Andy Foster will win the Wellington Mayoralty if he plays his cards right

Well, well, well. One of Wellington’s worst kept secrets popped out on Friday afternoon with Andy Foster announcing his run for the Mayoralty with Peter Jackson in support.

As it happened I was sitting in the Tinui Valley at a bach with my erstwhile partner around a bonfire. A much needed break from the hustle and bustle of the city and so far inland that there wasn’t a blip of cellphone or internet coverage. Try it some time.

The reaction to the announcement was sadly predictable, as we will see, with several people taking on both men, avoiding the ball, avoiding facts, as the Labour and Left on Twitter launched an all out assault.

Sir Peter Jackson is throwing his support behind a new Wellington mayoral candidate, current councillor Andy Foster.

Foster announced his candidacy on Friday afternoon at Chocolate Fish Cafe in Shelly Bay, with Jackson in attendance.

“There are many people who are not happy about what’s been done, what has not been done, and the way things have been done,” Foster said.

It will be Foster’s third run at the mayoralty, the first in 2001, coming fourth, and the second in 2016, when he came fifth with 3662 votes.

Sir Peter Jackson backs Andy Foster for Wellington mayoralty

Andy has been vocal about the absolute stuff up at Shelly Bay and Peter Jackson took the gloves off some months back damning the WCC and various Councillors who were separated into a naughty and nice list over their voting at stages through the shambles.

Despite the WCC and Councillors desperately wanting to avoid Shelly Bay as an election issue Andy has lobbed it into the mix, as it should be. As I have commented before, Shelly Bay is a microcosm of all the issues that are important this election. Housing, transport, climate change, trust, and transparency.

“There’s a bit of rot in the council and it needs to be cleansed.”

Peter Jackson

He’s right. The way that this issue and others around the city have been managed this triennium is not at all good. Shelly Bay represents all the reasons why the WCC is under such a high-degree of scrutiny at the moment and provide active examples on various failings.

Then the rebuffs started.

Wellington Mayor Justin Lester welcomed the competition from the long-time councillor, but said the city was bigger than one issue.

“As mayor, you are duty-bound to represent the interests of the whole of the city.  The city is much larger than one issue. He is being funded by Sir Peter for this single issue.”

He’s right, the city is much larger than one issue, but obviously he missed the significance of the announcement being at Shelly Bay, the fact that Peter Jackson has significant resources at his disposal, and that Andy also laid out several other policies that relate to the entire city.

Mayoral candidate Conor Hill also took aim at Foster for campaigning on one issue. “Along with housing, transport, the central library, the convention centre, and the airport, Shelly Bay is one of the important issues facing Wellington.

“Of course, Andy Foster will be able to have his entire campaign funded by one individual, so I can see the attraction for him.”

Again, missing the point, while Andy was grandstanding at Shelly Bay, he has a number of policies that look at the wider city. As does Conor. Both he and Andy have statements on housing, transport, the central library, convention centre, and airport. Things that Justin so far has not covered adequately.

Andy Foster himself has the experience and depth to be a good Mayor. A skill that Andy has that most do not, is the ability to work the WCC machinery to achieve outcomes. Sure, sure, some of the others do as well, but in terms of sheer process, Andy just gets it.

The Labour hacks and Left immediately took to social media in an ill-thought out mud throwing attempt. It was amateurish, Trump-like, lacking facts, and had all the desperate hallmarks you’d expect from a group that is hoping like hell they can land enough Labour puppets in the WCC this time around they can enforce central party policy on the city.

Peter Jackson was attacked on his record around the so called “Hobbit Law”, something that is now incredibly dated and in fact has been supported by Labour themselves. Collective bargaining was restored but the fact remains that Labour wouldn’t then, and will not now, touch a very golden goose.

And those of us that know the inner workings of the movie industry in New Zealand, also know that working conditions within the sector have increased for the better in the last few years. But sideline amateurs who are more interested in smearing candidates as opposed to actually debating the issues are generally uneducated in these things and lack the intelligence and grit to research issues properly.

