In the recent days, Mount Crawford on the Miramar peninsula has been subject to much speculation, on the field, in the news and in social media. The site, very much like Shelly Bay, is under a huge amount of scrutiny, and like Shelly Bay, has all ingredients to spark immense controversy.
But what are the plans, really? Well, information is scarce, and if we were to go with how things went for Shelly Bay, I wouldn’t turn to the Council, or any Councillor for that matter, to get reliable information or opinion you can trust. However, two projects are seemingly on the table.
The first one is a Regional Park that would extend all the way to the Massey Memorial. This park was first announced by Celia Wade-Brown, then Mayor, and then again by Justin Lester in 2019. The park, on Crown land currently administered by Linz, would cover 72.7 hectares north of the former Mt Crawford prison. Since that announcement, however, not a shovel has turned up, nothing has happened. When I asked Lester why he thought nothing had progressed, he said things should be underway.
As for his suggestion to ask my local councillors, I refrained from responding that I had already done that. In fact, in working with City Council officers on the Miramar trail, they explicitly said the City Council had been told to not even look at this part of Wellington, or even talk about it. Also, everyone remembers how silent Councillors remained all the way to the Shelly Bay vote, and how some reversed their positions as candidates. So one would wonder: what’d be the point to ask the Council?
The other project is the development of 300 houses at the old prison site.
They are on two adjacent sections, and one could be forgiven for mixing the two. However, it’s hard to imagine how to squeeze 300 homes in that area without eating land off the planned regional park: the ridge line, in Wellington, has a pretty low height limit when it comes to construction, and Mt Crawford is likely to see houses spread horizontally rather than multi-storeys building vertically.
There, like at Shelly Bay, opposition will be felt at many levels. Iwis, first, already arm wrestling Cassels at the latter, have already said this site is too sacred to be built on. And of course, all the concerns on transport that were expressed for Shelly Bay apply here. One has to visit the site to truly understand the constraints this land is placing on the development: two narrow roads traversing already dense areas are connecting the prison. They offer, even to the eye of the neophyte, very little room to increase capacity, whether by private car or bus. This traffic will of course feed on to the already strangled Cobham Drive. Please, before screaming NIMBY again, go and have a look yourself.
Then there are the Memorandums of Understanding (MoU), two of which are interesting read. The first was signed between the Crown, Wellington City Council and Port Nicholson Block Settlement Trust in 2014. If you are interested in Miramar, I invite you to read this document, which, for once, is not for lawyers, and quite accessible. In a nutshell, it recognises the cultural and natural heritage of the Watts peninsula. It also clearly talks about the importance of involving the community to decide its future. We know that the SHA status of Shelly Bay cut the community out. And I don’t recall any community meeting nor announcement for what will happen at Mount Crawford. And as for the Miramar Masterplan, subscribers of this site will remember it’s still in draft since 2016.
The second MoU, on the other hand, was signed between Taranaki Whanui Limited and LINZ (the link between PNBST and TWL is hard not to make) in 2019. This document contains all the language of a done deal, one that will deliver 300 homes for Kiwibuild. But when you look for the word “community” in the document, you get this:
Finally, it’s interesting to compare this development against the 3 main pillars of the big Spatial Plan consultation that was released earlier this year:
- Is Mount Crawford in an inner suburb?
- Is Mount Crawford along a main transport spine?
- Will the development make Wellington greener?
So it’s hard to not get frustrated when looking at what is boiling in the East, once again. Nothing has been learned, the communication is inexistent, the community not approached, the promises not fulfilled, and greed, once again, has determined an outcome. After Shelly Bay, no one wants Cassels near any development in the area or trusts he will do a good job. In fact, Mau Whenua who was already occupying Shelly Bay has now moved up as well to occupy the prison site.
You thought Shelly Bay was messy? Wait to see what’ll happen at Mount Crawford.