. I wrote about this in my Master of Laws thesis at the University of Auckland in 2010 and have summarised my research below.  Continue reading

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LL.M Thesis – Resisting Enclosure: The emergence of ethno-ecological governance in a comparative study of the constitutions of Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia

PDF of thesis

Vernon I. Tava

Master of Laws Thesis

The University of Auckland

2010

ABSTRACT

This thesis focuses on the Bolivarian Alliance (ALBA) with comparative case studies on Venezuela, Ecuador, and Bolivia. These three countries were among the first to which the ‘Washington Consensus’ of neoliberal globalisation was applied. Examining what the indigenous and environmental movements that formed in resistance to this globalisation mean for the evolution of new forms of ecological governance. This paper will trace the emergence of a counter-hegemonic, ‘ethno-ecological’ form of law and governance with its origins in grassroots agrarian movements. As these movements gained in momentum and formed alliances across local, regional, national, and global levels, they drew on their indigenous cultural traditions and cosmology to articulate a holistic and ecocentric worldview which views planetary nature not as ‘natural resources’ but as a Mother Earth deity. A process of constitutional transformation by way of constituent assemblies led to the incorporation of indigenous holistic and ecocentric conceptions such as ‘living well’/ sumak kawsay / suma qamaña and ‘Rights of Nature’ into the constitutions of Bolivia and Ecuador. The global alliances formed in this process of constitutional transformation and their axial concerns with a global enclosure of the commons offer a glimpse of a trans-civilisational shared vision preparing the ground for a coherent global constitutionalism. Continue reading

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September-October 2016 Local Board Member Report

Logo croppedPurpose

This report covers my Waitematā Local Board Activities during September-October 2016 (due to the intervening election) as (up to and including September 2016) Chair of the Hearings Committee; Lead of the Parks and Open Spaces portfolio; Heritage, Urban Design and Planning portfolio holder; and Local Board representative on the K’ Road Business Association.

Executive Summary

  • This is my first report to the Local Board for the 2016-2019 term of Council. I am grateful to the electors of Waitematā for the opportunity to serve the community in this capacity for a second term
  • We saw something of a rush in SHA (Special Housing Area) applications in September as the empowering HASHAA legislation came to the end of its term. The controversial 1 Kelmarna Avenue site saw an application made by Manson TLCM and no less than four new applications were submitted in September in the Great North Road Strategic Housing Area. The Housing New Zealand pensioner housing at 32-36 Surrey Crescent, Grey Lynn, will be demolished and replaced with more than double the number of apartments all to be populated by HNZ tenants
  • Representatives of Fukuoka City, Japan, visited the city in mid-September to advise on the construction of the Fukuoka Garden
  • I keep track of resource consent applications as they are received by Council, requesting further information, plans and Assessments of Environmental Effects for applications of interest. Significant applications are referred to the relevant residents’ associations for their input which I then relay to planners as part of the Local Board’s input. Reporting of resource consent applications, planning portfolio input, hearings and decisions in the Local Board area for this month is detailed in the Heritage, Urban Design and Planning section of this report under the headings ‘Planning’: ‘Resource Consents’

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Generation Zero Grade for 2016 Local Government Elections

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Each local government election, Generation Zero – a youth-led organization founded with the central purpose of providing solutions for New Zealand to cut carbon pollution through smarter transport, liveable cities & independence from fossil fuels – assess and grade each mayoral, governing body and local board candidate who fills in their questionnaire. The group has a very particular focus and agenda so I don’t consider this rating to be a gold standard but the group does provide a useful countervailing viewpoint to the perspective of older, wealthier landowners who tend to dominate discussion of local government issues.

I was given an A- overall. You’ll see from the graphic that this was brought down by a B+ for slight inconsistency with their views on the ‘compact city’ and the Unitary Plan. I could have told the assessors what I know they wanted to hear but I thought it more worthwhile to give honest answers informed by my experience as a local board member for Waitematā for the last three years. Note particularly my answer to question 2 (the B+) in which I criticise the anti-democratic instincts of some of the more zealous pro-intensification advocates. Continue reading

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August 2016 Local Board Member Report

Logo croppedPurpose

This report covers my Waitematā Local Board Activities during August 2016 as Deputy Chair of the Hearings Committee; Lead of the Parks and Open Spaces portfolio; Heritage, Urban Design and Planning portfolio holder; and Local Board representative on the K’ Road Business Association.

Executive Summary

  • This is my final report to the Local Board for the 2013-2016 term of Council
  • I sat as a Commissioner on the notified resource consent hearing for 159 Victoria Road, Devonport on 3-5 August
  • I have included my report-back from the Local Government New Zealand conference in Dunedin and the LGNZ 2050: Futureproofing Our Communities
  • Bonus floor provisions have been tracked for 63 sites in the inner city. This work was initiated by Local Board Chair, Shale Chambers, in his first term: 2010-2013
  • I keep track of resource consent applications as they are received by Council, requesting further information, plans and Assessments of Environmental Effects for applications of interest. Significant applications are referred to the relevant residents’ associations for their input which I then relay to planners as part of the Local Board’s input. Reporting of resource consent applications, planning portfolio input, hearings and decisions in the Local Board area for this month is detailed in the Heritage, Urban Design and Planning section of this report under the headings ‘Planning’: ‘Resource Consents’

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A quick video for my 2016 Waitematā Local Board of Auckland Council Re-Election Campaign

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June-July 2016 Local Board Member Report

Logo croppedPurpose

This report covers my Waitematā Local Board Activities during June and July 2016 as Lead of the Parks and Open Spaces portfolio; Heritage, Urban Design and Planning portfolio holder; Deputy Chair of the Hearings Committee; and, Local Board representative on the K Road Business Association.

