The Developer, The Mayor, his Rival, and His Funder; TLDR Andy Foster scores points in the ongoing campaign

You can’t escape Shelly Bay and once again the issue has burst into life across a range of fronts. It’s starting to take the shine off Justin Lester while it is giving great mileage to Andy Foster’s campaign, both men taking the lion’s share of media as the issues rage out east.

Stuff reported that a final chunk of land had headed off into the sale process with the beneficiary, once again, being The Wellington Company and Ian Cassels.

​Within days of a deal quietly being made to sell the final chunk of Māori land at Wellington’s Shelly Bay, opponents claim they were told the issue had not even been discussed.

A newsletter to Taranaki Whanui members on Monday says the trust had decided to sell its fourth and final piece of land at the site for $10 million to The Wellington Company, owned by developer Ian Cassels and his partner Patricia Caitlin Taylor.

The news came as a shock to members of Mau Whenua, a group of iwi opposed to the sale who put a caveat over the land in July.

Deal to sell Shelly Bay done months back despite assurances

Now, it can’t be sold right now, because there is a caveat over the land. Mau Whenua has been trying to get the sale of the previous land that has been sold reversed and running a pitched battle with the PNBST that are now so at odds with their members you wonder just what is going on between themselves and the developers.

Iwi members are saddened and angry at the announcement yesterday that the Port Nicholson Settlement Trust has sold the last piece of iwi owned land at Omarukaikuru/Shelly Bay to the Wellington Company owners. This was done without consultation with or agreement from iwi members. A statement from Mau Whenua – the iwi led group opposed to the sale of Omarukaikuru/Shelly Bay, makes it clear that they consider that Shelly Bay was never for sale; and “throwing money at it” does not change that. Mau Whenua have a Waitangi Tribunal claim and Court action underway to have the sale of iwi land declared invalid and the sale reversed. Further Court action seeks a review of Trust operations and dismissal of sitting Trustees.

Iwi saddened and disgusted at further land sales

It’s pretty amazing to watch a Trust effectively turn itself inside out and rip its core membership to threads because it’s going against what its people want. Talk about a rogue state. There is something at the heart of all this that needs to be exposed. Given there is a caveat over the land then nothing can happen to move the sale forward, you’d expect that to be resolved first. So either the developer is giving the middle-finger to the iwi, or there is absolute desperation to lock them into this sale before anything else can go wrong.

Meanwhile, Justin Lester is trying to reset the entire boardgame saying that he’ll support development at Shelly Bay if resource consent is approved.

If re-elected, Lester said he would respect the decision of the commissioners.

“If the consent is approved I will support the development to ensure it is successfully implemented and Shelly Bay becomes a destination Wellington can be proud of.”

“Almost everybody I talk to think Shelly Bay is a rusting eyesore and it could be a jewel in the crown for the capital city.”

His comments come just over a week since Andy Foster announced his mayoral bid at Shelly Bay alongside Sir Peter Jackson.

The pair have been highly critical of decisions surrounding the proposed development.

Justin Lester doubling down on Wellington’s Shelly Bay saga

That tactic serves to brush under the carpet the series of difficult questions that the WCC and Mayor have largely refused to answer. Like who pays for what? How much exactly is infrastructure? What about rising sea-levels? How the original decisions were made, and why? Potential conflicts of interest?

But Foster said there were questions surrounding the resource consent process the latest application was being considered under, despite it being with independent commissioners.

His concerns included the quality of traffic advice provided and the limited information before commissioners under HASHAA.

“The commissioners are very experienced people, they will do the best job they can but they can only do that on the basis of the very limited range of information which is provided to them by the applicant and council, both of whom want the consent to proceed.”

“People have had their democratic rights to participate in the resource consent process extinguished, but that doesn’t take away their legal right to appeal against the decision.”

Wellington City Council would not comment while the commissioners were still deliberating.

Of course they won’t, in fact, they probably can’t.

Justin Lester’s “doubling down” without answering the questions previously posed has leant the public the perception he’s “in bed” with the developer and PNBST. It’s not true, but the perception is that he has sided that way. It’s going to knock the gloss off his campaign out East for sure, and possibly for a lot of left-leaning voters.

Justin tries to play to the left, but the reality is that his record is far more to the right. But right voters view him as left, so therein lies the conundrum, and potential loss of votes.

The other perception is that Lester is not displaying the Mayoral Leadership that is required here. This entire development is now such an epic mess, a total confusion, that has had petrol poured over it every second day, and the Mayor appears to be part of the problem rather than leading the resolution of the total SNAFU.

Of course, Andy Foster can sit on the outside of that and throw petrol bombs, safe in the knowledge that if he keeps asking questions and keeps the issue front and centre, he’ll win more votes.

Conor Hill waded into the sticky mess a seemingly backing Lester, which is weird because Conor has been hunting Justin for weeks on a variety of issues.

Mayoral candidate Conor Hill has found himself on the same side as Lester.

