'Show me the cultural significance': Russell Carr with the council letter tagging his property

Resentment’s building over Queenstown’s council imposing on thousands of property owners.

As part of the district plan review, the council’s told 2600 Wakatipu landowners, without warning, their land’s within a wahi tupuna site of “particular cultural and ancestral significance” to Maori iwi.

As a result, they’ll have to consult iwi if they undertake any development, including almost all earthworks.

Landowners this week query why they’ve been singled out and argue the restrictions will devalue their properties and set back race relations.

A local lawyer also criticises the uncertainty and costs of the process.

In an email to council, Russell Carr’s expressed his “disbelief” the Kelvin Heights property he and his wife have owned for 41 years has now been selected as “a site of significance to iwi”.

“Unless I get a visit from iwi (at their expense) to show and demonstrate to me just what the significance of our property is to them, then I will not be complying with such absolute nonsense.

“Furthermore, all I can see is a wedge being put in place between Europeans and Maori.”

Carr tells Mountain Scene he can’t find out why he’s been targeted, and not his neighbours.

“It just seems to be a haphazard, broad stroke of, ‘let’s have this property, that one, that one’.

“I’d just like to know, if [my property’s] of significance, what significance it is.”

Carr says he’s annoyed he should be notified now rather than at any time in the past 41 years.

“I think it’s nonsense to just send you a letter and say, ‘oh, from this date you’ve got to consult iwi if you want to do any development on your property’.’’

Neil Jackson, who lives above Frankton Beach, finds it “quite offensive” that his property’s been singled out “without any explanation”.

“My great-grandfather was one of Queenstown’s forefathers — he helped the early township to prosper, he bought land here.

“I’ve got proof of that, but can they give proof that [the iwi] can just do a land grab all around the lake edge?”

Jackson’s got no doubt the notation on his property would devalue it — “it will certainly
make prospective buyers very wary”.

He thinks the iwi have done themselves no favours — “I think they’ve set race relations back a few generations”.

In 30 years on his property, he’s never seen them take an interest in his surrounds, “and all of a sudden they want to have a slice of the pie”.

Local Todd & Walker Law senior solicitor Ben Gresson shares these property owners’ concerns about the arbitrary nature of the process, and about what the specific cultural values of their properties are.

“There are no supporting documents that clearly say why this [property] has been identified, and another hasn’t been.”

Affected owners who want to do any development on their land will have to consult with the iwi, at their cost, he says, and prove it’ll not affect their land’s cultural value.

“It just adds another layer of uncertainty and cost.”

Council spokesman Jack Barlow confirms 2600 Wakatipu landowners have been notifed their land’s within a “proposed” wahi tupuna area.

“The wahi tupuna proposal is still going through the proposed district plan process with further submissions and hearings still to come.”

Barlow says the areas were identified in a mapping overlay by local iwi, according to cultural values set out in the district plan’s chapter 39 provisions.

If wahi tupuna do come into effect, decisions on development or activities needing consent on affected properties would still be made by the council, or more commonly a delegated official.

“People will have the same rights to appeal as they would with any other consent decision.”

Affected property owners would only be advised to consult with iwi early on.

“Consultation work is done on a cost recovery basis and applicants may be charged a fee [from one of two iwi consultancies].”