Wellington’s Mayoralty Race; Puppet, Puppeteer, Blue-Green, Mathematician, and Mr Hill – What are their chances?

As time ticks along more and more mayoral candidates are coming to the fore. The early declarers have had great coverage with Conor Hill the only candidate for some weeks taking the lion’s share of media interest. As the runner’s gather, the coverage is diluted, while the incumbent through virtue of his day-to-day job, remains high-profile. So who’s who in the zoo?


a place where animals are kept and trained especially for exhibition

a strange or diverse collection of people or things

You can choose which definition you want to apply to the mayoral campaigners.

First up, best dressed, Justin Lester. It’s bloody hard to roll an incumbent Mayor and it’s hard to roll one that is being backed by what is arguably the largest political party in the country. But it is possible.

Increasingly, Justin is being painted as a Labour Party Puppet, by competitors and commentators, along with several other current Councillors and the new candidates that have stepped up. Frankly, that’s not such a bad thing in a city that has traditionally voted Labour and held major strongholds for many decades in various city Wards.

LGWM could hurt his chances, a little bit, given that transport is definitely the top of the list of resident concerns. Like it or not, the WCC is often held responsible for the bus fiasco (even though it has nothing to do with them) and that may swing a few votes away.

But helping the cause this time around is the fact we don’t have a Nick Leggett or Jo Coughlan in the running and I think that those who voted for Nick are more likely to vote for Justin than anyone else. Aside from the Blue-Green candidate, Jenny Condie, the votes for a Jo Coughlan figure are likely to be dispersed.

What we haven’t seen, yet, is a true blue candidate and despite promises from The Wellington Party to the contrary, none had been forthcoming.

Justin’s strategy really has to be to maintain the line, keep it simple, leverage off his frequent media coverage, and keep avoiding the top issues like the plague. In addition, he has to fight the growing belief that the WCC hasn’t actually achieved a lot of anything in the last triennium and may have stumbled over a number of key issues, including Shelly Bay.

Jenny Condie, a self-declared “Blue-Green” was once described by Gareth Morgan as a “pain the arse.” That will probably garner who quite a few votes from people who considered Gareth Morgan to be a “gigantic pain in the arse.”

Jenny is a blue-green with a background in business and government. She has a PhD in accounting and entrepreneurship, and has worked at The Treasury.

“I’m a total nerd,” she admitted. “I’m someone who reads every line in a page full of numbers. I joked that my campaign slogan could be ‘Vote for Condie – she reads the fine print.’”

Jenny entered politics as a list candidate and Tax Spokesperson for The Opportunities Party in the 2017 election.

“I love teaching at University, but when I became a mum, I felt driven to get stuck in making the world better for my boys in concrete ways. I know it sounds super cheesy, but cliches exist for a reason!”

As mayor, Jenny will work across the left-right divide to improve business productivity in Wellington, while leading the city to a low-carbon future.

Jenny Condie – a “blue-green” – becomes third mayoral candidate for Wellington

Where Jenny may struggle is being able to connect with the average resident. Please, I am not demeaning residents intelligence, I am pointing out the fact that someone who is clearly of high intelligence can sometimes be off putting to the average punter who is wondering why their drains overflow in the rain, the bus doesn’t turn up, and the rent went up again that week.

She is also going to have to attack the current Mayor’s record. In fact, all of the candidates are going to have to do that, hopefully with respect. Note I said attack the record, not the person. Getting the pinch bar into the proverbial gaps that this Council has leaking all over the place, pulling them apart, then putting them back together with simple, saleable, solutions is key.

“I’m concerned about low productivity, climate change, housing affordability, and mental health. The good news is research from the Productivity Commission shows that the solutions to many of these problems are the same. We need compact neighbourhoods with frequent transit between them and public spaces, where we bump into each other to create social cohesion and business innovation.”

That’s a nice, dense, policy statement that is going to have to be unpacked quickly, and simply.

