Exploratory drilling is underway on Miramar Peninsula in Wellington, raising concerns among some iwi members they could be in for the Shelly Bay saga all over again.
The Port Nicholson Block Settlement Trust (PNBST), which was established to receive and manage the treaty settlement package for Taranaki Whānui, has first right of refusal over land at the old Mt Crawford prison.
The surplus Corrections and Defence land sits above the site earmarked for development at Shelly Bay.
That $500 million development- featuring 350 new homes, a boutique hotel and a village green - has been bogged down in legal challenges and disputes since its conception.
It's the subject of a land occupation by a group called mau whenua, which includes some iwi members but is also open to anyone opposed to the development.
The group alleges PNBST should never have sold land at Shelly Bay to developers in the first place because the 2017 sale failed to get necessary support from iwi members to go ahead.
Some mau whenua members claim they are now being shut out of potential deals over Mt Crawford.
PNBST and the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development (MHUD) have signed a memorandum of understanding over the site to investigate whether it could be developed for housing.
Drilling could be seen getting underway in at least two different locations at Mt Crawford this week.
An MHUD spokesperson confirmed PNBST has organised geotechnical investigations as part of due diligence work.
Housing viability assessments include investigating infrastructure limitations, water supply, geotechnical status, and transportation.
It was too early in the process to assign a developer and no firm plans have been made, the MHUD spokesperson said.
Land Information New Zealand is currently responsible for the site and the disposal process of the crown land.
The ministry has previously said there is significant development potential there and considered it to be an ideal location for housing and KiwiBuild.
The development of Mt Crawford is a separate proposal to Shelly Bay.
But mau whenua member Shamia Makarini said they consider the whole peninsula as their whenua.
"It's not broken up into a Western model of titles."
Makarini said she felt like the trust was shutting them out and they don't know what's happening with the site.
"The fact of the matter is we are unsure of, as with Shelly Bay, what deals have been done in regards to the land at Mt Crawford and who those deals are with."
Mau whenua was not anti-development, Makarini said.
"We're pro-development, but it needs to be the right development and essentially what we're asking for is the right to make that decision."
She said she was disappointed when she found out about the drilling work.
PNBST has been approached for comment.