Shelly Bay opponents Mau whenua short $2.2m after losing backer

4:54 pm on 10 December 2020

Iwi members fighting the sale of land at Marukaikuru / Shelly Bay in court say they have been dealt a bitter blow after a major party pulled their funding for the case.

A planned seaside development at Shelly Bay has sparked opposition.

A seaside development has been planned for Shelly Bay in Wellington. Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

Mau Whenua, a group within Taranaki Whānui, have since the end of last month been occupying the land in Wellington where a controversial development is planned.

They say the sale of the land was not legitmate and have been fighting it ever since.

They were due to appear in the High Court next March in a bid to overturn the sale but that legal action looks unlikely.

In a statement, Mau Whenua said a major party funding the case - believed to be linked to the film industry - will no longer help them pay the $2.2 million required to continue the case.

Lawyers for the case filed a memorandum this morning notifying the court of the pending cessation of funding arrangements.

Sir Peter Jackson has been a vocal opponent of the development and had been believed to be a funder.

Iwi members have not confirmed it is Jackson who has pulled his backing but in a statement did make reference to the effects of Covid-19 on the film industry.

Mau Whenua are exploring alternative options for raising the estimated $2.2m required to continue their case.

If the funds cannot be raised, the case cannot be presented in the High Court.

Mau Whenua member Dr Catherine Love acknowledged the difficult decisions their allies and supporters had been forced to make.

"They have been strong and reliable allies for our kaupapa - to expose and correct injustice, to hold our land, and to uphold environmental principles relating to our land and harbour," she said.

Port Nicholson Settlement Block Trust was set up in 2008 to manage the Taranaki Whānui Treaty Settlement.

The pending court case was challenging the sale of four parcels of land at Marukaikuru / Shelly Bay by the PNSBT Trustees to developer Ian Cassels in 2017.

Wellington City Council had granted no-notified resource consent for the development but due to backlash it then went to independent commissioners. The consent was eventually granted.

In the final part of the puzzle for the development to go ahead, the council voted in favour of selling and leasing its land last month, leading members of Mau Whenua to start the occupation on the land.

Anaru Mepham, who is still on the whenua at Marukaikuru, said despite a major funder pulling out they would continue their fight.

"We will regroup and take a different tack, legal action is only one way to fight ... the occupation at Marukaikuru will continue - we will not be moved," he said.

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