Wellington Scoop

Why I voted for Shelly Bay (2)

by Cr Jenny Condie
For those who oppose the development at Shelly Bay, the Wellington City Council decision last week was a blow that has left them feeling hurt and disappointed. I have been asked several times for an explanation of why I voted in support of the sale and lease of council land, particularly given I was on record in an Enterprise Miramar survey during the election campaign as being against the development.

In particular, this comment from Benoit Pette really stuck with me:

“While I acknowledge it was a hard decision, and while I appreciate the efforts some have made in explaining their reasoning, I still can’t make sense of how you can possibly have been elected on a position of opposing the development and then vote the other way. For me, the fate of Shelly Bay is pretty bad right now, but what is worse is the collapse of my trust in local democracy.”

Benoit is asking a much broader question than just why I voted the way I did. He is asking how can he have trust in the process of local democracy when candidates say one thing but vote differently once they are councillors?

As a candidate for city council you get many requests to answer surveys from different interest groups. Often these are about very specific issues that, as a candidate, you simply cannot be as well informed about as a sitting councillor. Nonetheless, I wanted to be as transparent as possible during the campaign so I did my best to give thoughtful answers to every survey I received. From memory I only refused to answer one survey, because their yes/no question was framed as: “Do you agree with us or are you a horrible person?”

By their nature these surveys reduce incredibly complex issues down to a straight yes/no answer. Sometimes those questions are designed carefully and thoughtfully. Sometimes, they are designed as traps.

I remember agonising about my response to the Enterprise Miramar survey. It was certainly reducing an incredibly complex issue down to a set of yes/no questions. It was an issue where I was certain I could not have all the relevant information or understand all the levels of complexity as a candidate. That said, the questions didn’t seem badly designed and there was certainly significant public interest in the issue. It didn’t feel right to not answer it.

As part of the survey, not only were candidates asked a series of yes/no questions, we were also given the opportunity to provide a short statement. I decided that this would help provide context to inform voters about my stance on Shelly Bay and would allow for some nuance given that my stance was never “absolutely no, never, under no circumstances”.

Here is the statement I made at this time:

“There have been a number of suggestions that council’s decision to designate a Special Housing Area and its decision to consider the sale or lease of its own land was based on incomplete or incorrect information. This requires an independent investigation. As a matter of good governance, if council had poor information, those decisions should be revisited with complete information.

“WCC should put off a decision about the sale or lease of council land and the contribution of $10 million in infrastructure costs until the concerns of iwi group Mau Whenua about the initial sale of their land have been legally resolved.

“Given Shelly Bay is fairly remote from transport and other amenities, it is not well located for increasing residential density.”

Since I made that statement to Enterprise Miramar I have, as expected, developed a greater understanding of the complexities of the decision. I have also received a lot more information, and the concerns I held at the time have been addressed to my satisfaction.

The design of the development has improved to allow for the effects of sea level rise and exceeds the regulatory requirements currently in place. While I would like to see a different set of requirements in place, it would be unfair to hold any single development to a higher standard.

As I indicated at the time, I would have supported an investigation into the decision-making process, but this has not come to a vote since I was elected. In any case, I have received significantly more information since being elected.

It is my view that any inadequacy found retrospectively in the advice provided to councillors arose from the uncertainties surrounding the situation and therefore does not justify revisiting the original decision. Further, the key decision to make Shelly Bay an SHA was a joint decision between the landowner, the WCC, and Cabinet and as such cannot be unilaterally undone.

The off ramps in this deal mitigate any risk related to the outcome of current court cases for all parties, including for Mau Whenua in their dispute regarding the original sale of the land. The Council does not have a role to mediate between Iwi groups.

On reflection, perhaps it would have been more accurate and honest not to answer the yes/no questions, because I never had a straight yes/no position on Shelly Bay. My status at the time would have been more accurately described as “leaning no” or “it’s complicated.” However, I made the choice to answer at the time to try to be as transparent as possible.