Executive Summary

  • Ground breaking for the City Rail Link on 2 June
  • Auckland Domain Committee met on 9 June and 27 July. Domain Plan approved conditionally at the final July meeting
  • Feijoa Guild event 23 June
  • Western Park paving renewals completed in June
  • Opening of Quay Street Cycleway on 8 July
  • Opening of Grey Lynn Park Greenway on 9 July
  • Approval of Heritage Foreshore Wayfinding signage
  • Attended the Local Government New Zealand Conference in Dunedin as the Local Board’s delegate
  • I keep track of resource consent applications as they are received by Council, requesting further information, plans and Assessments of Environmental Effects for applications of interest. Significant applications are referred to the relevant residents’ associations for their input which I then relay to planners as part of the Local Board’s input. Reporting of resource consent applications, planning portfolio input, hearings and decisions in the Local Board area for this month is detailed in the Heritage, Urban Design and Planning section of this report under the headings ‘Planning’: ‘Resource Consents’.

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Dial 111: Further loss of Heritage in Herne Bay

111 JervoisAs reported in the Herald, the 1912 villa at 111 Jervois Road, Herne Bay, will be demolished on a non-notified basis.

I asked the responsible planner at Council to publicly notify the decision in order to allow interested members of the public to submit on the heritage or character of the building as clear public and media interest was apparent.

Anne Gibson, property editor at the Herald, writes:

Vernon Tava, Waitematā Local Board member, sought information, wanting any demolition application notified so people could make their views known and objections were possible.

He said non-notification was not the right way to proceed.

“This is death by a thousand cuts,” he said of the loss of Herne Bay houses. “We’re seeing the gradual unraveling of Auckland’s inner-city heritage.”

“This is a character-defining building and there is significant public interest in its removal. The local board asks for public notification,” Tava told an Auckland Council planner and his fellow board members.

Whether or not the Local Board agrees with the demolition of the building is not really the issue. We requested notification of this decision. The Local Board is not the final decision maker on either notification or substantive resource consent decisions. I – and many of my constituents – are concerned that valuable heritage is being lost in the city site by site as Auckland goes through one of the building booms that it has every 30 years or so. People should be able to have a say and submit on an application to demolish a character-contributing building in a coherent block in a significant area.

The only heritage protection under the pre-operative Unitary Plan requires that the building be worthy of being scheduled which is an extremely high standard (of the tens of thousands of buildings in my local board area, only 85 are A-listed and 274 are B-listed). A problem with demolition consents is that there is no requirement for the applicant to say what they are building instead.

It’s worth pointing out that this villa is in Herne Bay, on some of New Zealand’s most expensive land. The average house price in this suburb has recently topped $2 million. Whatever is built in its place will not be affordable housing. Even if it was an apartment building, and it probably won’t be, it would be high-priced luxury apartments. More likely, it will house 3-5 of Auckland’s wealthiest people.

I am concerned that a well-intentioned but misguided group of people who argue that there must be no impediments to development in order to bring down the price of housing are seeing the role of locally-elected members as uncritically waving through any and every proposal that is applied for. In asking for notification I’m simply arguing for democratic participation in the consenting process so that the independent commissioners who make the decision can hear balanced submissions. This does not happen with non-notified consents.

In all honesty, I don’t think heritage-intensification is a binary proposition. Intelligent adaptive re-use and judicious preservation can give us the best of both worlds. But first and foremost, there needs to be a fair and democratic process.

 

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May 2016 Local Board Member Report

Logo croppedPurpose

This report covers my Waitematā Local Board Activities during May 2016 as Deputy Chair of the Finance Committee; Deputy Chair of the Hearings Committee; Lead of the Parks and Open Spaces portfolio; Heritage, Urban Design and Planning portfolio holder; and Local Board representative on the K Road Business Association. 

Executive Summary

  • The Local Board voted through $10,000 funding for a community-led plan for Great North Road at its May business meeting
  • Western Park paving renewals are progressing with an expected completion at the end of June and the resource consent for replacement lighting submitted
  • Rabbit control has been undertaken in Western Springs reserve, dramatically reducing numbers
  • Weed control work was carried out in the Rose Road gully in Grey Lynn Park
  • Path renewal work continues at Cox’s Bay Reserve
  • The Newton/Eden Terrace Area Plan work is being resumed after being delayed by the re-siting of the planned Newton City Rail Link Station to Mount Eden Station
  • Public feedback on the Auckland Domain Masterplan has been reported back to the Auckland Domain Committee, of which I am a member. The Domain Committee will informally consider this feedback before consequential changes to the Master Plan are made with the intent of adoption in June/July 2016
  • I keep track of resource consent applications as they are received by Council, requesting further information, plans and Assessments of Environmental Effects for applications of interest. Significant applications are referred to the relevant residents’ associations for their input which I then relay to planners as part of the Local Board’s input. Reporting of resource consent applications, planning portfolio input, hearings and decisions in the Local Board area for this month is detailed in the Heritage, Urban Design and Planning section of this report under the headings ‘Planning’: ‘Resource Consents’.

Continue reading

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