The week that was: Winners, Losers, the Confused, Campaigning Kicks Off, and Chris Calvi-Freeman fronts Shelly Bay

Where to start this week? A lot of activity, most of it pointless, the campaign machine kicks into second gear spawning yet more banality, priorities are all over the place, and we get some further information on Shelly Bay courtesy of Chris Calvi-Freeman.

We’re going to take a closer look at Justin, sorry, Labour’s campaign to sew up the voting bloc at Council next triennium in another post. The Mayor’s campaign launched this week with no other contender in sight.

Let’s start the week with the downright confused. You could be forgiven for thinking that the Councillors didn’t have a clue amongst them after their last meeting which the Dominion Post reported under the headline ‘What did I just vote on?’: Wellington City Council debates buses, rents, greenhouse gases and other things out of its control.

It was an epic shambles that leaned into the comedic drama of a British sitcom along the lines of “The Thick of It.” I’m not going to try and contextualise the three-hour meeting; I’m just going to list some quotes from the article.

  • “Sorry, what happened to the alcohol one?” – Unknown Councillor losing track of things.
  • “What did I just vote on?” – Brian Dawson, confused.
  • “By the time this meeting is finishes, we’re not going to be so young.” – Sarah Free. I note we won’t be so young by the time Sarah gets around to commenting on Shelly Bay.
  • “Another opportunity for us to fly our flag.” Chris Calvi-Freeman, on a Living Wage remit that amounted the United Nations writing a letter.
  • “Arrogant, ridiculous, and rather silly. I’ve never had a nanny but I’m sure a lot of people around this table would make excellent nannies.” Nicola Young.
  • “Neoliberal and the privatising model.” Fleur Fitzsimons, talking about the Public Transport Operating Model and forgetting that the council is run itself in a very neoliberal fashion.
  • “Particularly Terrible Operating Model.” Chris Calvi-Freeman, translating PTOM into what most of us think.

It just went on and on.

Everyone loses this week with the news that the central library is likely to be demolished, that getting library services up and running on life support will likely cost $2.7 million dollars (probably adding to the escalating rate increases), and priorities all over the place as the heart of the city literally is being slowly shut down with no plan in sight to restore it.

The imminent removal of Neil Dawson’s fern orb from Te Ngākau Civic Square is the latest of a series of setbacks for the so-called heart of Wellington. These include the closure of the Central Library and Civic Administration Building as earthquake hazards, the extended closure of the Town Hall to make it far less of a hazard, and the possible closure of the City to Sea Bridge due to structural weakness. It seems Wellington’s heart is in need of life-saving surgery. – Wellington Scoop

Housing continues to burst at the seams, and while consents for new homes are up, they are not nearly up far enough to cater for demand with the District Plan being described as “Close to breaking point.”

“It’s at a point now where it’s bending but not quite breaking, but it’s close to breaking point in places and we need to get those settings changed. It’s based on old numbers and old assumptions; we can’t live like that anymore.” – Brian Dawson

Of course, that situation is not going to change anytime soon with the need to change plans to allow more housing sure to hit local opposition across the board. It will eventually put a squeeze on the local economy as people will be unable to afford, let alone find, accommodation, putting the brakes on growth.

Winning this week is Chris Calvi-Freeman who has broken ranks on the Shelly Bay issue and made a series of well thought out comments (scroll to the bottom) about the situation in this Wellington Scoop article. Some new facts provide insight and questions by concerned residents are answered as best Chris can without stepping into the total minefield that surrounds the issue.

Still absent from the debate are Sarah Free and Simon Marsh despite being Councillors in that ward. They are either petrified of talking about it or just too busy working on other issues to give some love to the residents who voted them in.

Time will tell how this issue plays out, we are likely due another missive from Peter Jackson any day now and the rumour mill about various deals over the bay is still in overdrive.

The news of the week, of course, is Labour’s campaign to get Justin back in as Mayor along with several Labour party hacks. More on that later today.

Others are starting down the campaign trail with gushy social media activity on the increase.

Digby Paape and the Wellington Party also seem to be starting to campaign with an event scheduled for 21st May.

Digby will talk about why the Wellington Party was founded & what they want to achieve for the city and its residents.

The Wellington Party intends giving ratepayers the opportunity to elect a suite of candidates with experience in management, not political dogma.

With the next local authority election taking place on government election taking place on 12 October – this is your opportunity to tell the Wellington Party what concerns you about the management of our city and what you’d like your Council to focus on.

The Wellington Party, formerly known as Wellington First was founded by former councillor Bryan Weyburne and businessman Digby Paape. Both Weyburne and Paape were instrumental in rates-reduction group Rates Reform from the late 1970s to early 1990s which successfully got candidates onto Hutt and Wellington councils.

It would be fair to say the Wellington Party isn’t too impressed with the current Mayor and his leadership of the Wellington City Council. They think that under Justin Lester there has been too much money frittered away on vanity projects, the adoption of an anti-car mentality that has prioritised bicycles and cycleways over fixing traffic congestion, and the removal of car parking in the central city. They don’t see rate increases as inevitable, believing Councils should stick to their knitting and learn to live within their means. – Source

Perhaps we are about to see a mayoral candidate step up.