Wellington City councillors vote in favour of sell and lease of land at Shelly Bay

Shelly Bay.
Shelly Bay. Photo credit: via RNZ

By Charlotte Cook for RNZ

Wellington City councillors voted to sell and lease land for a controversial seaside housing development.

The contentious Shelly Bay development has been bogged down with legal battles for years, with filmmaker Sir Peter Jackson one of its most vocal opponents.

Councillors yesterday heard from dozens of public submitters through during a seven-hour meeting where they discussed the fate of the development, which includes 350 new homes.

After hours of debate the council voted 9-6 in favour of the sale and lease of it's land in Shelly Bay - despite the opposition from many in the room.

The story has been mired in drama and controversy since 2017, but the problems originate long before that.

The development was originally pitched as a partnership between the Wellington Company and The Port Nicholson Block Settlement Trust (PNBST).

But some members of Taranaki Whānui iwi do not believe the land should have ever been sold.

The group, Mau Whenua have long opposed the development and have lodged court action about the initial sale of the land to Ian Cassles after a report found thousands of members had no say.

Mau Whenau member Dr Catherine Love said she was extremely upset by the outcome, but said the fight was only just beginning.

"It's not unexpected, but it's definitely not over.

"I'm disappointed that many of the councillors did not take the time to investigate the facts thoroughly,

"Some of them did, but many unfortunately stuck with who they knew and what was most convenient for them."

Love said it was emotional time for her, many Wellingtionians and most members of Taranaki Whānui.

Councillors who voted in favour of the sale said it wasn't their job to mediate between the iwi.

Love said that idea was condescending and patronising.

"Nobody has asked them to mediate between the iwi, we have asked them to get out of the way.

"We have asked them to move aside and not make the situation worse, unfortunately, most of them have declined to do that," she said.

Mayor Andy Foster had long been against the proposal, and before the vote was taken told Councillors he would be disappointed by a vote in favour.

"There will be a lot of people who whatever a decisions is made, will be really upset by that decision and I suspect we will be flying against the majority of Wellingtonians with the decision we are about to make.

"I personally will be very sad if the answer is yes."

He was one of six who voted against the decision.

City councillor Jill Day supported the sale and lease of the land and said her vote was about undoing 150 years of power imbalance for mana whenua.

She insisted it was a good deal for Wellington.

"It delivers housing, economic development, better infrastructure ... and public space, as well as a home for the penguins.

"It does not burden ratepayers with the unknown costs in repairing the rotting, crumbling infrastructure that is currently Shelly Bay."

There are still hurdles though, she said.