Wellington City Council has hit back at Sir Peter Jackson's lawyers over Shelly Bay, characterising their requests as "something of a misfire".
The to-ing and fro-ing over the controversial housing development is about a Wellington City Council vote back in 2017 to sell and lease its land at Shelly Bay, leaving chief executive Kevin Lavery with the authority to make the final transaction.
But ahead of local body elections last year, Lavery said the matter would instead go back to the council for reconsideration due to the high level of public interest.
Recently incoming chief executive Barbara McKerrow gave an update on the situation, saying "work will progress in line with the council's September 27, 2017, resolution".
Mayor Andy Foster has since said that wording could have been clearer.
The wording prompted a legal letter written on behalf of Jackson and his partner Dame Fran Walsh, which was sent to McKerrow and copied in all councillors.
It wanted confirmation by 5pm today that the sale and lease matter would "promptly" be referred back to the council for a re-vote and no further action would be taken in the meantime, including negotiations over terms and conditions.
"In the absence of confirmation, we will recommend applying to the High Court urgently for orders preserving the status quo and that any steps taken after this letter are void."
This afternoon Wellington City Council has posted on its website a copy of a letter in response from one of its lawyers.
Richard Fowler QC said he regretted to advise the requested confirmations would not be given.
"Indeed, in one aspect the requests may be something of a fire misfire," he said.
The situation was not a matter of promptness but of readiness, Fowler said.
"It is purely a matter of scheduling, in other words, once all the relevant material and reports are completed and assembled, it will be referred back to the council."
Doing that required councillors to explore the possible commercial terms, he said.
"Suspending that work would appear to sabotage the very object of your clients' first requested confirmation.
"In any event, I very much doubt that how a local authority chief executive officer manages and directs his/her officers' work or work streams would ever be a justiciable matter that would interest the High Court."
Earlier this week, mayor Andy Foster issued a statement over the situation, clarifying there was no change and the matter would come back to the council in due course, but that would likely be several months away.
Senior council officers were working on the terms and conditions of the sale and lease of the land, he said.
That was so councillors have all relevant information before them when it landed back on their table for a final decision, he said.