East­bourne woman claims Shelly Bay

The Hutt News - - CONVERSATIONS - TOM HUNT

The $500 mil­lion de­vel­op­ment of Welling­ton’s Shelly Bay could be de­railed by a 131-year-old land trans­ac­tion.

Large ar­eas of the land Welling­ton City Coun­cil wants to sell or lease to de­vel­op­ers were owned by James Coutts Craw­ford un­til the Crown ac­quired it in 1886.

Now his great-great­grand­daugh­ter, Sarah Craw­ford, has set out to re­claim the fam­ily land, stop de­vel­op­ment and any pos­si­ble for­eign own­er­ship, and use it for recre­ation for all.

‘‘It’s the jewel in the crown of Welling­ton. It’s like Bas­tion Point in Auck­land,’’ the East­bourne woman said.

‘‘My dream is my chil­dren, and my fam­ily’s chil­dren, and friends’ chil­dren and all New Zealand’s chil­dren and great-grand­chil­dren are able to en­joy a nat­u­ral green area and have the plea­sure of be­ing able to use it till in­fin­ity.’’

Un­der cur­rent plans, the Port Ni­chol­son Block Set­tle­ment Trust and The Welling­ton Com­pany – un­der the ban­ner Shelly Bay Ltd – have been granted non-no­ti­fied re­source con­sent by the coun­cil to de­velop 350 new prop­er­ties be­side Welling­ton Har­bour and a bou­tique ho­tel.

But Craw­ford be­lieves that, un­der the Pub­lic Works Act, the coun­cil has to of­fer the land for sale to her and her rel­a­tives be­fore it can agree to sell it to de­vel­op­ers.

Ac­cord­ing to lawyer Jamie Nunns, a part­ner at law firm Mor­ri­son Kent, she has an ar­guable case. The coun­cil, how­ever, says she does not.

The ar­gu­ments hang on whether Craw­ford is deemed a ‘‘suc­ces­sor’’ to her great-great-grand­fa­ther un­der the Pub­lic Works Act.

The act de­crees that, sub­ject to cer­tain ex­cep­tions, land should be of­fered back to the per­son it was taken from, or their ‘‘suc­ces­sor’’.

The coun­cil ar­gues that James Craw­ford, who died in 1889, named five suc­ces­sors in his will, and all of them had died by 1940.

In March the coun­cil re­ceived a re­port look­ing at its obli­ga­tions un­der the Pub­lic Works Act, spokes- man Richard Ma­cLean said.

Sarah Craw­ford might be a de­scen­dant, but that was ir­rel­e­vant. ‘‘The leg­is­la­tion only goes as far as to refer to suc­ces­sors. Ms Craw­ford is not a suc­ces­sor.

‘‘Suc­ces­sor means the per­son who would have been en­ti­tled to the land un­der the will or in­tes­tacy of that per­son had he owned the land at the date of his death.’’

But Nunns said: ‘‘The short an­swer is that she might well be [a suc­ces­sor], and she has an ar­guable case.

‘‘More work would need to be done, and there would need to be an ap­pli­ca­tion to the court to de­ter­mine the is­sue. But my con­clu­sion is that [the coun­cil] can­not af­ford to dis­count that an of­fer may have been re­quired to be made.’’

Welling­ton Com­pany di­rec­tor Ian Cas­sels said, if Craw­ford did get the land, she would be faced with the prob­lem of get­ting the coun­cil to fix age­ing in­fras­truc­ture – just as he was at present. ‘‘She may end up get­ting it, but what a poi­soned chal­ice that would be.’’

Set­tle­ment trust chair­man Wayne Mul­li­gan was un­aware of Craw­ford’s claim, but said he would watch what hap­pened ‘‘with in­ter­est’’.

The Shelly Bay case has a Welling­ton prece­dent of sorts. Gwyneth Ed­monds, owner of Ho­tel Ce­cil near the Welling­ton rail­way sta­tion, had it taken off her un­der emer­gency reg­u­la­tions in 1942 to ac­com­mo­date United States marines dur­ing World War II. She got £79,000 com­pen­sa­tion un­der the Pub­lic Works Act.

In 2005, her de­scen­dants went to court and suc­cess­fully proved they should have been of­fered the prop­erty back to buy at the same value it had when the Crown no longer needed it.

‘‘She may end up get­ting it, but what a poi­soned chal­ice that would be.’’

If the de­vel­op­ment goes ahead, Shelly Bay Rd is likely to need widen­ing, and in­fras­truc­ture will have to be pro­vided.

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