1 Sep 2023

Controversial $500m Shelly Bay development cancelled

4:25 pm on 1 September 2023
Fences at Shelly Bay, where a $500 million development is underway, are stopping penguins but a new nesting site has been set up.

Fences at Shelly Bay, where a $500 million development is underway, are stopping penguins but a new nesting site has been set up. Photo: Kevin Stent / Stuff

The plug has been pulled on a $500 million development at the former Air Force base at Shelly Bay in Wellington.

The land has been bought by Sir Peter Jackson and Dame Fran Walsh.

"It's a wonderful coastline that holds a great deal of cultural and historical significance," they said in a statement.

"Suffice to say we are looking forward to restoring the natural beauty of the bay."

Watch: Wellington mayor Tory Whanau speaks about today's news:

The decision to step away from the development, which was to include 700 apartments, was not an easy one, developer Ian Cassels said in a statement.

"It's been an incredibly challenging project on multiple fronts with years of conjecture. An enormous amount of work has gone into the project to date, and we'd like to express our sincere thanks to those that have supported and assisted us along the way."

The Shelly Bay area.

Photo: Supplied / The Wellington Company

The development has faced years of litigation and protests, and was even hit by a fire earlier this year.

Sir Peter and Dame Fran said they would begin restoring the landscape.

"Our immediate goal is to start the landscaping and replanting work required to return Shelly Bay to its natural state. Longer term, we're keen to look at ways it could be used for both arts and recreation."

Cassels said he wished the pair the best of luck.

"Whilst the project's cancellation brings about a shift in plans, it opens the door to opportunities for Shelly Bay that will hold different kinds of value for the community and future generations.

"It also enables us to refocus energy into our affordable housing initiatives, which to me is ultimately more important. We genuinely wish Peter and Fran all the best moving forward with their plans for the bay."

At a press conference this afternoon, Wellington mayor Tory Whanau said the council was only informed of the sale this morning.

"It's been an incredibly confidential process that council were not part of."

She said Wellington City Council will be "sitting down with Fran and Peter over the next few weeks and talking about what will happen with that land".

"I know that they have a passion for nature like many Wellingtonians, and I feel like the community around Shelly Bay will be pretty happy with that outcome also."

Whanau said it had been a contentious development with iwi concerns.

"I was looking forward to seeing an increase in affordable housing with that development, and I'm sorry to see that go," she said

But she added that she was looking forward to what plans for the area are.

"Having this area also turned into a recreational area is a hugely positive thing.

"In terms of how they develop the land however there will be engagement with council and mana whenua and we are looking forward to that."

Meanwhile, a group who were fighting the development for years said they were relieved the project was cancelled.

Mau Whenua - made up of Taranaki Whānui iwi members - strongly opposed the iwi's sale of the land to The Wellington Company, and the company's plans to develop it.

Spokesperson Catherine Love said she was confident the new owners understood the significance of the site to local Māori.

She said she was hopeful that they would be able to establish a working relationship in the future.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs