Wellington's mayor has challenged Sir Peter Jackson to a debate on the merits of a controversial housing development that has sparked another searing critique from the filmmaker.
In a 5000-word Facebook post published to his 2 million followers, Sir Peter attacked the Wellington City Council’s handling of the development at Shelly Bay in Miramar, where he lives.
It’s his second missive on the subject in a month and won’t be his last, with a warning it is only going to get "more ugly".
Property developer The Wellington Company and local iwi want to build 350 homes, a rest home and a boutique hotel at Shelly Bay, which is an old and dilapidated air force base.
Sir Peter’s Facebook post includes emails from council officers and directs dozens of questions at “Justin” – the mayor, Justin Lester.
He likens council staff to "snake oil salesmen" and makes comparisons to corruption-plagued Albania.
"It has been alleged the conduct of some WCC officers might be reminiscent of the unsavoury political practices normally found in countries like Albania (and that’s with apologies to Albania.)"
Sir Peter questions the council’s transparency over infrastructure costs and says the organisation’s communications have a "nudge, nudge, wink, wink" tone.
"That the WCC is prepared to ignore the advice of its own experts is deeply concerning, but it comes as a shock to see the ease that Wellington ratepayers are being thrown under the bus (assuming there is actually a bus service operating at the time).
"And why should they care? There's no accountability, and the council appear to have a well-oiled practice of slipping huge budget blow-outs through the system with minimal public outcry," Sir Peter said.
Mayor Lester says Sir Peter’s claims are "simply not accurate". He says he has not sought legal advice.
"I’m not going to stoop to that level, I’m going to make sure we focus on making good decisions in the best interest of Wellingtonians."
He says the city is short of 4000 homes and the Shelly Bay development would help contribute to that. He's open to a discussion with the movie mogul.
"I’m very happy to sit down with Sir Peter in a public and transparent way and have a debate in front of Wellingtonians."
Development director Earl Hope-Pearson said Sir Peter’s allegations are “dangerously factually incorrect” and that previous claims of bias towards the developer were ruled out in the Court of Appeal.
Last year, the court quashed an earlier decision granting resource consent.
Mr Hope-Pearson said application for a new resource consent is imminent.