I think it is interesting that very few of the sitting councillors answered the yes/no questions on Shelly Bay. They understood that the challenging and complex nature of the decision in front of us could not be reduced to a simple yes/no proposition.

Based on all of this, I think my answer to Benoit would be that voters should take the answers to these yes/no surveys with a grain of salt and candidates need to be more willing to answer “not sure, it’s complicated.” If you are a single issue voter, then it’s worth taking the time to read the more detailed statements which candidates provide to see if their concerns align with yours. I also think it is important to read these yes/no policy statements in the context of the wider values which candidates campaign on.

In my case, my campaign signs had two slogans on them: “YIMBY” and “Futureproof Wellington.” YIMBY, short for “yes in my backyard,” is a pro-housing, pro-development global movement, intended to push back against the frequent opposition to new developments generally and new housing developments in particular.

The “Futureproof Wellington” slogan intended to capture the need we have for more housing and infrastructure to support the growth of our city, as well as a call to action on mitigate and adaptation for climate change. Again, Shelly Bay delivers significant new housing, as well as the upgraded infrastructure needed to support it. The development is planned as a Green Star Community. The developer is on record about providing car-free transport alternatives such as car share, shuttles, and an electric ferry. The ground floor of most of the development are 3 metres above sea level, significantly exceeding the current guidelines from the Ministry for the Environment on coastal hazards. I believe that supporting the sale and lease is consistent with my desire to futureproof Wellington.

My campaign also focused on making evidence based decisions and delivering cost effectiveness for ratepayers. One of my concerns around Shelly Bay was that councillors hadn’t received good advice, and therefore hadn’t made evidence based decisions. This is no longer a concern I hold. (I’m reluctant to go into this in more detail at this time, as it touches on the formal complaint I made against Mayor Foster.)

I am also convinced that the key commercial terms deliver excellent value for ratepayers. The cost of renewing our infrastructure around the city will run into the billions over the next two decades. Any deal that delivers a fixed amount of infrastructure at a fixed cost for ratepayers is worth pursuing given the wider context.

I acknowledge that some people feel hurt and disappointed by our decision last week. Nevertheless, I’m comfortable that my vote was consistent with the statement I made to Enterprise Miramar and the values I campaigned on, despite it going against my “no” answer to their survey.

Jenny Condie is a Wellington city councillor for the Takapū/Northern Ward


  1. Lavandula, 16. November 2020, 9:30

    I don’t see how any of the issues in your original statement have been addressed. Mau Whenua’s case is still waiting on a decision and Shelly Bay is still remote from transport and amenities.

  2. aom, 16. November 2020, 9:58

    Given the plethora of information and informed opinion regarding Shelley Bay, why is it that Councillors such as Ms. Condie consider the Shelly Bay issue to be complex? The ownership issue is clear, there are no treaty or cultural matters to be considered, the infrastructure costs will never be resolved at the developer’s expense despite assertions to the contrary, the HSA issue is irrelevant due to last years legislative changes, the sale/lease of public space is not essential for the Wellington Company to proceed, and Council angsting over legal proceedings was not necessary if the can had been kicked down the road instead of the developer having an open door to subvert due process per courtesy of the Council. The questions that need to be answered are whether developers will continue to reach decisions with the administration behind closed doors and will Councillors continue to rubber stamp the deals.

  3. Ms Green, 16. November 2020, 10:22

    I agree with Benoit about trust in democracy. Transparency is part of that, so I question that “it is a very good deal for the Council” and “they will absolutely be paying for infrastructure for the development” (the Council agreed that development contributions would be remitted). Your further reason was “cultural sustainability” – what does that mean? You raise a few other additional points with two needing addressing:
    1. The SHA was to provide affordable housing not new housing per se (or a hotel or rest home). The Council failed to address affordable housing.
    2. You say “the cost of renewing our infrastructure (in the city) will amount to billions” …but this is predominantly new infrastructure not renewed, and should have been part of development contributions which you agreed to remit. This not a good deal for the Council.

