It would appear that development is progressing at Shelly Bay despite the ongoing debate over the use of the land and an iwi that is divided over its future.
In a classic case of not throwing stones in a glass house, the Port Nicholson Block Settlement Trust (PNBST) went into bat against Peter Jackson in today’s Dominion Post. Once they’d fired off their missive on the growing scandal, the Mayor promptly fell in behind PNBST in support. Almost like it was scripted.
But there are two realities to this story that are not being reported. First, the PNBST is hopelessly at odds with itself over the use of the land and second, it would appear that development is already underway at the Shelly Bay site.
Baker, on Monday, said Jackson then gave up his rights to influence what happened there.
“The point really is, we have the right to develop what we own and it is no-one else’s decision.”
However, Jackson hit back at Baker, telling Stuff, he “had every right to comment on local property development as a resident and ratepayer.”
He also believed that the manner in which Baker and his colleagues on the PNBST executive had sold iwi land to a property developer merited further investigation.
Lester, who bore much of the brunt of Jackson’s Facebook serve, backed Baker’s sentiment. “No one individual has the right to tell them what they can do with the land.”
Updated: According to Justin Lester the trees felled are on LINZ land. We’re trying to verify that and get a reason as to why they have been felled.
Update II: LINZ have indeed felled the trees. You can read more here. We’ve also asked them about the relationship between themselves, the WCC, and PNBST, if any.
I drove through Shelly Bay recently after a reasonable bout of rain and what was noticeable was that at the southern end of the area a large amount of what looked like forestry debris had been washed across the road.
Now, you can hide your emails, you can hide your documents, you can hide your intentions but what you cannot hide from is the great Google eye in the sky. Google maps frequently update its satellite imagery, and you can look at the history of those maps.
Here’s the first cropped image from August 2017.
You can see that the bush covers 100% of the image surrounding Shelly Bay.
Here’s the next image from March of 2018.
You can see in the centre of the image that trees have been felled.
Finally, here is an image from October last year.
And a closer look…
You can see that a large amount of land has now been cleared.
I am quite sure an intrepid reporter could walk up that road and photograph what it looks like today.
A note about data sources: These images are taken from Google Maps Pro, a free application that gives you a lot more information than standard Maps. If you download it, choose a spot, you can then go to “View” on the menu, and choose “Historical Imagery”, which will allow you to scroll back and forth in time.
An iwi Divided
What the Mayor knows, PNBST knows, but the media didn’t report on in today’s article is that there has been a major conflict within the iwi over the land use and potential development.
The consistent allegation has been that before any sale or development of Shelly Bay land, the group needed to get a vote of 75% in the affirmative from their members. It is alleged that they didn’t manage to get that threshold due to concerns, sparking an ongoing protest. Further, it is alleged that parcels of land were bundled up to avoid that vote.
But how true is that?
Back in February of 2016, the Iwi voted against selling Shelly Bay Land.
The Port Nicholson Block Settlement Trust needed 75 percent in favour of the proposal but this afternoon announced it only received 51 percent.
Property firm Wellington Company had made an offer on the land for $11 million.
In a statement released this evening, Port Nicholson Block Settlement Trust chairman Neville Baker said he was pleased with the number who had been able to understand the sale was needed for the trust to recover from financial difficulties.
The trust is currently under investigation by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO).
Concerns were raised around the transparency of the process and then further concerns were raised about the way that the vote was conducted.
Mr Mepham said having a staff member taking votes was not a good look.
“Where the employee has a direct relationship to the commercial board and the decision to sell Shelly Bay, I do not believe they should have a role in gathering votes,” he said. “I do see a conflict of interest. It is not a legal one, it is more of a moral one.”
Iwi trustee Holden Hohaia said it would perhaps be wiser to have an employee of electionz.com physically present and managing the voting process.
But, he said, the process could still work. “Provided those protocols are followed, you can, within reason, have that objectivity. As long as that person managing that ballot box is not a Taranaki Whanui member, you have got a suitable separation there.”
RNZ was copied into emails in which other iwi members expressed concerns last month about voting taking place at the hui in Lower Hutt.
In September 2016, John Campbell covered a story that asserted that the iwi was to sell the land despite the member’s opposition. The assertion was that land had been broken up, notionally to get under the voting threshold, and had been sold to the Wellington Company.
Since then, the conflict has been ongoing with frequent clashes between PNBST and their members in various forums including the former’s Facebook Page.
There is almost always more to the story than one thinks and the moral here is that the PNBST, supported by the Mayor, may have just thrown a large rock through one of their windows should the mainstream media choose to pick this up and dig a little deeper.
Is there then there an issue of transparency, that was raised by Peter Jackson, across the entire set of parties that are pushing hell for leather to develop a piece of land that pretty much everyone has been concerned about?
The satellite images certainly don’t lie. Something is being done on the hill above Shelly Bay, and it’s time that someone got to the bottom of it.