Wellington Scoop

Silence on Shelly Bay

by Benoit Pette
When the news arrived, it left many people shocked. The resource consent for Ian Cassel’s development of Shelly Bay was granted for a second time, and the proposal could go ahead, destroying Shelly Bay’s natural and cultural heritage and paving the way for decades of worsening traffic on the peninsula.

In a not-so-coincidental way, the decision was released after the election. The issue was already heavily politicised. Yet this didn’t make the final decision any more palatable, nor did it make more sense: a lot of questions around the suitability of the site for a development of this scale remain unanswered.

So think back about this project: its origin in 2015, when the SHA designation got approved by a former Council (thus lifting the rules of the district plan, and ditching any chance for the community to have a say); the first resource consent (lodged the day before SHA legislation elapsed), its challenge in court, where it got turned down before being resubmitted; the divide between the East (the community with one very vocal member) and the previous mayor (who said he supported the development and then said he supported it being scaled back); the embarrassment to all councillors, most of them running for cover; and the second resource consent now granted.

All of that has left the community, with a majority opposed to the proposal, feeling betrayed, let down.

It’s not as if the community hadn’t come forward with better alternatives, in scale with Shelly Bay. They took the traffic into consideration, they aspired to lift the area to make it a community hub, a destination for tourism and a lower residential area, respectful of the character of the peninsula, beautifully intertwined in nature, considerate of the Maori and military heritage.

Before and during the campaign, Andy Foster had been a vocal opponent of the development. On the other hand, while the second resource consent application was being considered, most councillors were advised to remain silent, to ensure they wouldn’t interfere with the process.

Now released from that obligation, one would have thought the Council, the Mayor or Eastern Councillors would have commented on the decision, and provided the community with a strategy for moving forward.

Perhaps someone at the Council has an opinion to share on Cassel’s plan for his company to organise public workshops, a process usually attributed to the Council. But unfortunately, only Kaha the Wellington wind has been heard since the resource consent was granted.

So the community is left speculating. Is the game really over? Will this development truly go ahead? What can still be done to give the better options a chance?

The Council is unlikely to challenge its resource consent process. But it still has to review the lease or sale of the parcels it still holds, and it could refuse to release them. Cassels has indicated the development would go ahead even without these parcels, but that would still be a splinter in the foot and some adjustments would be required.

The Council could also speed up the delivery of the peninsula masterplan: the latest version of the plan is a draft released in 2016. How much an updated and final version of this plan would impact the development remains to be seen, but it would at least hold everyone, including the Council, accountable against a roadmap endorsed by the community.

Finally, will Mau Whenua continue its challenge to the original sale of the land? Will Enterprise Miramar challenge the resource consent – again – in the environment court?

The current silence could be a sign the game is over. Or that the parties are looking at their options, talking behind closed doors. For the community, though, the uncertainty is unsettling, as so much is at stake for those who care about this unique place or those who worry about the impact on traffic.

Keeping the discussion open, maintaining the pressure, continuing the debates are the choices left to the locals to ensure that better options are considered for the jewel that is Shelly Bay. For Shelly Bay, and Wellington.


  1. Bob, 12. December 2019, 17:31

    A story well told. But there is more. The sale of two parcels of land that made up all of the Iwi’s Shelly Bay holding was a major transaction. The major transaction meant Iwi had to vote on the sale and voted it down not once but twice in the same year. However Ian Cassels and his legal team found a way through under British law and purchased all the land for less than the original purchase price.

  2. michael, 17. December 2019, 11:11

    The silence is ominous!

  3. Little Blue Penguin, 17. December 2019, 17:03

    Silence is great. This is a the background static of not having the unwanted redevelopment of the Shelly Bay Public recreational area totally thwarted. Which comes down to the nontransparent nature of local govt.

  4. Polly, 19. December 2019, 14:55

    With Sea Level rising! leave it alone!

  5. Sue, 30. December 2019, 18:45