Wellington Scoop

Peter Jackson: sea level rise and the threat to Shelly Bay

by Peter Jackson on Facebook
The Wellington City Council’s failure to address the issue of sea level rise and storm surge impact on The Wellington Company’s planned development in Shelly Bay can only be described as negligent.

The proposed development at Shelly Bay has been described as the largest private property development in Wellington’s history. Given what’s at stake, you would think that the WCC would take its principal responsibility, as the regulatory body who has to decide if it should grant a resource consent to this development, very, very seriously. After all, the proposed site for this development is on a large area of low lying coastal land – and we’re in the age of rising sea levels.

The last thing they’d do on behalf of ratepayers is to act like irresponsible cowboys … right?

Unfortunately this is exactly what is happening.

Our elected representatives are knowingly leading Wellingtonians into a situation that will inevitably result in inundation of private property, continual damage to public infrastructure, resulting in a massive cost to ratepayers.

Let me explain …

Sea level is described in official documents as “MSL”, which means “Mean Sea Level” (i.e. average sea level). It sometimes appears as “AMSL”, or “Above Mean Sea Level”.

In the e-mail below, Anna Hanson, WCC Consents Planner, is informing Angela Jones, Senior Planner of The Property Group (who is employed by the developer) of the WCC’s conditions required for resource consent at Shelly Bay. I’ve included the reference made to sea level rise below:

From: Anna Hanson
Date: 21/03/2016 1:37 pm (GMT+12:00)
To: Angela Jones
Subject: Shelly Bay/Motu Kairangi Development
Hi Angela
I’ve received feedback from the various Council advisors about what will be required to be provided in the applications for resource consent under HASHAA … relevant advisors have provided the following comments regarding information that they would need to see in the applications when submitted …
· Because of the risk of sea level, any development of Shelly Bay needs to take into account existing and future tidal levels – the site has been modelled and found to be effected by sea level rise (see attached plan) – development should be avoided in areas with levels below 3.0m MSL.

So council advisors have modelled Shelly Bay, and will only grant resource consent if the developer builds 3.0m above MSL – or average sea level.

Bear in mind that concern about sea level rise isn’t as simple as “one day the sea level will be 3m higher”. MSL is average sea level, not a high tide. The MSL could be less than 1m higher than today – and a storm, combined with a spring tide, will still cause inundation to the 3m level.

Let’s have a look at “the model” that Ms Hansen refers to in her e-mail …

This is the WCC’s own study, showing what Shelly Bay will look like when the sea level is 3 metres higher than today’s average (the flooding is shown in pink).


As you can see, 3 meters takes the sea right up to the edge of the hillside. In other words, all the current flat land at Shelly Bay will be flooded.

Virtually all the new development is to be built on the flat land at Shelly Bay – land that the WCC state will be under water with a 3m sea level rise. It has told the developer that they must build higher than the 3m above MSL level … for obvious reasons. And yet the Wellington City Council have granted resource consent to the plan. They have given resource consent to a development that they themselves know will be subject to tidal inundation in the not too distant future.

This is the first part of a Facebook post published today. Read the complete version here.


  1. Pauline, 22. August 2019, 8:51

    At the hearing for Shelly Bay, when I questioned “sea level rising” a council officer said they would put the apartments up on stilts. But when I said the cars would just float away there was no answer.

  2. Ron Beernink, 22. August 2019, 9:23

    Very timely with today’s NZ Herald article on “Rising seas: NZ must ‘put brakes on’ coastal development”.

  3. Sydney, 22. August 2019, 9:31

    You just may have enough warning to move your car, Pauline.

  4. Nullius in verba, 22. August 2019, 11:53

    In reality sea level in wellington is rising at about 2.7mm/year with no statistically significant acceleration in last 70 years. Almost all of that is due to slow 2.5mm/year land subsidence in wellington. Here’s the data. And here.

    So long term absolute (subsidence corrected) sea level rise in wellington is only about 0.5mm/year. Claims of sea level rise in a range of meters are unfounded scaremongering by people who profit from it.

  5. Chris Calvi-Freeman, 22. August 2019, 22:04

    Hey Nullius, what do you make of the receding glaciers and Arctic ice coverage?

  6. Russell Tregonning, 22. August 2019, 22:29

    ‘There is evidence of ice melt, sea level rise to +5–9 m, and extreme storms in the prior interglacial period that was less than 1◦C warmer than today’—this according to world-renowned climate scientist, James Hansen (2015). Hardly unfounded scare-mongering for profit.

  7. Micky, 23. August 2019, 9:14

    The Shelly Bay penguin habitat and rec area should not be developed into apartments. Even without needing to make an issue of the estimated 2.7mm sea rise/subsidence/erosion of the land per year, the public do not want this development and that is enough and should be enough to stop it.
    They shouldn’t get resource consent and shouldn’t be able to just build it above 3m raising the costs to the ratepayers.

  8. Adam, 23. August 2019, 21:50

    Chris, to be fair, Nullius provided links to *raw* data. Rather than resorting to whataboutisms, how about objectively critiquing the data?

  9. Chris Calvi-Freeman, 23. August 2019, 22:48

    Hi Adam, I’ve looked at Nullis’s data but haven’t had a chance to research the source. I have simply asked what he thinks about the apparent contradiction between his observation of very low sea level rise with the many news reports showing glaciers and ice-flows apparently melting at unprecedented rates. I am no expert in climate change so I want to know more. It would be lovely if it’s established that we’ll have balmy winters and the sea won’t rise, but it appears from most reports that we can’t have the former without the latter!

  10. Neil D, 24. August 2019, 9:16

    Draining aquifers has definitely caused sea level rise. A 2012 study showed it was greater than Global Warming. And of course when aquifers are drained, humans face a water shortage. We can think ourselves lucky in having lots of rain but I am wondering when our Councils will stuff our water supply up.