Thursday, April 25, 2024

Chief Ombudsman concludes inquiry into Erebus Memorial decisions

Chief Ombudsman, Peter Boshier, has completed his investigation into complaints about Auckland Council’s role in the National Erebus Memorial project, finding the council acted unreasonably on two occasions.

The complaints relate to council’s approval and consents process for the memorial site in Dove-Meyer Robinson Park and are centred on its decision not to notify the resource consent application and for granting a building consent at the pre-consenting stage.

Complainants were also concerned about consultation carried out by council officials on behalf of the Waitematā Local Board before it endorsed the project. They also alleged that the council was biased towards the project’s leader, Manatū Taonga, the Ministry of Culture and Heritage.

Mr Boshier today released his final opinion on the complaints and has found that in two respects the council acted unreasonably.

He found the council was wrong to recommend to the local board, its support of the landowner approval application in September and December 2019 before all the conditions set out in the board’s in-principle resolution had been fulfilled.

Peter Boshier also found that the council acted unreasonably when it failed to share an environmental consultant’s report with the local board before it gave its in-principle support for the Ministry’s application for landowner approval.

“A question arose around whether the council had the final report in the first place and therefore whether it was in the positon to advise the local board of it. In my view it is reasonable to assume that it did have the report or should have done so,” said Mr Boshier.

However, he says the council’s procedures were reasonable in other respects.

“I do not consider that the council acted unreasonably in not requiring the Ministry to seek notification of the resource consent application. In particular, the Heritage Policy said to require this did not apply,” says Mr Boshier.

“I also consider that council officers’ involvement and assistance to the Ministry in its search for a suitable Auckland location for the Erebus memorial in 2018 was appropriate and that there was no predetermination or bias on the part of council officers.

“The consultation process carried out by the council in September/October 2019 was adequate. While I think that remarks of a council officer at the time urging the Ministry to counteract views opposed to landowner approval were unwise, they were not a material factor.

“I consider that the results of the consultation were reported accurately and adequately to the local board and that the council was justified in granting a building consent exemption in respect of the memorial.”

Mr Boshier concluded no recommendations were necessary.

Read the Ombudsman’s full opinion

In a separate investigation last year, the Ombudsman released his final opinion on a complaint from some Māori and community members about the process followed by Manatū Taonga, the Ministry for Culture and Heritage and other issues about the proposed memorial.

Mr Boshier found that the Ministry acted unreasonably by not consulting more widely before forming a preference for a location for the proposed site.

Read the Ombudsman’s final opinion on Manatū Taonga Ministry for Culture and Heritage’s consultation on the Erebus Memorial site.

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