Peter Jackson and the Wellington City Council

Peter Jackson has stepped out from the shadows and written a damning Facebook post that also includes an email trail of events relating to Shelly Bay along with the promise that “You’ll see a lot more from me on this topic over the next few weeks.”

“It really feels like several people within the WCC are representing the interests of the developer, and not the Wellington ratepayers. In my opinion, this is totally unacceptable behaviour by your officers, Justin (it’s actually quite disgusting).”

Facebook Post

That Post

Most of the readers out there wouldn’t have spent the time to read the lengthy post, as evidenced by the social media “pile on” that occurred mainly on Twitter. It followed the usual pattern of attack. However the post was interesting, and I want to pick some elements, and you should note these are out of context so read the post for yourself.

  • Peter starts the Facebook Post worrying about the fact that “Kevin Lavery is urging councillors to stay silent over Shelly Bay.”
  • He raises the possibility of corruption and then brings in the Shelly Bay planned redevelopment, well, the road to Shell Bay, in relation.
  • To support the development, an original recommendation is made to increase the width of the road to 22 meters. The current road is 6 meters, and the cost will be significant to widen it.
  • The post asserts that the Council is looking to capitulate on that width now, and that presumably at some point in the future the road will need to be upgraded falling to the residents to pay.
  • Having upfront stated the size of infrastructure required, the post then produces email after email that would, on the surface of it, look like the WCC was capitulating to the Developer, or Developers, to get the project greenlit.
  • Dozens of questions are asked, of which so far, the WCC has answered none. Anyone who had an OIA bent would have a field day asking these. They are good questions.
  • It is interesting that a lot of the email that has been published doesn’t appear to have any of the opponents of the Shelly Bay redevelopment on them, which presumably means they have been obtained under OIA or leaked, or both.
  • The post points out that the expected sea-level rise in that area could make the development unwise. This appears to be true, with Local Government warning Council’s about this fact and telling them not to approve developments a certain level about the high-tide line, of which the development proposed would fall into.
  • Questions are asked about independent commissioners and attention is drawn to the recent Court of Appeal decisions about Shelly Bay.

The post is damning to the WCC because it effectively brings into doubt their transparency and decision-making process, which in turn (whether the allegations are true or not), damages the trust that we the residents have with the WCC.

It shines a light into the process, with the emails released, however I’d suggest you would want to see a lot more context around the discussions.

Not that there is much trust there, to be honest. I think you’ll find that most people in the city distrust the WCC. I don’t need to create a list of the disasters that have led to that state including the appalling “consultation” process, which is why we are where we are right now with this issue.

Tactics Part One

Reading the questions posted by Jackson, it would appear on the face of it that the WCC has a major credibility issue. The emails as outlined seem to support that. The only thing that the WCC can do now is to answer those questions, which it has not. What the Council did instead was;

Is the Mayor pork barrelling this early in the local election campaign?

It’s a neat tactic. Be seen to be “forgiving” of an “attack” by Peter and then give everyone a free park. Plus, no one, and I mean no one, could match the army of lawyers that are no doubt at Pether Jackson’s command. Not even the WCC, who are known for their litigious nature. It would be expensive and political suicide.

Tactics Part Two

Let’s go back to the more problematic issue in my mind. That of the Councillors effectively being gagged once again by the CEO. We’ve seen it before. In my mind, it is abhorrent that the Chief Executive and Mayor can think that telling our elected Councillors to keep their mouth shut is anything but bullying behaviour.

They got off lightly this time because in the past they’ve been denied access to Council offices, locked out in fact. But the threat this time is implicit, and surely worried the Councillors.

But have they kept their mouth shut? Well, I went and looked at their social media posts and pages and found that, yes, they are, with a notable exception.

Diane Calvert has been sticking strictly to promoting local business, trying to buy into the diversity card, and buttering up other current Councillors. It is an election year. But she’s listening to the Mayor and CEO and offering no view for her constitutes.

