The chief ombudsman has raised concerns about a lack of government consultation over a proposed Erebus memorial in Auckland.
The Dove-Myer Robinson Park in Parnell has been the site of protests and occupiers since the Erebus memorial was first announced. Those upset say the park is inappropriate for a memorial.
In a statement, chief ombudsman Peter Boshier said that the Ministry for Culture and Heritage should have consulted the wider
local community and all Tāmaki Makaurau iwi comprising the mana whenua before forming a preference for any site in Auckland.
“To not do so is surprising given the Crown’s partnership obligations under Te Tiriti/Treaty of Waitangi and obligations at an international level to consult with indigenous peoples,” he said. “There is now some considerable grievance within the community which, if the development is to go ahead, could reasonably be seen as tainting the memorial and undermining the government’s objectives in erecting one,” he said.
However, Boshier added that most of his concerns happened three years ago during initial consultations on the project – and he said the preference for the Parnell site was not wrong. “My recommendation is that before a decision is made to begin construction on the site the ministry undertakes reasonable steps to attempt to resolve the sense of grievance that the failure to consult more widely has created.”
Dame Naida Glavish, one of those opposed to the memorial, said the consultation was not in the spirit of natural justice. “The risk to Te Hā, the ancient Pōhutukawa is simply unacceptable,” she said. “The whakapapa of the whenua dates back to the very beginning of time and the whakapapa of this tupuna rākau dates back to the signing of Te Tiriti/Treaty of Waitangi. The ministry has treated the tupuna rākau as an afterthought, not as tuākana.”
A Ministry of Culture spokesperson said there was “no factual basis for the assertion that the tree is at risk from the memorial”.
The project has been delayed from its most recently announced October 2021 start date because of Covid-19 and the Ombudsman’s investigation delayed. “We will begin construction on the project as soon as possible. For the time being we are carefully considering the report and its recommendations,” said the ministry.