Eastern Ward: There be dragons and a tale of three Councillors

What a lovely shambles you are Eastern Ward. Wedged in between the city and airport, surrounded on three sides by the harbour and open ocean you’re the darling of the movie industry and have a diverse range of residents from the mega-rich to the super-poor.

Eastern Ward has two independent Councillors along with one Green backed appointee. As we will see, one of those Councillors has been high-profile and outspoken, one a quiet force for policy, and the other somewhat missing in action.

Issues for the Eastern Ward are simple. Transport in a now heavily congested area at most times of the day, a severe lack of housing despite having much land that could be released for development, and Shelly Bay and the hills above.

Sarah Free

The Eastern Ward likes Sarah Free. Riding, mostly, on the Green ticket, she was the leader of the pack in the last election by nearly seven hundred votes. She claimed an additional thousand votes over her first outing in 2013.

Quiet and understated, Sarah is smart and after winning moved her family out to Eastern Ward, a gesture that many appreciate. It is considered very poor form to live a Ward that is different from the one you are sitting in or campaigning for.

Sarah has two portfolios; Walking and Cycling, and Public Transport Infrastructure.

You can’t argue with the success of the first portfolio. Love or loathe them; cycle ways have popped up all over the city.

As to the public transport side of things, it’s a bit of a poisoned chalice. Residents are still firmly of the belief that the WCC is responsible for bus services, when in fact, it is the sole domain of the GWRC. Sarah has made a few small gains in this area, and her Twitter feed shows that she is close to the ongoing issues. Certainly, she has had far more impact than other Councillors in this area.

Sarah is not going anywhere this election. She is well-known and well-respected. I would expect her margin over Simon Marsh to grow even larger.

Our only criticism would be that Sarah has remained silent on significant issues for the Eastern Ward, those being Shelly Bay and transport in general. That could pull some votes back for her this election.

Simon Marsh

Simon has been very quiet this triennium. Very, very quiet. It’s hard for us to put our finger on what he has been up to over the last two and a half years.

Simon’s portfolios are Economic Development, Small Business (joint), and Events.

Now, as someone who spends a lot of time watching Wellington’s Economic Development statistics and the owner of a small business, I can safely say that we aren’t all that impressed. Economic development is not fantastic as we know, and small business was promised a lot in the last election campaign of which pretty much nothing has been delivered.

We’ve had a few events, but we’ve missed out on so many more due to the ongoing spat between promoters, the Council, and Council owned organisations. It’s held us back in deference of Auckland, Christchurch, and Dunedin that have all seen increases in quality events. We also hear a rumour that the much-vaunted new arena, slated for the waterfront, is going nowhere but backwards.

Like Sarah Free, Simon seems reluctant to front any sensitive issues out East, remaining stubbornly silent on Shelly Bay and the ongoing fracas.

I think Simon may be in danger of losing out this election if a strong candidate comes to the fore. It’s a big if, as we will see, but it’s possible. The name recognition only goes so far and when you have two other Councillors, Sarah Free and Chris Calvi-Freeman, whose stars and profiles are rising, Simon is in danger of being the weakest link.

Chris Calvi-Freeman

Chris Calvi-Freeman has been an outspoken Councillor over the past triennium and tends to be quite polarising. He’s never short of an opinion and is one of my favourite Councillors because he is engaged.

Chris’s portfolio is Transport. Now we can all agree that this is an area that has gone backwards in the past two and a half years, through no great fault of his own. Traffic is at a standstill, and LGWM is looking like that angry Shetland Pony in the paddock that no one can get near.

Still, he has had the guts to speak out on local issues such as Shelly Bay where other local Councillors have remained quiet. He has strong views on transport that he is happy to debate and defend. When he does write, it is generally from the heart with good facts backing up his argument.

I see no reason he won’t get another term, and in terms of pure numbers, he beat Simon Marsh in the last election.

Other Contenders

So far, we only have one other candidate out East, and we’ve mentioned her before. Teri O’Neill is one of the youngest campaigners, the other candidate around the same age is having a crack at Lambton Ward and is riding the Labour ticket.

Having the Labour tick will not assure Teri a win this election as we saw a similar candidate put up by the Party in Lynda McGregor, last election, who trailed nearly seven hundred votes behind Chris and Simon.

Teri is going to have to break ranks with the Labour machine and take some positions on contentious issues, like Shelly Bay, which so far, she has been reluctant to do, to differentiate her position and gain some profile. She’s been asked publicly before to outline her policy but has not been forthcoming as yet.

While no other contenders have come forward, rumours abound. A strong, independent, name recognised candidate, in this ward, would kick Simon Marsh to the touchline. There are a lot of activated groups out here who could fund a firebrand for the Eastern Ward. Including Peter the Dragon.