Wellington Scoop

Chris Calvi-Freeman: Shelly Bay 2015-2019

by Chris Calvi-Freeman
The Shelly Bay area was designated a Special Housing Area (SHA) in 2015 under the Housing Accords and Special Housing Areas Act 2013 (HASHAA). The HASHAA was designed to streamline the consents process and encourage developers and land owners to provide more housing. Unfortunately, the HASHAA reduced the level and breadth of consultation usually involved in a consent applications and removed some of the protection of the City Council’s District Plan in terms of building heights and other parameters.

Most of the area that the Wellington Company wants to build on was owned by Port Nicholson Settlement Block Trust (PNSBT), who purchased it in 2009 from the government as part of the Treaty of Waitangi settlement process. It was not WCC land.

In 2016, Shelly Bay Ltd, a company jointly owned by the Wellington Company and PNSBT, secured a resource consent to develop Shelly Bay for housing and related “mixed use” activities. In Wellington, the resource consent process is delegated to Council planning officers. There is no facility for the Mayor or City Councillors to involve themselves in the assessment of resource consents or to “call in” the decisions of the planning officers for re-examination.

In 2017 PNSBT sold their land to the current developer, the Wellington Company, but there have been recent moves by allegedly-disenfranchised iwi members to challenge the sale process. A descendant of an original private land owner also apparently believes she has a claim to the land and may challenge the Wellington Company for ownership.

Unless ownership of the land is overturned, the Wellington Company has the right to develop the land (subject to having a resource consent), just as any private owner has the right to seek to develop their own land. If the Council wanted to retain this land as undeveloped/parkland, it would have needed to purchase it, which was never the Council’s intention, as there is a great deal of government-owned land on Watts Peninsula that will eventually become a regional park, accessible to everyone.

In 2017 the Council (by majority) chose to sell and lease two additional parcels of land to the developer, at independently-assessed valuations. These parcels represent about 10 percent of the size of the privately-owned land. The “sale area” is roughly adjacent to the Officers’ Mess building while the “lease area” accommodates the large dilapidated building with the zigzag roof. The City Council has retained ownership of the reminder of its land, which includes the waterfront area. There was never any intention to sell the waterfront land or allow the whole of Shelly Bay to be a private, “gated” development.

In voting to sell and lease the two parcels of land, councillors believed this would result in a more integrated development, with Shelly Bay Road reconfigured closer to the waterfront, and with the waterfront land improved and remaining fully accessible to the public. The consented development, at that time, already included these parcels of land – land ownership is not generally a factor in assessing a resource consent, so Shelly Bay Ltd had already tabled its resource consent application with the expectation that it would secure these land parcels.

In voting to sell and lease the two parcels of land, councillors also believed that the land was still owned by PNBST, when in fact the land sale to the Wellington Company had apparently been transacted in several tranches just prior to the Council meeting.

Councillors believed that, in voting to sell and lease the council’s land, they would be giving effect to a Memorandum of Understanding signed in March 2017 between the Council, Taranaki Whanui and Te Runanga, which outlined an agreement that the parties would work together on a number of projects (including Shelly Bay) for the benefit of iwi and the city. The vote for the sale and lease agreement was by majority.

The sale and lease of the two parcels of land have not yet been finalised and could be reconsidered by the Council. If these parcels were no longer available to the Wellington Company, it would have to reconfigure its development proposals to exclude these areas.

In 2018 Shelly Bay Ltd’s resource consent was quashed by the Court of Appeal, following an appeal by Enterprise Miramar Peninsula Inc (EMPI, otherwise known as the Miramar Business District (BID)).

The EMPI website states that:

“The Miramar BID is a non-political organisation driven by a voluntary executive committee dedicated to furthering economic development for Miramar. Together with the businesses, landlords and the community we are working to enhance prosperity, safety and security in Miramar.”

EMPI is opposed to the proposed development of Shelly Bay and is believed to have the backing of Sir Peter Jackson, who has been vocal on the Shelly Bay issue.

The resource consent application is currently being re-considered by independent planning commissioners, who are expected to conclude their assessment very soon.

If the commissioners approve the development, then the developer is free to commence the development on the private land. As noted above, the decision to sell and lease the Council parcels of land to the developer could be revisited and depending on the outcome of that decision, the development might need to be adjusted accordingly to stay entirely within the Wellington Company’s land.

If the resource consent application is declined by the commissioners, the developer can submit a new application, but it would be considered under normal resource consent protocols based on the District Plan, as the SHA designation would have lapsed.

