WCC Election News: Shelly Bay enters Financial Fantasy Land, “nothing to see here” as Councillors downvote a review, and boring coverage out East.

The last few days have all been about Eastern Suburbs, and you guessed it, Shelly Bay. The issue has taken on a life of it’s own, romping around the harbour like some kind of Loch Ness Monster, even spawning it’s own Twitter parody account.

Last week it was about sneaking sea level rise at Shelly Bay with Peter Jackson weighing in again. This week it’s been a confused salvo by multiple parties all around money. Infrastructure costs in particular.

Property developer Richard Burrell, a sometimes-vocal opponent of the development, got quantity surveyors Rider Levett Bucknall (RLB) to put a “rough order of cost” on getting infrastructure, including roading and retaining walls, to the site. It came back with a $93.35m figure. 

Developer challenges Shelly Bay infrastructure figure with own set of costings

Burrell, dubbed “Billboard Baggins”, by the parody account, has come out with a figure that is significantly higher than anyone else’s. Previous figures of $20m have been espoused by the other developer (so many developers) and the WCC has told us that it’s only $10m.

This is turning into a descent in madness. It’s the how long is a piece of string scenario with frankly, all parties, having lost a lot of credibility. At this point anyone opening their mouth is simply not going to be believed, no matter what they say and how accurate it is.

Trust and confidence rears it’s head again and is quickly stamped back down.

Ian Cassels was then called out by Andy Foster after Cassels sent out a press release claiming that not spending on Shell Bay would cost the ratepayers more than if they did develop it.

A failure of the proposed Shelly Bay development to go ahead could result in millions of dollars worth of ongoing costs to ratepayers. Speaking at the Wellington City Council’s City Strategy Committee meeting this morning, Ian Cassels made it clear he had no objection to councillors undertaking a review, but outlined the ways in which Wellingtonians could end up forking out of city coffers if the deal as it stands was to fall over.

Ian Cassels: failure to build Shelly Bay development could cost more for ratepayers

We’ll get to that review, but in the meantime, this appeared to be another rather amateurish attempt to sway Councillors and public, in the direction of the Developer.

It revolved around the idea that locals are already paying rates for the defunct site and that when the development is finished millions of dollars in rates will be generated thus saving our poor pockets from further wastage.

Andy Foster couldn’t leave that one alone, let’s face it, he’s basically the expert on this entire schmozzle, and asked some questions;

Hi Ian – today you told councillors two things –

First, you said that we had been through a long due process on Shelly Bay. I know you want your development to happen, but surely you must realise how wrong the HASHA legislation was to just cut the wider community out of any chance of having a say?

Second, you said your Shelly Bay proposed development would save the community $100 million. It would be really good if you detailed how you came up with that number. It sounds from the way you put it as if you are just adding up many many years of rates bills. That completely ignores that the Council has to provide a lot of services to these new residents, which would swallow up all or most of any financial benefit to the Council. I’ll email this to you too – and look forward to some answers.

Kind regards, Andy

Of course those questions have gone unanswered, as usual, with Ian Cassels vanishing into the misty gaps between developments in a woosh of steam with a flourish of his gargantuan cape.

OK, so I made that last bit up, however, questions were not answered.

Meanwhile, it turns out the WCC has already spent near on a million dollars on the fiasco (I’m having to consult a thesaurus now) as reported by Radio New Zealand.

Wellington City Council has spent nearly $800,000 of ratepayers money trying to get the Shelley Bay redevelopment off the ground.

Nearly $800k spent on controversial Shelly Bay development

Money. Money. Money.

So it’s about time we figured out how this thing unfolded, reviewed it, transparently, so we can a) make sure nothing untoward happened and b) we learn from the mistakes.

Right? That makes sense yes?


Councillors downvoted a review on Shelly Bay this week.

Wellington City councillors have decided with a near-unanimous vote to delay talks of a review into whether their council stuffed up over Shelly Bay.

After lengthy public discussion into the proposed and controversial $500 million Shelly Bay development on Thursday, councillors were asked to vote on the terms of reference for a review of the development and the council’s handling of it.

Wellington councillors vote to delay Shelly Bay review

What are they hiding? Only three Councillor’s voted to get the review underway, effectively, and Simon Woolf appeared to lead the parade to sweep everything under the carpet for god only knows how long.

