14 Jan 2016

Protest planned over proposal to sell Shelly Bay

9:00 am on 14 January 2016

A protest is to be held by land owners of the Port Nicholson Block Settlement Trust after plans to sell off Wellington's Shelly Bay, its biggest land asset, were announced last month.

The Shelly Bay site will become a Special Housing Area.

Shelly Bay Photo: RNZ / Michael Cropp

One of the Trust's own board members says he would not back the move to sell unless the Trust gave a commitment to iwi members that it intended to explore reinvesting the profits back into land.

Trustee Holden Hohaia said 'land for land' should underpin any future sale.

"I only support the sale of Shelly Bay provided the leadership of the trust and the CE give a public commitment that there is an intention to reinvest the proceeds of the sale of Shelly Bay back in to land investments back here in Wellington."

Mr Hohaia sits on the Port Nicholson Block Settlement Trust, whose pervious trustees purchased the former Defence Force base in Shelly Bay for $13 million in 2008, but the investment had been a drain on the Trust.

Mr Hohaia said it was a "very poorly performing asset" at the moment.

"We're get less than 1 percent return on investment and the option of partnering with another partner to development the land at Shelly Bay has a lot of risks associated with it. A high return, but a lot of risks."

While he supported a sale he said there was confusion and anxiety within the iwi, and the land owners deserved more information.

But the Trust's chief executive Jason Fox - who was appointed to the job a year ago - said Mr Hohaia's request was over-simplifying the matter.

He said because of the iwi's geographical position, land would always be an option.

"We're always going to to be in land because we're in the capital city and the Taranaki tribes are always going to be directly and indirectly involved in farming. So in the short, medium and even long term we'll have quite a lot of involvement in land,"

The Port Nicholson Block Settlement Trust received $25 million from the Crown in its Treaty settlement, but has just $17.5 million left.

The value of Shelly Bay is $9.85 million, which is more half the iwi's asset base. For that reason the sale needed the backing of the people.

Mr Hohaia said in order to vote people needed to have all the information.

Two consultation hui were being held later this month. A vote will follow and the results will be announced in early February.

In 2012, Jason Fox complained to the Serious Fraud Office and asked them to investigate the Trust's finances.

He said he did that because "there is no use throwing stones when your not prepared to roll your sleeves".

He understood the next set of hearings came up in court next month but the case had suppression and he could not comment on it.

Shelly Bay was purchased as a commercial investment by former trustees with the hope of a joint venture with Sir Peter Jackson, which never went ahead.

Mr Fox says it's been a drain on the Trust ever since. " I think the main reason is it was always bought for selling and for development and it got interrupted with the up in the SFO case and those kinds of things and it had to go on hold and its cost us a lot of money to hold it over the years. It's lost us a significant amount of money."

And for that reason the Trust is proposing to sell it but because the asset is more than half the iwi's asset base it needs the backing of the people.

Two consultation hui are being held later this month followed by a vote. The results will be announced in early february.