  4. michael, 16. November 2020, 10:26

    Cr Condie you state that “any deal that delivers a fixed amount of infrastructure at a fixed cost for ratepayers is worth pursuing given the wider context” but how do you explain that in 2016 the WCC recommended the bare minimum width for the current inadequate road while noting this was not going to be adequate in the longer term. And according to council Q&A on Shelley Bay, the WCC has agreed that, if after monitoring, the road is not fit for purpose then the council “will have to fully meet any costs of road improvements that exceed the agreed budget”? Hardly a fixed cost for the ratepayer.

  5. Toni, 16. November 2020, 11:06

    Cr Condie, if you believe that any inadequacy found retrospectively in the advice to councillors does not justify revisiting the original decision, has anything been done by councillors to demand how this happened and to request that systems are put in place to ensure this cannot happen again. And, does this give you cause to question the advice you are receiving which has left councillors taking an angry backlash from voters.

  6. Julienz, 16. November 2020, 11:21

    Cr Condie, the Council will still be here long after the developer is gone and, unless the Council is giving up ownership of the road which I assume it is not, then if the road needs fixing or upgrading the buck will stop with ratepayers.

  7. Claire, 16. November 2020, 12:27

    There is something murky about the background in the Shelly Bay situation. Ie the Resource consent which we will find out about after the Judicial Review starting today. And the court case next year in regards to a group of iwi being left out. Also the confused understanding by councillors of all the processes. There is a lack of critical thinking, an easily swayed voting block, inexperience, and a politicised motivation.

  8. Leviathan, 16. November 2020, 12:59

    AOM – re your comment “The ownership issue is clear, there are no treaty or cultural matters to be considered” – you clearly live on a different planet to me.

    The ownership issue is incredibly muddied, litigious, and will be fought over for years – the Council’s acquiescence to this has just cemented that litigation in place. Whether that litigation takes place solely within the Iwi (ie part of PNTSB sueing another part of the IWI, or suing the Council, or suing the Developer, and the Crown), the fact that the iwi clearly voted against the sale of land to Cassels, and then Cassels bought it in different bite-sized chunks instead, clearly shows that there is bad blood here. Expect, quite rightly, people to be protesting and occupying the land as an illegal land grab.

  9. HR, 16. November 2020, 15:28

    I remain disappointed in your change of vote. There was an abundance of information available before the election and I wonder if you have really learnt anything previously unknown or if you have just been swept along by the system I hoped you would challenge.

  10. aom, 16. November 2020, 15:43

    Leviathan – sad to see you have run out of steam with ‘Eye of the Fish’. It was always a great read and you did more than your fair share after taking over from Maximus.
    However, back to the matter in hand. Ostensibly, the issue of ownership was clear as far as the Council’s mandate was concerned at the point in time that the vote was taken. My more salient remark was,”…Council angsting over legal proceedings was not necessary if the can had been kicked down the road instead of the developer having an open door to subvert due process per courtesy of the Council.”

  11. M, 16. November 2020, 23:25

    Love it… When is a gift not a gift? Interesting the developer is going to give them (the homeowners or the WCC?) an electric ferry. Will that include a crew and running costs ? Will it be added to the body corp?

  12. TrevorH, 17. November 2020, 6:58

    “Yes” or “No” style surveys have their limitations but if a candidate feels uncomfortable or conflicted in answering them they should refrain from doing so.

  13. michael, 17. November 2020, 8:48

    If the developer is giving anyone something – it will come with a cost.

  14. Benny, 17. November 2020, 9:17

    @M: FYI, the electric ferry is coming anyway to the harbour. It’s a Regional Council endeavour and is currently being built. It has nothing to do with Cassels. What he is saying is that this electric ferry will stop at Shelly Bay once in service, early next year in theory. The fact he doesn’t credit the Regional Council for this makes it sound as if he was delivering the electric ferry himself, with the development, which is disingenuous at best.

  15. M, 17. November 2020, 9:33

    @Benny. Thank you…that makes sense😀

  16. Ms Green, 17. November 2020, 9:44

    And the ferry is subsidised by ratepayers. Cassels and councillors have not mentioned this either.

