Wharves at Wellington's Shelly Bay have rotted to such an extent that floating debris has become a risk to boaties and swimmers using the harbour.
The structures have been in an unusable state for decades, but only continue to deteriorate for as long as the future of Shelly Bay hangs in the balance.
Consent for a development featuring 350 new homes has been granted, but a judicial review and a separate land ownership dispute case are currently before the courts.
Harbourmaster Grant Nalder has filed a report with Greater Wellington Regional Council (GWRC) after a member of the public recently raised concerns about a pile of washed up wood on the beach at Shelly Bay.
The wood was from a section of wharf that had collapsed, and was likely to do so further resulting in additional wood floating in the harbour.
Nalder reported half a day was spent recovering and disposing of the timber, which almost filled a whole trailer.
The incident was considered both a risk to swimmers and boaties using the harbour.
GWRC chairman Daran Ponter said it was a health and safety hazard.
"Effectively wood associated with the wharf structures, like the planks on top and the poles holding the wharves up, are being ripped away in bad weather and are floating into the harbour.
"If a significant piece of wood connects with a yacht, it has the potential of putting a hole in it."
The consent for the wharves expired a year ago. GWRC is the consent issuer and therefore acts as the regulator in this context.
Ponter said the owners of the wharves could either apply for a new coastal occupation consent or get rid of them all together.
"Removing wharf structures is an expensive exercise and can be why they ultimately fall into a poor state because the owners take no action on them."
He said the last course of action was for the regulatory authority, the council, to step in and work with the owners to get them to remove the structure.
Alternatively, the regional council also has the option to do the demolition itself and charge the cost back to the owner.
A 2017 question and answer document posted online by Wellington City Council said the wharves belonged to Shelly Bay Ltd, which is a Port Nicholson Block Settlement Trust company.
The trust was established in 2008 to receive and manage Taranaki Whānui's Tiriti o Waitangi settlement.
The document said the council had been advised the wharves were beyond repair and would cost $2 million to remove and about $13m to replace.
It said the proposed ferry service at Shelly Bay did not rely on the wharves and Shelly Bay Ltd had investigated an alternative solution for berthing.
GWRC confirmed the last consent holder for the wharves was Shelly Bay Ltd.
But it's not entirely clear who the ownership of the wharves has washed up with among the various transactions at Shelly Bay.
Nalder said in his report that the process of contacting the wharf owners was "challenging" and after emailing a collective group of parties was now dealing with a contractor for The Wellington Company.
Shelly Bay developer Ian Cassels is a director of The Wellington Company, but could not be reached for comment.
Development director Earl Hope-Pearson said they had been wanting to get on with the works since 2017 but been prevented by blocks.
"The Wellington Company and Taranaki Whānui remain committed to the redevelopment of Shelly Bay Taikuru and look forward to starting works, which includes a resolution for the wharf structures."
Port Nicholson Block Settlement Trust was informed by the Crown of the poor conditions of the wharves during settlement negotiations.
But the trust regardless chose to include them in their land purchase at Shelly Bay.
Public access to the wharves is closed.