Councillor Simon Woolf put forward the motion that the matter got put on the table – council-speak for “let’s discuss later”. Only three councillors – Andy Foster, Chris Calvi-Freeman, and Sarah Free – opposed it, and without further ado the discussion moved to other topics.

After the meeting Woolf said he put the motion on the table because “there was no way we were going to be able to add to the terms of reference and scope by amendments given there was so much feedback during public participation”.

What public participation? I know that Karori is a higher altitude than the rest of the city, but you wouldn’t have thought the oxygen was that much thinner up there. The perception is that there is something to be hidden that if exposed prior to the elections would cause problems for certain candidates.

Foster, speaking after the meeting, said Cassels needed to show credibly how he came to the city being $100 million better off by having his Shelly Bay development, when he was adamant any necessary infrastructure would all be built for $20 million.

Most councillors didn’t want the Shelly Bay review to even start before the election, but the debate had been an opportunity to lay out some of council’s extensive process failings over Shelly Bay, he said.

“At some point councillors will need to face up to some uncomfortable lessons through the review.”

One Councillor approached me privately as to the reason of the delay. That being that the a certain faction of the Councillors, you can guess who, wanted the review “watered down”, while the other faction wanted to make sure that the review was more comprehensive and that the officers didn’t gain too much control of the process.

Go ahead, unpack that, I don’t need to do I.

Leaving Shelly Bay we stay out East with the Dominion Post running it’s first public service announcement for candidates, most likely the first and last time some of them will see their names in the press.

As part of our election coverage we’re profiling council candidates in the run-up to the election on October 12. All candidates were asked to provide a statement on why they are standing, and a response to an issue important to voters, identified by a Neighbourly poll. This week we’re looking at the Eastern ward, and asking: what will you do to improve public transport? 

Election 2019: Wellington City Council Eastern ward candidate profiles

Bit of a tough question given that WCC has almost zero control over public transport…

There was an interesting mix of responses back from candidates though what was lacking was “how” some of these magical “policies” would actually be carried out. As CCF pointed out to me, two paragraphs really isn’t a lot of space to get into it, which is a fair point.

Ajay Rathod suggested he would get a ferry operating from Miramar Wharf to the city. Not a bad idea, but, there’s no parking, the wharf is basically condemned, traffic management at the site would be a complete nightmare, and the cost of getting the ferry is more expensive than grabbing an Ola when discounted. Points for trying. 5/10

Sean Rush suggested appointing a Crown Observer, potentially starting again, and hanging out for a second tunnel. Hmmm. Not very creative. The idea of starting again is not a bad one, but given the shambles created it may just spawn an entire new kind of public transport hell. 4/10

Chris Calvi-Freeman is probably the person with the most experience in this area having “led the team that developed the previous network.” It’s more of the same though, continuing to batter one’s head against the current state like some angry goat. I like goats, so one extra point for head bashing. 6/10

Sarah Free was more or less the same as Chris Calvi-Freeman in thinking, though did mention looking at the was public transport is funded and managed. That’s a better idea. Because that seems to go to the heart of the problems. 7/10

Bernard O’Shaugnessy was on fire. He used his two paragraphs in a machine gun style covering the airport extension, Shelly Bay, called for sackings over the bus mess, wants to get rid of hubs, pay drivers more, and a host of other things. 7/10

Steph Edlin made similar observations to the others. Let’s take a hiatus here.

ALL the candidates basically said the same thing; “fix the bus problems.” That makes it really hard to differentiate your vote based on policy. It was a bit of a silly question the Dominion Post posed, because if you thought about it, then you’d know that was exactly how they would all respond.

Now, what all candidates missed on commenting about was other modes of transport and how that was going to be improved. Cycling, motoring, ride sharing, walking, airport traffic, and so on.

No, everyone rushed to the bus issue, which, frankly, is probably unfixable. There is a point in a disaster of this scale, that you can never go back, you can never fix it. You have a moment at the beginning where you can flip it, but this has been going on for over a year.

Back to Steph. Upside, suggested getting rid of the hubs, otherwise, pretty much par for course. 5/10

Teri O’Neill just made me a liar. She, as well as having a crack at the bus issue, also threw in cycling and “accessible electric vehicles.” So, thinking a bit more off the hot topic and into the wider transport space. 6/10

I’m hoping the Dominion Post actually asks different questions in the next series of “profiles,” otherwise this is going to be turned into the most boring election in history. We all know the buses need to be fixed.