He said he would respect the decision commissioners made.

“Wellington can’t keep relitigating things forever, regardless of whether Shelly Bay is the perfect development.”

Sure, but the litigation is coming from a variety of places, spaces, and the fact that a cone of darkness appears to have been deliberately dropped over what is an incredibly important piece of the future of Wellington. When you cause the truth to be hidden, sometimes, the only way to expose it to the light is litigation.

This is going to drag on for years… The question is, how much is it going to damage Lester and enhance Foster, in the next four weeks?

Cassels, in a further move that reinforces the perception of alignment with Justin Lester, attacked Andy Foster in a tactic that is going to backfire as it has dragged the conflict of interest issue around Shelly Bay right back out into the open.

In a 20-page letter sent to Wellington Mayor Justin Lester and councillors on Tuesday night, Cassels said Andy Foster’s August 28 paper calling on the council to run a ruler over Shelly Bay dealings was “politically motivated”.

“[It] attempts to set aside good decision-making processes, objectivity, relevant facts and fairness in favour of attempting to paint the development in the most negative light.”

Ian Cassels claims Andy Foster ‘misrepresenting reality’ over Shelly Bay in letter to Wellington City Council

Of course, it’s politically motivated, pot calling the kettle black! Has Cassels not realised there is an election underway? Why is he writing the letter? Political motivation, attempting to influence the Council. For god’s sake, he really, really needs to get a good Communications person in his corner.

And that dragged Justin and Nicola Young’s conflict of interest out into the open again with articles being linked out regurgitating that particular aspect of the sorry saga.

MAY 2019

Wellington Mayor Justin Lester has voted to delay a review into Wellington City Council’s handling of the controversial Shelly Bay development, despite earlier declaring a conflict of interest in the project.

In 2017, Lester decided not to vote on the proposed sale of council-owned land for the development because one of the likely developers – Ian Cassels from The Wellington Company – contributed to his 2016 mayoral campaign.

But in a vote two weeks ago on whether the council should commence a review into its handling of the development, Lester was one of nine councillors who opted against the idea.

Wellington Mayor Justin Lester votes to delay review into council’s handling of Shelly Bay development

This is messy. People are asking why Justin (and Nicola) are voting on Shelly Bay issues with that perception in play. I’m sure there is a reasonable explanation. However, the damage is done.

Just at the end of all that Justin Lester had a chance to boost his coverage with something positive.

The start of the development of the Convention Centre. Unfortunately, that came back to bite him as well. It’s not been a good week for the mayor.

In a lot of commentators minds, the convention centre is a white elephant, a vanity project, that will cost the city dearly when we can least afford to pay and have other higher priorities.

Such as it was, the sod-turning was met with a relatively negative reaction across the board. And then, to make matters worse, Andy Foster pounced with an almost pork-barrel piece of policy, that the movie museum could be potentially resurrected.

It was a clever little pounce because it turned the entire conversation away from Justin Lester and straight back to Andy.

Sir Peter Jackson’s movie museum might not be dead, even with shovels going into the ground at Wellington’s convention centre site. 

Mayor Justin Lester turned a sod of dirt over on Tuesday afternoon at the Cable St site to mark the start of construction on a $179 million movie museum-less Convention Centre.

But his rival for the job Andy Foster, who is being backed by Jackson in the race, said the centre could still include a movie museum if he is elected.

“The big shame of this triennium is that we haven’t been able to land the movie museum because that would have been a unique attraction to Wellington which I think would have been utterly stunning.

“It’s the movie museum that had that uniquely Wellington element, nobody else would have been able to take away and nobody else would have been able to replicate.

“I am keen to work together with Sir Peter, Sir Richard, Fran and Tania to see if we can actually achieve something.”

Foster’s first preference would be to see if the movie museum could be included within the existing convention centre. 

Movie museum not dead yet as construction starts on Wellington Convention and Exhibition Centre

Ouch. I’m assuming that Justin’s Campaign Manager is scratching their head and wondering how that got turned around so fast. They are probably also wondering what they can drum up in the next four weeks to try and get some positive press.

With Lester under attack over the Climate Change Emergency, running out of options for positive press, still trying to run the city while campaigning, and ending up on the negative side of issues like Shelly Bay, he’s burning political points at a very fast rate of knots. With only a few weeks until voting is effectively over, he’ll be wondering what to pull out of the hat or whether there is enough capital there to get him over the line first.

Meanwhile, I haven’t seen Andy Foster laugh so much in years. He’s genuinely enjoying this and making a meal out of the Mayor to gain as many votes as is possible. Each time Justin moves, Andy counters him, and in the background, The Developer and The Director are also maneuvering.

2 thoughts on “The Developer, The Mayor, his Rival, and His Funder; TLDR Andy Foster scores points in the ongoing campaign

  1. Really enjoying this little tome. But being a bit picky, could you please do a bit of proof reading/editing before posting. The grammatical errors are kind of spoiling the fun.


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