  17. Wendy, 17. November 2020, 10:39

    Cr Condie, you note that “by their nature these surveys reduce incredibly complex issues down to a straight yes/no answer. Sometimes those questions are designed carefully and thoughtfully. Sometimes, they are designed as traps”. Maybe now you might understand why the public are so disillusioned with WCC ‘consultation’ surveys, as many of them seem to be designed to get a predetermined result.

  18. Claire, 17. November 2020, 11:32

    Wendy brilliant I so agree with you. Just taking as an example the two sets of planning for growth questions. Very skewed.

  19. D'Esterre, 17. November 2020, 12:26

    There’s no doubt that previous decisions had left the current Council with a pig’s ear at Shelly Bay. The project has a consent; as I understand the legal situation, Council has no power to “call in” that consent. However. It could have – and in my view ought to have – voted against sale/lease of ratepayer land. At the very least, it ought to have stood aside from a vote until there is an outcome from the challenges currently before the courts.

    aom: “The ownership issue is clear, there are no treaty or cultural matters to be considered….” That’s right. There’s a legal challenge to ownership pending, but meantime, it’s clear that ownership rests with the developer. And yesterday we learnt that the ratepayer-owned land Council voted to sell/lease goes to the same developer, not to the iwi. So: no Treaty issues at all.

    I want to pick up on this from Cr Condie: “The design of the development has improved to allow for the effects of sea level rise…” Projected sea level rise will render the area uninhabitable, no matter what design improvements are being proposed. Coastal land everywhere will be variably problematic: Shelly Bay is no exception.

    I note this from Cr Condie’s original statement: “Given Shelly Bay is fairly remote from transport and other amenities, it is not well located for increasing residential density.” Nothing has changed in that regard, so I cannot see any justification for Cr Condie having changed her mind and voted in favour.

  20. Russell Tregonning, 17. November 2020, 16:23

    Cr Condie. I am not convinced by your arguments. You & your Council could easily have voted for a delay in the decision on Shelly Bay to await the two court cases and also decisions on the fate of the fragile accessway.
    In your pre-election profile you said you are worried about sea level rise, and trouble with storms, and yet you voted for Shelly Bay which will be greatly influenced by these. The new build-up, being largely car-dependent, will actively make the climate worse. Climate scientists advise that new developments should be away from the seawater’s edge.
    I was also disappointed in your holding up the proceedings at the Shelly Bay decision meeting when you kept the audience waiting for about a quarter of an hour over your spat with the mayor. You could have waited to express your argument with the mayor when you didn’t inconvenience the full audience. We expect better from our councillors.

  21. Leviathan, 17. November 2020, 22:09

    There is one option that has not really been discussed yet… if the roading cost upgrades are projected to be too high, and if the Council has the gumption to do it, they could just put bollards at each end of the road, stopping cars, but leaving it available for pedestrians and cyclists, satisfying everyone. The developer can then barter with East-West Ferries for a regular ferry service to the wealthy enclave…

  22. Pam, 17. November 2020, 22:47

    Councilor Condie. I am interested to read your analysis of your response to a survey on Shelly Bay. Perhaps we are able to anticipate a more critical analysis of WCC ‘surveys’ in the future. Many appear to be constructed in a manner to likely provide a specific outcome. Ratepayers rarely appear to be widely surveyed on most issues. The local body election could however be interpreted as a definitive result from a ‘survey’.

  23. TrevorH, 18. November 2020, 8:04

    In June last year the City Council declared “an ecological and climate emergency”. It promised to put these considerations at the forefront of its future decision-making. What has changed? We should be making a “managed retreat” from areas like Shelly Bay. Developing the infrastructure to support the proposal will likely have a negative impact on wildlife including the penguin populations along the coast. And in the event of a tsunami, where will the inhabitants retreat to for safety? The area should be cleaned up and put into a reserve for people to use for recreation.

  24. Keith Flinders, 18. November 2020, 10:31

    Are there published projections as to how much rates revenue will be generated annually once this development is completed and occupied ?