Brian Dawson, well, nothing to see here. At least he can coordinate his social media posts between Facebook and Twitter. Given Brian is in the Labour camp we can only expect that he’ll do what the Mayor tells him too.

Jill Day, potentially the most unknown Deputy Mayor in history, maintains her silence as well.

Fleur Fitzsimons, potentially one of the unknown Councillors, continues her tradition of reposting Labour Part material. She won’t be opening her mouth on the issue that’s for sure.

Chris Calvi-Freeman, the man who tried to stop tooting in the tunnel (that’s a proper legacy mate, for sure), continues just to post… whatever he likes, including Trump impersonators and cyclone track data. But, for someone who spends a lot of time spouting about anything and everything, he’s keeping his mouth shut on this. A bit poor seeing as it is in his ward.

Andy Foster has nothing on social media, but… over on Wellington Scoop he has gone into print.

It is well worth taking the time to read and is considered, coming from a long-term Councillor who has considerable experience with managing the city.

“From my perspective Shelly Bay has been a terrible process. Two HASHAA decisions in 2015 (both the same 10-5 votes) made it a Special Housing Area, which prevented people from having a say even though the scale of development proposed massively exceeds District Plan levels. (27 metre heights vs a maximum of 11.5 and intrusion into Open Space B land in which development is not even vaguely contemplated). The District Plan went through public hearings and even the Environment Court, so trying to sweep it aside by the stroke of a pen in this way is horribly anti-democratic.”

Andy Foster

Sarah Free has a bee in her bonnet about buses, rightfully so, and nothing to say about Shelly Bay. Again, poor form given she too is an Eastern Suburbs Councillor.

David Lee continues to retweet all forms of new green technology.

Peter Gilberd, let’s just not bother. He either looks like he is skip diving (really) or mentioning he is running again this year.

Simon Marsh has been MIA of late; I expect he’s cleaning off the yellow caravan and getting ready to go campaigning. But nothing at all from him.

Iona Pannett does speak up and raises the issue of rising sea levels and how this would interplay with any Shelly Bay development.

Malcolm Sparrow last tweeted… well, never, and was on Facebook last December.

Simon Woolf is with Diane Calvert, chasing buses.

Nicola Young, nope, just the usual stuff. Is she even running this year?

That’s it. It looks like the entire Council, except for Andy and Iona, has capitulated to the Chief Executive on what is an incredibly important issue, choosing gaffer tape over active democracy as elected representatives.

Points for Andy Foster who at least tried to explain the situation and did so with some passion. He’s a good Councillor.

Tactics Part Three

Wake up the attack dogs on Twitter and go after the person, not the ball. Don’t debate the issue that has been raised or push for the questions to be answered, instead, vilify the person who raised them.

The invective has been loud, long, and bullying. Peter has been attacked by unionists over the deals done by both governments, called a NIMBY, ironically been accused of living in the Wairarapa and not Wellington so shouldn’t have a say, labelled as “white and entitled”, trampling over the wishes of the “iwi”, and much finger pointing around sour grapes with so many factually incorrect statements you’d be forgiven if some of these people went to work for Trump.

None of them has asked for the WCC to answer the questions transparently.

That’s because none of them, I dare say, have read the post, researched the history, or understood the nuances of the situation. Instead, they have bound together in a “social media pile-on” expressing ignorant outrage in a vomit of fake news.

That political troll army, regardless of orientation, is a good tactic to bring to bear in situations like this.

What happens now?

As Peter Jackson has pointed out, he’s not letting this go. Neither is the Miramar BID and other groups involved.

Now we must wait to see what he reveals next and how the Mayor and WCC CEO respond because let’s face it, the other Councillors won’t.

One thing is for sure, it is going to be a serious niggle through an election year and has the potential to change the Mayor and Council. And Peter Jackson has the reach, over two-million on Facebook alone, which is significant.

Stay tuned. The questions raised need to be answered.