WCC Elections 2019: Pollyanna vs the Chamber of Awkward Questions. Could a kiwi in everyone’s backyard solve our problems?

An underwhelming response across the board for Justin Lester’s announcement that he is going to run for Mayor again with a series of policies that don’t appear to align with the actual issues that the city is interested in.

In what is quickly becoming known online as “a Kiwi for everyone’s back yard” campaign thanks to Peter Gilberd, our city scientist better known for buying a pine forest in Tawa, the reaction to new policy has been underwhelming.

It’s my opinion that Wellington is not doing that well and there continues to be a concerted Pollyanna approach to public relations, telling us that everything is just fine. It’s dangerous because unless our wannabe leaders start to tackle the main issues, then the city faces a mountain of debt in outlying years, which will have to be passed onto ratepayers, as the economy slowly tanks and the sea level rises.

On top of that, unless there is some good public debate over the hard issues then the voter turnout this year is going to be abysmal.

Dramatic I know, yes yes. Fair enough.

As Dave Armstrong pointed out in an Op-Ed in this morning’s paper, we need a Mayoral candidate, or candidates, to stand up and start asking the hard questions. Otherwise, we are going to roll into another triennium where Pollyanna continues to appear at regular intervals telling everyone to shush, that it will be alright, swallow the increases in costs, and just go back to sleep. Shhhh…

So, let’s ask some awkward questions, and maybe, just maybe, some candidates will appear and answer them. Stranger things have happened.

What are we going to do about seriously increasing congestion, associated climbing emissions, and a failed public transport system?

It’s a complete shambles out there people. We’ve got cycle lanes going in where we don’t need cycle lanes, cycle lanes not going in where they should be, ghost buses, unreliable trains, gridlock north of the city, gridlock east of the city, gridlock everywhere and at increasingly strange times, not just peak.

Pollyanna says that we should just wait for LGWM and everything will be ok. That we’ll see a major multi-billion-dollar announcement soon and everything will be fine. Only it won’t. The Labour and Green influence over transport has a) impacted any future plans for a multi-modal model while at the same time b) completely failed to arrest the collapse of public transport across the city.

Further, waiting for LGWM means watching that situation continue to get worse for well over the next decade because it will take at least that long to do anything, other than put cycle lanes into places that don’t need them.

So, what are you going to do candidates?

What are you going to do about Shelly Bay?

As I’ve written before it’s an issue that will not go away and while some current Councillors are chatting around the edges the reality is that there are major questions that need to be answered, including the Council’s role to date and what happens next, with increased calls for consultation with the public.

Pollyanna says nothing about this. She’s hiding, in a cave, behind a door, praying that the pitchfork wielding locals get bored and start on another issue. “The INDEPENDENT COMMISSIONERS will save us!”, says Pollyanna, while every day that goes by raises more and more issues around the entire cluster… erm, situation.

When are rates rises going to be capped because, in outlying years, we are looking at planned increases of more than 50% compound?

The rates costs, for what we get as residents, in this city, are ludicrous and growing more expensive by the day, in my opinion. Driven by vanity projects and the pushing out debt and essential projects into outlying years, those same rates are going to help slow the local economy as renters and owners won’t have as much free cash to spend.

Pollyanna says “if you stopped eating smashed avocado and having a daily latte you can afford new rates rises! Besides! Instead of rates increases proposed of 95% this year we kept it down at less than 10%!”

Stop spending on dumb projects that never get started, let alone finished, and start spending on the bread and butter basics.

What are we doing about Climate Change and emissions?

Putting aside the appalling congestion, questions need to be asked about the continued support for the airport extension (and in fact ownership in the airport), which is one of the largest polluters in the city. Not to be outdone though, we are going to build a 1950’s convention centre that will drive travel through the ceiling as well. Well, it won’t, because we know that the “if you build it they will come” mentality around these projects from times gone by never eventuates.

We’re going to support (I think) a development at Shelly Bay which will eventually be swamped, along with the airport, the Cobham Drive cycle lane, and a large proportion of the CBD. Recycling has gone horribly wrong, and we replaced an all-electric fleet of buses, powered by mostly renewable energy, with ancient diesel puffing monstrosities.

Pollyanna says “We’re committed to a Zero Carbon Capital! Ummm. Here! Look! Shiny online calculators and a special consultation website where you can vent! I mean… enter your ideas and stuff!”

What about the homeless and housing affordability?

Where is the central government in this? Both the Ministry of Social Development and the Ministry of Housing need to sort their proverbial out, and we would expect the Council to provide leadership in that process.

There are technically 3,400 homeless in the region, and that is according to the 2013 census. We all know it has got worse. I know of three families that have had to move out of the region because they can’t secure housing, and while anecdotal, that situation is very much on the rise.

Pollyanna says “We’re really good at housing and we think there are only around 70 – 80 homeless people that need homes!”

What on earth are we doing about earthquake issues and the impending apartment crash?

Try getting insurance for an apartment in the CBD. I dare you. If you can find someone who’ll sell you insurance, prepare to pay three times your rates bill to get it.

Worse, with shifting rules around earthquake strengthening prepare to pay tens of thousands more in body-corporate fees and the cost of upgrades.

How many buildings have been now shut down with the threat of demolition hanging over their heads and how many more are in the same category? How are we going to manage this expected city growth if we don’t sort this out?

Pollyanna doesn’t have a lot to say on this one.

What about the suburbs?

There is almost no focus on the suburbs surrounding the CBD that have been largely neglected for some years. Instead, the liveable city seems to allude to the CBD itself where major investment has been made in a lot of areas. Not carparks though, no sir, dirty carparks must go!

What are candidates going to do to revitalise suburbs outside of the CBD? Let’s face it, with traffic issues we are going to be spending a lot more time trapped there.

Pollyanna is missing in action on this issue.

How will you restore trust in the Council?

Consultation continues to be woeful, and on the toughest issues, it seems that the Council runs a country mile. Redaction on requests for information, information that is owned by and owed to the residents, has become an art form.

Frequently trust is raised in all manner of forums and the answer is generally “Everyone else is wrong, we’re right, thanks for raising your concerns, we’re off to build a Convention Centre or two.”

If you want to see the direct impact of that, then look at the fact that we have no new candidates running for Mayor and almost no new candidates running for Council. We’re done engaging. We’re heading for the worst local voting turnout in history because people have given up.

Most of us are a) pretty sure that the Council doesn’t know what it is doing and b) given up on trying to help them.

Pollyanna says “REDACTED.”

I’m sure it will be fine, a kiwi in everyone’s backyard is sure to solve all our issues.