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Shelly Bay: Decision to sell council land to be revisited

Wellington City Council have reignited the debate around Shelly Bay, with another vote due to be held on whether to sell or lease council-owned land.

Photo: RNZ /SUPPLIED

In 2017, the Council voted in favour of selling and leasing their land to Shelly Bay Investments Limited, who own much of the remaining land around Shelly Bay.

But in an email sent to councillors last night, chief executive of the Council, Kevin Lavery, confirmed that a second vote would take place.

“In my view, it is appropriate that the transaction be reconsidered by the Council,” he said.

“By bringing a paper before Council, this will ensure that the Council has an opportunity to consider the transaction with all relevant factors before them, as was the case on 27 September 2017.”

It is unlikely the vote would happen before October’s council elections.

Mr Lavery’s decision follows City Councillor Andy Foster’s submission of a Notice of Motion last month, that requested more clarification around the terms of the sale and lease.

“It was a really gentle Notice of Motion to say, look, what are the conditions?” Mr Foster said.

The Resource Consent

A significant issue within whether the development gets the green light is around the resource consent.

A resource consent is issued by the council. It’s an assessment of the proposed work, which takes into account relevant district plan rules, as well as other factors such as traffic generation, noise, or privacy. If the development is deemed suitable accordance with these rules, then the resource consent is granted.

With Shelly Bay, the resource consent has not been straightforward.

In 2015, the developers – The Wellington Company – submitted a proposal to create a special housing area, under the Housing Accords and Special Housing Areas Act (or HASHAA).

According to Mr Foster, the result of this was that no one from local communities was allowed a say on the development.

While the resource consent for this development was issued in April 2017, it was thenquashed by the Court of Appeal in December 2018, following a legal battle between the Council and Enterprise Miramar. The Court determined that the Wellington City Council made an error of law when determining whether or not to grant resource consent.

Whereas in 2017, the Council was responsible for granting resource consent for Shelly Bay, the Council has since appointed independent commissioners to takeover this role.

The decision has not yet been reached.

Clarity around ownership

Another issue Mr Foster sought to clear up in his Notice of Motion was around ownership of the land.

“We need to know who we’re selling to,” he said. “If we’re selling or leasing our land, who actually are we selling or leasing our land to?”

Shelly Bay has a complicated history of ownership.

In 2009, the Port Nicholson Block Settlement Trust – created in 2008 to act on behalf of iwi mana whenua Taranaki Whanui ki Te Upoko o Te Ika – purchased four parcels of land around Shelly Bay, using Waitangi Treaty settlement money.

In 2017, three of these parcels were sold to Shelly Bay Investments Limited, for $2 million. The land was initially purchased by Port Nicholson for over $13 million – over half of their entire settlement.

The fourth parcel is owned by Tai-Kuru Limited Partnership, believed to be connected to the iwi.

Overseeing the entire development is The Wellington Company. Ian Cassels is head of both The Wellington Company and Shelly Bay Investments.

It was the issue of ownership that resulted in Sir Peter Jackson weighing in. He argued that a full investigation into the sales of Shelly Bay land was needed.

Posted by Peter Jackson on Sunday, 28 April 2019

But in response, Mr. Cassels wrote to Sir Jackson.

“At the core of this proposal is our partnering relationship with Tarnaki Whanui (Port Nicholson Block Settlement Trust (PNBST),” he said. “A relationship which is multi dimensional and is delivering real outcomes to the members of Taranaki Whanui.”

Mr Cassels did not respond to RNZ’s request for comment regarding the latest updates.

Councillor Foster argued that more clarity around who owned what on Shelly Bay was required at the second vote.

A Second Vote?

There are other issues that Mr Foster sought to clarify in his Notice of Motion: sea levels, commercial terms, and the road that stretches along the waterfront.

“[The road] is a really popular recreation route, it’s clearly under spec for that,” he said.

“When the traffic volumes are expected to go up by 500 percent as a result for development, you’re potentially putting people under greater risk.”

Mr Foster wants the Council to discuss the Motion in August, but chief executive, Kevin Lavery, told councillors he did not believe it would be necessary.

“Given what I’m proposing above is consistent with what Councillor Foster is seeking to achieve with his Notice of Motion, in my view it is not necessary to progress with the Notice of Motion at the August Council meeting.

“Instead, the matters will be canvassed once the outcome of the Resource Consent process is known, and the Council has the matter before them again.”

Mr Lavery will put together a full report into Shelly Bay, considering all the factors, before the Council will vote on it.

RNZ / Harry Lock