This would suggest that a considerably less dense and lower-height development would need to be proposed, with or without the Council land parcels.

An important consideration for the Council, and for Miramar residents, is access to the site and the infrastructure necessary to support development on the site. Council officers believed that about $20 million would be required to enhance the water supply and sewerage system and to bring Shelly Bay Road between the development and Miramar cutting to an acceptable standard to accommodate the additional traffic generated by the site. The Council officers proposed that the Council should pay half of these costs, as the development, when completed, would result in increased rates payable in perpetuity to the council by the owners of the new apartments and businesses there. The $20 million estimate has been widely disputed, and there is currently no clear agreement as to the necessary level of enhancement of the road to provide a safe and attractive motoring, walking and cycling route.

The Council therefore voted for an amendment to limit its share of the infrastructure cost to $10 million. It also voted for a review of the whole Shelly Bay process.

Details of the Council’s 2017 decisions can be found on the Council’s website here.

My personal involvement:

I was not involved in the HASHA decision as this was in the previous triennium of Council, before I was elected.
I did not vote for the sale and lease of the two small parcels of land. Although this was an important meeting, it was the one and only meeting where I left early. I had to do so to catch the last possible flight to Blenheim to support my wife at her father’s funeral that afternoon. Before leaving, I did speak in favour of the proposed sale and lease as, at that time, I believed it was the right thing to do. However, I was not present for the vote, as the minutes will confirm. This has not stopped Enterprise Miramar stating categorically that I voted for Shelly Bay, even though I have told them repeatedly that I did not vote. (Semantics, yes, but it demonstrates a fundamental lack of honesty on the part of Enterprise Miramar.)

I proposed the amendment that would limit the Council’s share of the infrastructure to $10 million. As I was not going to be at the appropriate part of the meeting to table this amendment, Cllr Marsh did it instead.

I voted recently for the immediate commencement of an independent review of the whole Shelly Bay process and situation. This vote was lost.

I have stated recently that I would not be able to confirm how I am likely to vote on the next opportunity to decide whether to sell or lease the Council’s land, as councillors have been advised not to show pre-determination and I will have to weigh up all the issues at the time.

I have made it quite clear I have significant misgivings about Shelly Bay and have continued to seek clarification from officers and will work with all parties to try to make the best of the whole situation, for Wellington.
I have also stated that I would prefer to see a smaller, less intensive development at Shelly Bay, rather than the one currently proposed.

I believe I have acted with integrity throughout the process and have asked many pertinent questions, not all of which have been satisfactorily answered to date.

Disclaimer: I believe all the above information to be true and correct but am happy to receive any queries or corrections.

Councillor Chris Calvi-Freeman is standing again for the Motukairangi / Eastern Ward.


  1. Tim, 2. October 2019, 10:28

    The council had a responsibility to the obligations they undertook with the Environment Court in 1999. They had entered into an agreement on height restrictions and open spaces. They had a responsibility to check whether the Iwi owned land at Shelly Bay was for sale with the 18000 Iwi members (with whom they had a memorandum of understanding) before putting forward council’s request to the minister to make Shelly Bay a Special Housing Area. Had they done these things, the sale of Shelly Bay would have gone no further. Iwi voted twice in 2016 not to sell, yet council officers continued with the process. It is not correct that Shelly Bay Ltd is a jointly owned company between Port Nicholson Block Settlement Trust and The Wellington Company. It is solely owned by Iwi’s PNBST.
    It is not correct to state there is no facility for the mayor and councillors to call into question the action of council officers as elected representatives under the local Government Act 2002.
    It is incorrect that most of the development can happen without the sale of council land. Most of the development in South Bay can not happen without the sale of council land whether 10% or all the land. The council owns 90% of the flat land in South Bay.
    The descendant talked about is Sarah Crawford and she won’t be challenging The Wellington Company for the land. She will be challenging the Wellington City Council as they own the land she is claiming. It’s the same land The Wellington Company wants the Council to sell and lease in South Bay which was taken under the Government Works Act for a road that was never built. It has not been offered back to the Crawfords and Sarah wishes to gift it to the people of Wellington and away from the intense development.
    Infrastructure has been capped at $10m as the cost of “on site infrastructure” for council but what has not been talked about here is the cost of “off site infrastructure” which the development depends on. Improvements to Shelly Bay road, Council’s cost. Seawalls, Council’s cost. Drinking Water storage, Council’s cost. Off site sewerage and storm water, Council’s cost.
    Chris is correct he was not a councillor when the area was put forward as a SHA in 2015. He was not there at the vote on the sale and lease due to a family bereavement but had earlier in the day spoken in support of a yes vote. He has voted for an independent review of the process. One would hope Councillors will review the sale and lease and take all new information into account as representatives of the people of Wellington whom their first allegiance is to.
    Enterprise Miramar represent over 100 businesses on the peninsula of which several are owned by Peter Jackson. All businesses are concerned about the impact this development would have on services and roading as they are already experiencing serious traffic issues. The development will impact business efficiency and people’s lives.

