The week that was; weird policy, the youngest candidate yet, ex-puppeteer runs for mayor, and a confusing pre-election report

“With the truth so dull and depressing, the only working alternative is wild bursts of madness and filigree.” 

Hunter S Thompson – Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72”

Out on the campaign trail the going gets weird this week with a string of strange occurrences, weird press releases, and general madness. None of the top issues are being talked about and candidates seem to be bouncing madly inside their own echo chambers like crazed bees.

What does the city need? Better public transport, better and more affordable housing, more affordable rates, a solid plan to prepare for climate change, a more resilient city and economy, and strong future plans.

What do the Labour candidates think we need? “More exciting” school holidays. It’s bad enough we seem to have a group of hivemind candidates running across the city, all endlessly repeating their master’s directives, but this is hilarious.

As the July school holidays finish, the Labour candidates for the Wellington City Council are pledging to make school holidays in Wellington in the future more exciting for residents and visitors by introducing a coordinated programme of events and activities for children and young people.

Labour candidates commit to “more exciting” school holidays in Wellington

I can’t wait for the next policy from this group. I really can’t.

Adding to the general madness a new Mayoral candidate appeared this week, a former puppeteer. Yes, you heard me right. Did he really appear, or was it a puppet of such realistic proportions we’d never know?

Mayor Justin Lester and his former campaign volunteer Conor Hill are going head-to-head for the mayoralty – but a former puppet theatre operator is the only one who has managed to file his candidacy forms so far.

Norbert Hausberg, 64, is at this stage the only one running for anything in Wellington City Council, with no other council or mayoral candidates officially in the mix yet. 

His two younger competitors for the mayoralty, Lester and Hill, have already declared their desire for the top job but haven’t sent in their paperwork.

Hausberg, who once ran a puppet theatre company and is now involved in a small real estate development in Carterton, has a different solution: abandon Civic Square for higher ground. 

His main issue is climate change and says work on many of the council’s major construction projects, including the Town Hall, is pointless if the whole square is going to be under water.

Mayor Justin Lester runs against his ex-campaign volunteer Conor Hill and former puppet theatre operator Norman Hausbert

Are we starting to have fun with this election yet? Let me hear you say hell yes. I am hoping like crazy that Norbert brings his puppets to the Mayoral debates, and, I would advise him to bring one for each of the other candidates so we can have a good old fashioned “Punch and Judy” show. Wouldn’t that be grand!

It’s all about youth this election and more and more young people are putting their hands up to run. We love this. You can hear the shrieking from the traditionalists from the top of Mt Victoria who are going to have to debate in their words, “children.” Oh you pesky kids…

Perfect. The more the merrier I say, it’s about time we shook this process up.

Teri O’Neill is running for Eastern Ward and Tamatha Paul for Lambton. For others there is a run down here by the Dominion Post.

Missed by media this week was perhaps the youngest candidate signalling their intention to stand. Steph Edlin.

Passionate about the growth and improvement of Wellington and its eastern suburbs. Independent candidate for Wellington City Council’s Eastern Ward.

It is going to make for an interesting run out East with Simon Marsh stepping down opening the way for a new Councillor. Right now, the only two that have declared to run are Teri and Steph. There is a good chance that we will see at least one of them sitting on Council come next year.

It was pre-election report time again this week and a glowing document was released to the public by the WCC Chief Executive. Sort of.

The press release read;

“It has been a busy three years and Wellington is thriving and growing,” said Mr Lavery.

“We are in a good position because of a lot of hard work. We have met and are still meeting challenges from the Kaikoura earthquake while continuing to deliver over 400 high-quality services to over 220,000 people every single day,” he said.

Wellington Pre-election Report released

It was met with a lot of skepticism around the political sphere and seemed to be countered by his interview with the Dominion Post that highlighted a series of red flags coming in the future.

Many of the city’s indicators are tracking well including quality of life statistics, unemployment, and average household income – all are higher than many other major New Zealand cities – but Wellington residents face tough trade-offs in the future, according to the report.

Fewer than 50 per cent of Wellingtonians believe the council makes decisions in the best interest of the city.

Wellington will have to “live with more water” thanks to climate change, the city’s share of the tourism market is “shrinking”, and it is “simply not possible” to keep a lid on rates due to a stack of bills the city faces that were never budgeted for.

City with a broken heart: Civic Square key focal point for election issues in CEO pre-election report

In the middle of the report, and article, is the elephant in the room. Less than half of us trust the Council.

Lindsay Shelton over at Wellington Scoop wrote an article with a number of questions that are to be answered by both the WCC and the GWRC that is worth reading.

I suppose it’s understandable that our two biggest councils are always telling us that they’re looking on the bright side of life. Typified by the city council’s Kevin Lavery this week announcing that Wellington is “in great shape … thriving and growing,” but later confirming there are costly decisions yet to be made about how to pay for strengthening the buildings around Civic Square, including the Square itself.

If rates are becoming out of control (and will there be council candidates willing to oppose endless annual rates increases?) it’s deplorable to find Kevin Lavery still mentioning the extravagantly-unnecessary covered arena as something the council wants to build. And though there’s an evident and undeniable need to save money, it seems he doesn’t want to postpone the $179m convention centre, in spite of the likelihood that it will also be a money-loser for the city.

Both sides now?

Rates are certainly becoming out of control. A quick read of projected rates levels shows a near 22% increase over the next five years and that doesn’t account for a series of violently expensive infrastructure costs that are not yet accounted.

Word on the street is that Civic Square and surrounds, by itself, is a billion dollar problem, for example.

With increasing calls to curb spending on vanity projects, restore the trust between residents and the Council, curb rate rises, and focus on basic infrastructure, candidates (unless they are Labour ticketed), have an excellent pile of ammunition on which to campaign.

No matter how old they are.