Peter Jackson on the Venice of the South, Shelly Bay rises to the fore again

Peter Jackson is firmly keeping Shelly Bay-Gate in the eyes of the city and media with another post this afternoon releasing more emails and data on how the sea-level change is going to interact with the proposed development.

The Wellington City Council’s failure to address the issue of sea level rise and storm surge impact on The Wellington Company’s planned development in Shelly Bay can only be described as negligent.

The Venice of the South

It seems that despite well-documented and scientific advice about how high things should be built above the current sea-level, the development as proposed would put houses in a Venice like situation.

PETER J to WCC: “Please explain why the WCC considers a development sitting at approximately 2m above high tide to be acceptable, when the Government has recommended that all new coastal construction should sit at least 3m above high tide.”

Ashley Fry, Team Leader, Complaints and Information Assurance at the WCC replied to my question, with an answer that is quite shocking:

WCC to PETER J: “Council is informed by the Ministry for Environment Guidelines which contemplates a 2.0 metre Sea Level Rise.”

Ms Fry didn’t directly address my reference to the fact that the WCC’s own advisors have stated that development should be avoided in areas with levels below 3.0m MSL – a fact that Ms Hansen passed onto the developer.

Her answer can only be interpreted as confirming that the WCC have now decided that a 3m sea level rise is too onerous for Shelly Bay, so they’ve lowered the threshold to 2m. I assume the WCC are now telling the developer that “development should be avoided in areas with levels below 2.0m MSL”.

This continues the perception that the WCC has bent the rules, advice, and other information to fit the proposed development so that it could gain resource consent.

If you look closely, you can see that virtually all new the development is built on the flat land at Shelly Bay – land that the WCC state will be under water with a 3m sea level rise. It has told the developer that they must build higher than the 3m above MSL level … for obvious reasons.

And yet the Wellington City Council have granted resource consent to the plan above.

It does appear that way.

Jackson pulls the recent “Climate Change Emergency” declaration into the mix, as many commentators have already, because we know that effectively it means nothing.

In another press story covering this WCC “Climate Emergency” announcement, Mayor Justin Lester was quoted as saying that the declaration “confirms our ambition to place a climate change lens on everything we do”.

Those are fighting words from our mayor!

I’m told that Justin has quite a short attention span, so hopefully someone will remind him that one of the things “they’re doing”, is granting resource consent to the largest private construction in the history of Wellington … and he would be well advised to take a peek at Shelly Bay through his “climate change lens”.

Jackson has a point. The one and only thing that the climate change “emergency” has is that in future, everything will be looked at with that “lens.” So why not in this case as well?

Further analysis by Jackson, including independent commissioned reports, appear to support the assertion that the proposed development is well under recommended levels for building.

The answer for the developer was to raise the level of the dwellings to be above sea-level rises, thus, avoiding inundation by the ocean.

However, this leaves the dwellings high and drive while roads, infrastructure, and other services (traditionally buried), would eventually all be under water.

Trips to the shops, doctor and hospital will require a sea voyage – maybe the new “ferry” will provide a door to door service?

Hence the Venice reference.

It’s the Wellington City Council who must be held wholly to blame for this catastrophe-in-the-making.Their clumsy attempt to walk the tightrope of being both the regulatory body, and partner of the developer, combined with their desperate obsession to “develop Shelly Bay, no matter the cost” has resulted in inexcusably poor decision making that will impact Wellington ratepayers for years to come.

This has always been the primary allegation, and;

The debacle of Shelly Bay is typical of the way in which this council does business. The executive appears to wield an inordinate amount of power, council officers bend the rules when it suits them while city councillors are more often than not, left in the dark.

And in the process, trust and confidence continues to be continually eroded, much like our shoreline.