  2. Chris Calvi-Freeman, 2. October 2019, 11:09

    Tim, you have raised a number of points here, most of which I have already passed through to Council’s CEO and Director of Assurance & Risk section for their advice. As per previous correspondence between you and me, I do not necessarily accept the points you have made and I have told you that councillors were unaware of and not briefed on the historical issues such as any alleged obligations agreed with the Environment Court in 1999.

    Councilors including myself have asked many pertinent questions about the history and current status of Shelly Bay. If there is a challenge to the ownership of the land currently owned by the developer, that is something the developer will need to respond to as my understanding is that resource consent applications are effectively “blind” to land ownership issues.

    I stand by my role in this matter and am open to all suggestions and proposals as to how we might encourage the developer to build a less intensive development that would be more acceptable to Wellingtonians in general. I also stand by my comments about Enterprise Miramar, who have now apologised for
    knowingly promulgating incorrect information about my voting history.

    Now, a question for you: are you an employee of Weta or related businesses? If so, do you think Peter Jackson wants to acquire Shelly Bay and is he funding Enterprise Miramar to oppose the current development proposals for Shelly Bay?

  3. Concerned Wellingtonian, 2. October 2019, 15:28

    It is sad that Councillor Calvi-Freeman pays little attention to the money which Shelly Bay might cost us ratepayers. He talks of “$20 million (being) required to enhance the water supply and sewerage system and to bring Shelly Bay Road between the development and Miramar cutting to an acceptable standard to accommodate the additional traffic generated by the site.” But the papers at the last Council Meeting make it clear that the road to Miramar is EXTRA to the on-site costs of $20,000,000. What is worse, there is a dispute involving width since 6m. is not wide enough, seemingly by at least 33%.
    If the developer pays half for this road, please tell us, Chris, the latest figure for the other half. How much are you letting us in for? Please try to ask some questions about what is really going on.

  4. Sydney Mepham, 2. October 2019, 16:42

    Smart comments Tim. Clear concise and to the point.
    The only thing though is that WCC won’t take any notice unless they are forced to.

  5. Chris Calvi-Freeman, 2. October 2019, 19:49

    Concerned Wellingtonian, I have already stated that there is currently no clear agreement as to the necessary level of enhancement of the road to provide a safe and attractive motoring, walking and cycling route. I am not “letting you in for anything” as I didn’t vote for anything except the immediate commencement of an independent review of the whole Shelly Bay process and situation. Even though there was a majority vote in favour of the sale & lease of the two parcels of land, this is a: subject to a possible new vote and b: a relatively minor issue compared to the overall resource consent issue, which is currently in the hands of the commissioners.

  6. Henry Filth, 2. October 2019, 21:37

    I suspect that if the proposed development at Shelly Bay goes ahead, it will be interesting (although almost certainly depressing) to tot up the actual cost and compare it to the various guesses, estimates, projections which have been bandied about.

  7. Concerned Wellingtonian, 3. October 2019, 7:39

    Henry, I note that C.C.-F. got the $20m. wrong but does not give the real figures.

  8. TrevorH, 3. October 2019, 8:18

    @ Tim: excellent points. I am concerned as a long-time (nearly 40 years) Miramar resident that no thought at all appears to have been given by the Council to the negative impacts of the development on an already seriously congested Cobham Drive and Wellington Road. For long periods of the working day Miramar and Seatoun are now virtually cut off from the rest of the city and SH1 and SH2 north of the Mt Victoria Tunnel. No further large scale housing development should be consented on the Peninsula until we at least have a second Mt Victoria Tunnel.

