Controversial Shelly Bay development costs ratepayers over $800,000

More than $800,000 in ratepayer money has been spent on the controversial Shelly Bay development in Wellington. 

The site is being illegally occupied by Mau Whenua, a faction of the Taranaki Whānui iwi, who are disputing the sale of land from Taranaki Whanui to developer Ian Cassels.

They say it was sold illegally and want it returned to Māori ownership.

"This is Taranaki Whānui land and we will not move until the issues have been resolved," Anaru Mepham says.

The Wellington City Council voted in November - for a second time - in favour of selling and leasing its land to Cassels, but there's still a pending high court decision for a local business association who are also challenging the development.

That group, Enterprise Miramar, is critical of how the resource consent was handled by the council.

"[It's] generally disappointing," chair Thomas Wutzler says.

"The lack of communication and lack of substantive responding to substantive issues... they've made decisions, given effect to a large development but do not know how they are going to deal with infrastructure."

All of these roadblocks have been costly. Prior to 2017, the council spent over $308,000 on consultants and legal advice, and in the past three years, its legal costs for the development have climbed by $524,438. It's adding up to over $830,000 in ratepayer money.

"It's a huge cost to Wellington residents," Wellington City councillor Fleur Fitzsimons says.

"I'm certainly hopeful this is the end of the cost and we can draw a line under this litigation and move forward."

Mau Whenua set up camp in November, vowing to stay put until their high court case in March 2021 challenging the legality of who owns this land. 

But less than two weeks ago their key backer - filmmaker Sir Peter Jackson - pulled his $2.2 million of support out, leaving the iwi with no option but to scrap the case.

"Having that funding pulled was a bit of a knock," Mepham said.

"However we have other people who have engaged and offered help in funding a revised high court action."

The lengthy and expensive Shelly Bay saga is far from over.