23 Nov 2020

Wellington Mayor on Shelly Bay protests

From Checkpoint, 5:16 pm on 23 November 2020

Wellington Mayor Andy Foster says he supports iwi protesters camped at Shelly Bay but will support the decisions of the courts on the controversial development.

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Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

Wellington iwi Taranaki Whānui sold a large part of the land to property developer Ian Cassels, but iwi members calling themselves Mau Whenua believe the sale wasn't legitimate.

A report by the Māori Land Court found thousands of iwi members did not get a say in the sale of the iwi land at Shelly Bay, due to failings of the iwi membership system.

This week they pitched their tents and set up camp until a High Court date in March and ahead of Cassels' plans to push on with the development, which is set to include 350 luxury sea-view apartments.

The protesters say they repeatedly asked for any decisions to be delayed until after the High Court hearing about the land, but that Cassels was determined to move forward with the project.

Wellington City Council voted nearly two weeks ago to sell Cassels its portion of land too.

Foster arrived at the site and helped one group of the protesters fix a broken tent pole. He told Checkpoint he was supportive and understood their concerns.

"This thing has had a very long gestation and sad gestation in terms of the decisions made. First of all by council, to exclude the public from having an effective say in the future of the land, he said.

"We threw the District Plan under the bus, and this has been going back five years, so the Resource Consent became a very limited process. 

"There were obviously concerns around issues like road safety and of course there were issues in the Taranaki iwi about the sale when there were resolutions cast by AGM... and it went ahead and sold. So there are a lot of concerns."

Foster denied that filmmaker Peter Jackson's donation of $30,000 was a quid pro quo for backing Jackson's opposition to the development.

"Not for a second. They supported me because of my pre-existing position."

He said a judicial review brought to the High Court last week and the Mau Whenua case, which is about the sale of their own land, being heard in March, would have a big bearing on the development, which he supported.

"I would have preferred to do thing round the other way, which is before we did our sale and lease we had some certainty around the Resource Consent and the Mau Whenua case.

"That's not the way it's panned out, but ... if either of those cases are successful then the council has the right to be able to take the land back."

He said if it was necessary to tresspass protesters off the land that would go through the necessary processes, but that he didn't know if he would be involved in that process.