  9. Tim, 3. October 2019, 9:10

    Hi Chris. I do work for Weta and very proud to have worked for a company for over 12 years that continues to be a world leader. If your inference is am I in the pocket of Peter Jackson I am not and have never been paid for my involvement in Shelly Bay. Do I know my subject matter? Yes I do and it’s a shame the councilors do not. Is Peter Jackson funding Enterprise Miramar? I don’t know because I am not part of Enterprise Miramar. Enterprise Miramar are funded through an additional rates levy placed on commercial buildings in the Miramar area. Peter Jackson owns some of these buildings so in that respect yes, but he has no say in how EMPI uses those funds. I am proud to work for Peter and Fran who have done so much for Wellington and New Zealand not only in film but gifting to many projects in the Wellington area and also NZ. They care about the place and should be respected for all they do. Chris I am concerned as a Wellingtonian, a New Zealander and I value the freedom our forefathers fought for. It’s not to be abused by those who see an opportunity that benefits them whilst costing the masses. Everyone’s the loser through this development. Iwi who have had their land sold out from under them by their trustees who will shortly be taken to court by their own Iwi. The Wellington Company paid the Trustees less than they paid for the land and after it had a SHA designation. We see Fletcher Challenge valuing Ihumatao at $40m after securing an SHA designation. Land they paid $7m for. The rate payers who are liable for considerable off site infrastructure costs and future potential court litigation for sea level rise when the owners can no longer get insurance in the area are also the loser. The council have ignored their 2013 Tonkin Taylor report and Government warnings on sea level rise. South Bay is only 1.6m and North Bay 1.9m above the high tide mark and already are subject to wave action. Shelly Bay is the gateway to Watts Peninsula, largely untouched and a jewel in the crown. It could be a fantastic recreation and tourist attraction. We have an opportunity to do something incredible working with Iwi. Working with the creative forces we have right here on our door step.
    Everyone knows Days Bay and have fond memories of family outings there. Its known as Williams Park and was to be turned into 60 residential properties early this century. The local community fought for it as they saw its true value, and generations have been the winner ever since.
    Chris are you going to vote against this development after all that you now know, or are you still undecided and need others to lead the way?

  10. Local, 3. October 2019, 9:11

    Why is the Chief Executive running off from this debacle, the Library and Civic Centre mess to cite a few?
    I bet his KPIs never included penalties as well as bonuses.

  11. Chris Calvi-Freeman, 3. October 2019, 12:26

    Tim, thank you for your posting. I am equally committed to Wellington, having grown up here and spent most of my life here. I have no axe to grind against, nor cross to carry for developers, but I am surprised to read your question:

    “Chris are you going to vote against this development after all that you now know, or are you still undecided and need others to lead the way?”

    After what I have explained above, you should surely be aware that city councillors have relatively little say in this process: we do not determine the resource consent; we can vote to sell/lease or not to see/lease a relatively small portion of the land that the developer wants to build on (and thereby support or oppose his endeavours, but only to a relatively small degree as he could work around that land); and we can continue to seek answers from council officers on the costs of the necessary infrastructure including Shelly Bay Road between Shelly Bay and Miramar cutting and who should pay for this work. On the last point, I will determine, from professional experience and all available information, how I believe the road would need to be improved if the development (or hopefully a more modest one) is to proceed, and I will decide on the basis of all reasonable evidence, as opposed to emotion and pressure, what I should do next. I am sure other councillors will do the same.

    I am pleased you are a supporter of Peter Jackson. I quite like his movies and appreciate the economic activity his businesses have facilitated in Miramar. However, he chose to make disparaging and ill-founded assertions about me and my fellow ward councillors on his social media accounts, without the courtesy of contacting us and seeking to obtain the full picture, which I believe is regrettable.

  12. Benny, 4. October 2019, 19:59

    Chris, thanks for all the information. I am reasonably happy with everything that is said except I can not accept that the Council, representing the community (which is, by a vast majority, opposed to the scale of this development), can only watch this significant place be scarred forever. Shelly Bay will be destroyed, the traffic, already bad, will get worse, the road will, cost a fortune to upgrade (if it can), sea level rise, etc. In the face of this, the Council must stand up, and defend what the community, which has contributed to its election, demands. We vote for you, we pay your wages, so when comes the time we ask you to stand for us.

    I find it interesting that the outcome of the resource consent will come after the election, when all democratic leverage is gone for three years. I think it makes sense to vote for someone who has been very clear on what they intend to do if the resource consent is approved.

    Finally, on Peter Jackson. he asked very articulate, very clear questions to Justin Lester, who chose to not respond. You can imagine how his silence made me feel. You, on the contrary, were able to provide more information, despite the lid that was placed on all Councillors.