It is also notable that Jenny is young, along with Justin and Conor, and should potentially be buddying up to Tamatha Paul and Steph Edlin to secure Mayoral votes from (hopefully) the surge in students who will engage this year. OK, ok, that’s a lot of “ifs”, “buts”, and connections, the point is that the youth will not only vote for Councillors they’ll also vote for the Mayor.

Jenny is also running for Councillor in the Northern Ward against a strong trio. The easiest defeated there, as we’ve mentioned before, is Jill Day who has very little profile. Taking on the two grey men in Tawa is a near impossible task given the demographics of the Ward. Jenny has a good chance with that task as running for Mayor bumps your profile far above just running for a Councillor role.

I’m going to say maybe not this time? But, stranger things have happened and politics is a long game.

I’m a 36 year-old who wrote a blog about how to make Wellington a better place to live, under the title ‘Conor Hill for Mayor’. People started taking the title seriously, so I did too.

Conor Hill

Will Conor Hill become King of the Hill? I know, I know, a tabloid title for your entertainment. Mr Hill has entered the race with a bang and has a high-profile thanks to the fact that other candidates have left it so late to run, giving Conor the lion’s share of media coverage in the last month.

Where Conor is going to be wary of is his similarity to Justin Lester. I’ve seen him described as “Justin Lester with a beard.” The hipster version of Lester? Not such a bad characterisation.

Get past the beard and the Conor’s policies are not only insightful, they are edgy, and imaginative. They are also unequivocal, so the Arena is out, the Convention Centre is gone, the runway extension would be abandoned, and the focus on city basics (like the library) brought back to the fore.

I think Conor will do quite well. He has a message that appears to be about looking after the environment, realigning Council to the basics, and putting a twist on each policy area that other’s haven’t. He’s also kind of winging this, instinctively, from my perspective, and that is going to make for some fun during the campaign.

Every campaign has invisible candidates and this is one is no exception. Norbert Hausberg, reportedly a puppeteer, is the first invisible candidate. No information, no social media presence, no website, no press release, no nothing.

Not a good start and chances of winning are pretty much zero at this point. Engagement using digital mediums is absolutely critical as is the frequent release of policy and press releases. What else can we say?

Don McDonald has run for the Southern Ward previously, came dead last, and spectacularly so. He’s entered the Mayoral race this year and has a quiet cult following because he is viewed as quite eccentric, a Mathematician perhaps, as you can see from his Twitter feed.

Frankly, this Reddit thread says it better than I can;

For quite some time now, from time to time a friend of mine and I will do a bit of googling and see what new content has come from the digital soapbox of Don McDonald. Call it borderline stalking, call it harassment, call it obsessiveness or whatever you like, but it’s always been totally passive and mostly just because we find his writing so bloody amusing (when we can decipher it). We’ve been observing for almost 20 years now, and he’s still going strong.

A bit of background.. He’s been likened to one of NZ’s most prolific complainers. https://bsa.govt.nz/decisions/5915-mcdonald-and-television-new-zealand-ltd-2012-065 .. For as long as I’ve known of him he’s lived in Newtown, and he puts word salad ads in the paper complaining about everything from dog shit on the footpath to numbers not being fitted on fences. He also seems to have a slight love affair with mathematics and in the early days seemed to have a bit of an obsession for lotto.

I guess a lot of people get annoyed by him because they can’t understand what he’s on about in the written form (and he probably has wasted a LOT of people’s time!), but I can’t help but think Wellington would be a less lighthearted place without him..

Don “McNewt” McDonald…

Here is Don’s archived profile from the last attempt at getting to Council.

These are the currently declared though there are rumours of other candidates getting ready to step forward.

The Wellington Party apparently has a “high-profile” (they’ll need to be) candidate in the things, Diane Calvert is playing coy on whether she’ll get her running shoes on, the Andy Foster rumour just keeps persisting, and no doubt there will be a few hopefuls that throw their hat in the ring.

No Green candidate yet, as in party backed Green candidate. Mind you, they seem to be so busy chasing their own tail at the moment so the likelihood of organising someone is low.

One thing is for certain. If they are not nominated by close of business this Friday, then they won’t be in the race. We’ll know the full gamut of competitors by this coming weekend.