Forcibly removing Shelly Bay protesters could get ugly, Wellington mayor warns

Wellington’s mayor says forcibly removing protesters from Shelly Bay is a situation no one wants to face and has warned it could get “very ugly”.

Mau Whenua remains at the bay despite Wellington City Council saying it would close the public space where the land is being occupied from 6pm last night.

The group has been camped out there for a year. They claim the Port Nicholson Block Settlement Trust went against the will of its people when it sold its land for development and that the deal was done in secret.

Mau Whenua has also ignored a notice issued by Shelly Bay Ltd to leave the site within seven days.

The council has said it will be closing the public space at Shelly Bay because of health and safety risks, including imminent construction on the developer’s adjoining land and asbestos risk on council land.

Mayor Andy Foster told the Herald that decision, made by the council’s chief executive Barbara McKerrow, was about her legal responsibilities to keep people safe under heath and safety legislation.

Foster has signed a Notice of Motion penned by councillor Sean Rush, which would allow Mau Whenua to stay on their current site, but in a reduced area.

Under the proposal, the restricted area would be reduced to within a 2m perimeter of the building of concern.

“While I think the asbestos issue can be addressed while [the] occupation continues by fencing the relevant area off, it’s not yet clear whether construction activity will be able to be safely undertaken without disturbing the occupation area,” Foster said.

Foster said everyone was wondering “where this goes” if it escalated.

“The whole sorry Shelly Bay saga has seen the application of power on multiple occasions against those opposing the proposed development and denial of rights for meaningful engagement over this special place.”

Foster said forcibly removing protesters was not a situation anyone wanted to face.

“That could get very difficult, very ugly, and there’s the potential for people getting hurt and that’s what we want to try and avoid if we possibly can.”

Everyone needed to remain calm and measured, Foster said

Foster has been a long-standing opponent of the way the development planned for Shelly Bay has been handled.

He announced his 2019 mayoral campaign there, although has always insisted he didn’t run a one-issue campaign.

Sir Peter Jackson, who owns several properties on Miramar Peninsula, also opposes the development.

He financially backed Foster’s campaign to the tune of $30,000 through his companies- Weta Digital, Park Road Post and Portsmouth Rentals.

Mau Whenua spokesman Wayne Makarini said the kaupapa at Shelly Bay was about a mandate, process, and representation.

Port Nicholson Block Settlement Trust made moves to sell the land it owned there in 2016, but failed to get the necessary 75 per cent majority vote.

Instead, the land was sold separately in parcels to Shelly Bay developer Ian Cassels, it’s alleged by Mau Whenua, as a way around the deal being classified as a major transaction.

The Trust has maintained the sale did not constitute a major transaction nor were they taken advantage of by developers.

Three parcels of land were sold for $2 million in 2017, a fraction of the original cost. A fourth parcel was later sold for $10 million.

“They were told no and they’ve gone ahead and done it anyway”, Makarini said.

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