Most of the Western Ward current Councillors are shoot first and ask questions later except for one grizzled campaigner. So far only one person has stood up to take on this unlikely posse this year.
There’s been plenty of hooting, hollering, and howling from Simon Woolf over the last triennium while his offsider, Diane Calvert, has the hallmarks of an iron lady, gripping her handbag, ready to bounce it over the head of any issue that looks like it needs helping along. Andy Foster balances out the two wildcards. All three are independent candidates, lending strong credibility to their actions.
The West faces a range of issues of which the top two have to be transport and housing. Transport in as much as the routes into the CBD continue to become more congested and are at risk of a natural disaster. Housing is a tough ask with plenty of local groups mobilising to challenge the concept of in-fill housing.
Andy Foster is the Sherriff of Karori. With a Sam Elliott grin that is just missing the trademark moustache, Andy has been a Councillor longer than most, since 1992. He has a string of portfolios that include Urban Development, Finance, Predator Free Wellington, and the Karori Framework.
An independent, Andy has never been afraid to challenge the status quo thinking of officers and Council proper, often with well researched and reasoned arguments.
With the benefit of experience, he writes well, tackling issues that lesser Councillors run a mile from, such as Shelly Bay. Here’s a recent piece that takes on a slew of sensitive issues around the ongoing Shelly Bay saga.
In any Council that was not led by a Labour Party Mayor, Andy would have been deputy by now. He smashed his nearest opponent in the last election by a cool 1,400 votes and will romp back in this time around.
There are unsubstantiated rumours that Andy is running for Mayor. His profile is high right now as he continues to speak out on issues across the city and with his profile, he’d have a good chance at the chains.
Simon Woolf is a photographer of note and a thorn in the side of the officers from time to time. From publishing pictures of rubbish around the city, chasing buses, publicly criticising officers, and earning more time in the CEO and Mayor’s “naughty chair” than any other Councillor, he is somewhat of a force of nature in local politics.
Simon is the Ambassador for Wellington. I rather suspect that the Mayor thought that this role would leave him travelling around sister-cities where he could cause less outrage, rather like what Helen Clark did to Winston Peters.
But our local version of “Old Naughty” continues to be outspoken, enjoy a high-profile, and is also tipped to be considering a run at the Mayoralty. In a two or three horse race, Simon might have a chance at being Mayor because of his high-visibility and good name recognition across the city.
Regardless, he’ll get back in comfortably.
You can see that Diane spends a lot of time thinking and much time being frustrated by seemingly simple solutions she can see but lie just out of reach thanks to the bureaucratic nightmare that is Council process.
Diane’s portfolio is Community Planning and Engagement, a horrible area of responsibility for a newish Councillor. It is a portfolio that will always be damned, regardless of how it is executed, because someone is always going to be disappointed in the outcome of any engagement process, and often the process is blamed.
Which is fair to a degree, because the engagement process, or should we say processes, are convoluted, disparate, siloed, and often bias in their representation. What we could say in the positive is that we seem, I don’t have the data, to have more people engaging in consultations.
Diane has been visible through the last triennium and intends to run again, both her and Simon Woolf seem to be good running mates, as this press release suggests.
It is likely that Diane will retain the role unless a strong candidate appears. She was well ahead of the competition in the last election.
The only other contender we know of so far is Rebecca Matthews, running under the Labour ticket. There is nothing new in the way of policy here, following the well-worn Labour policies across the board. A relative unknown that Labour branding is going to need to go a long way in a ward that has three solid, independent, Councillors.