Sir Peter Jackson is throwing his money behind Wellington's latest mayoral hopeful, putting the Shelly Bay saga firmly on the agenda for this year's local body elections.
It's understood the filmmaker will be bankrolling councillor Andy Foster, who is confirming his run for the capital's mayoralty at an announcement this afternoon. Jackson is expected to attend the announcement.
An email has been sent to Weta employees, asking those who are "passionate about the Shelly Bay issue" to join Jackson in support.
Foster has always said he'd consider running for the mayoralty if he could get the support and financial backing.
A Facebook event has been created inviting members of the public to join Foster at Shelly Bay for an "important announcement" at 4pm.
"Andy has been an important voice in challenging the Shelly Bay consent and questioning the integrity of the council process," it reads.
Jackson's ongoing keyboard battle with Shelly Bay developers and Wellington City Council has been publicly aired several times this year.
In March an email, provided to the Herald, showed Jackson and partner Dame Fran Walsh were invited to a meeting with prominent property developer Ian Cassels and the Port Nicholson Block Settlement Trust to talk about how they might "be involved" in the development.
"As you know, we're loyal Wellingtonians who care deeply about our city, and we want to see it prosper. However, we see little point in having this meeting at the moment," Jackson said the email.
"Fran and I are not, and never will be, interested in associating with a team who seem determined to turn Shelly Bay into something that has been described as 'Sausalito' - but which, in reality, will invoke blocks of Soviet-era apartments dumped on Wellington's picturesque peninsula."
In April he took to his Facebook page promising to start posting emails between himself and Mayor Justin Lester.
He invited any New Zealanders, particularly Wellingtonians, to join him in the fight to save Shelly Bay.
In another pointed attack on Wellington City Council, Jackson said he was deeply concerned about the council's approach to the development near his home suburb of Miramar, and on a dilapidated military site where he previously planned and failed to build a movie museum and convention centre.
"It has been alleged the conduct of some Wellington City Council officers might be reminiscent of the unsavoury political practices normally found in countries like Albania (and that's with apologies to Albania)."
Lester has previously said Jackson was entitled to his views, but he did not share them.
"All Wellingtonians recognise there is a housing crisis within our country and our city. We will do everything within our power to increase all forms of housing supply," he said.
"It's difficult to try to build more houses when somebody is always willing to oppose but that situation is not sustainable for the country."
In response to news of Jackson's support for Foster, Lester today said he was focused on working for Wellingtonians, rather than for one individual.
"This is more than just a single issue city," he said, pointing out there were a number of priorities such as housing, transport, and reopening the central library.
"Shelly Bay is important to resolve but it's a private land ownership issue," he said, adding opposition to it was "nimbyism".
But Foster said at his announcement he was not running on a single issue, and that Lester should try to focus on his own campaign.
Foster plans to look at bringing back free parking on Sundays, wants to deliver bus priority and "resurrect" the airport flyer, keep rates down, and wants to expand boutique food and beverage manufacture.
In a speech at his announcement, he said the city was "losing its way" and needed stronger leadership.
He said councils needed to be "an extension of the people, not at odds with the people".
Jackson told NZME he wasn't personally giving Foster money, but that companies he was associated with - including Weta and Park Road Post - were. He could not say how much money was being put into Foster's campaign.
"I'm not a political person, I'm not really doing this for politics," he said.
"I don't know whether Andy's left, right, or going around in circles. I'm just supporting him because he seems to have moral integrity."