Mau Whenua requests investigation into Shelly Bay land sale vote
An investigation has been requested into alleged conflicts of interest relating to a Wellington City Council vote to sell and lease land for the controversial Shelly Bay redevelopment.
City councillors voted 9-6 in November to sell and lease land for the planned $500 million redevelopment on Wellington’s Miramar Peninsula, despite the project being the subject of two separate legal challenges.
The redevelopment is a joint venture between the Port Nicholson Block Settlement Trust, representing local iwi Taranaki Whānui, and developer Ian Cassels’ The Wellington Company.
However, Mau Whenua, a group comprising iwi members who did not support selling the land, called on Tuesday for Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta to investigate conflicts of interest it believes three councillors failed to declare.
Those councillors were Jill Day, Tamatha Paul, and Nicola Young.
“At this point, I request that you as minister of local government investigate the actions of Wellington City councillors in relation to the proposed Wellington Company development at Marukaikuru/Shelly Bay,” an email to Mahuta, written by a Mau Whenua member representing the group, said.
The group believed Day had failed to raise a conflict of interest relating to the charitable organisation Nikau Foundation, which she has publicly listed as a declared business interest. Day is a trustee of the foundation.
It believes Day should have pointed out her association with the foundation because Cassels is a listed supporter, and former long-time ambassador, and stood to financially gain from the sale.
The group believed Young should have declared a conflict because she received donations of $5000 and $1408 from Cassels for her 2016 mayoral campaign.
The allegation against Paul related to comments she made before voting at the council meeting on November 11, during which she said she did not want to “betray” the various people who had gifted the council venue names and karakia, and taught some councillors about the history of the harbour.
Mau Whenua claimed those “personal relationships” had created a conflicted of interest, but Paul clarified on Tuesday that she was referring to various groups and members of mana whenua, not trust personnel.
“A decision made from a te ao Māori perspective takes into account the complexity of relationships with others – whanaungatanga – and that is not a conflict of interest,” Paul said.
Young said she was advised by former mayor Justin Lester not to take part in a 2017 vote on selling the land – the matter was last year put to a second vote following a resource consent challenge – because the donations from Cassels had been received too close to the vote. There was no legal requirement not to vote, she said.
“I will always do what I think is the right thing for Wellington.”
The second vote was in a different election period, and Young had not received any donations from Cassels in that time, she said.
Day said she had declared her ties with the Nikau Foundation through the council’s public records.
“I am confident I have acted appropriately and that no conflict has arisen.”
Mau Whenua had been preparing a legal challenge to fight a previous sale of land from the trust to Shelly Bay Investments in 2017, but that High Court challenge has been put on hold due to a lack of funding.
Trust beneficiary and former chairman Neville Baker said he did not believe the allegations would change anything.
“I don’t believe the allegations are actually correct. Had they [Mau Whenua] gone to the High Court, we would have tested all that.
“I believe that those council members acted in good faith, and used good judgment.”
Local business association Enterprise Miramar is awaiting a High Court decision on its own challenge against resource consent granted for the development.