We also know that industry props up the city significantly in terms of economic output, employment, jobs, creation of small business, upgrades of key infrastructure, and a range of other benefits.

Jackson was then accused of being a NIMBY, not wanting development in his backyard, which, is again untrue. Jackson has never suggested wiping the proposed development of the area under the carpet for good, he’s suggested that the way this process has been run is basically awful and that certain parties, such as Mau Whenua, have been run over by a bulldozer. That is indisputable fact as we know.

Andy on the other hand was accused of being bought by Jackson and having his entire campaign funded by one individual.

In terms of funding, that’s also wrong. Both have denied that and while time will tell, because donations are transparent, there doesn’t seem to be a massive chunk of cash flowing in Andy’s direction. Even if there were, it would be no larger or smaller than the Labour Party’s contributions, which they are using to buy their own men and women, following the same logic.

As to being bought… Does anyone remember Ian Cassel’s donations to several key candidates last election that saw two of them having to opt out of key votes on Shelly Bay? And oh wait, wasn’t one of those a Labour Party puppet? Pot calling the kettle anyone?

Again and again, on Twitter, the key messaging from the Left was spread in increasingly heated and desperate statements.

And they should be worried.

Because Andy could win this.

First, the language he is using is likely to appeal over any other Mayoral candidates for the younger voting blocks, that are being rallied by fresh new candidates like Tamatha Paul and Steph Edlin. We can’t rely on Teri O’Neill for endorsement because she’s in Labour’s pocket and that would be suicide.

At least half of the Mayoral candidates are complete no names. They are going to soak up a few votes at best, but they aren’t going anywhere.

Last time around Justin won by a relatively narrow margin to Nick Leggett, however when you added up the centre right votes, if the three candidates had endorsed one candidate, then they could have blown Justin away by ten thousand votes roughly.

This time around, we don’t have centre-right candidates other and perhaps Diane Calvert, who has been endorsed by the Wellington Party. So there are a lot of votes going begging in that area.

Now, the Wellington Party is not going well. What started with a hiss and a roar has turned into a minor blip with unknown candidates on the card and some pretty weak looking policy. I can’t see them having much of a difference.

It would be better that Diane Calvert and Andy Foster came to an agreement now, that in return for Diane capitulating her votes to Andy at the last minute and endorsing him, while dropping out of the race, she gets the Deputy Mayoralty. That sets her up for high-profile attempts in the future at the Mayoralty.

It also drags a bunch of potential centre-right votes to Andy. And that must be where he plays, because that block is going begging right now. If he sticks to transport, housing, and environment (as opposed to climate emergencies, which are seen to be left), then he can pull them into his campaign. Plus, he’s playing an independent card and many voters are over the Labour and Green influence on local government.

One of the accusations flying on Twitter in particular over the past few days has been the fact that Andy is an ex-New Zealand First member. This could backfire on the attack brigade because it puts him to the centre-right again, with those voters.

There are still votes for Andy in the Western Ward, probably around two thousand or more. What Andy needs to do is convince everyone who votes for him in that ward to also tick the Mayoralty box as number one as well. That will drag in more votes.

He also needs to cater to voters that have had enough of what they see as a stagnating Council that are increasing rates year on year and seem more interested in vanity projects rather than basics.

That means he needs to go after Justin’s voter base with some kind of strategy to pull them away to “his side.” This is a tough ask to do in a way that is not seen as overly aggressive. Andy is not someone who has ever played the person and not the ball, it’s a professional quality.

While it remains to be seen what financial contribution Peter Jackson makes toward Andy, Peter has considerable resource at his disposal that will definitely help, including his millions of followers across social media of which a dense proportion will be in Wellington City.

The industry also comprises of some thousands of workers, mostly young, and encouraging them to enrol and vote will lift Andy’s chances. And hey, isn’t that what we wanted? To get more young people voting? They are also reading that left attack rhetoric on Peter and the industry, and that is likely to galvanize them to vote in the other direction.

And let’s not forget Mau Whenua, the most disaffected party in the Shelly Bay SNAFU by a long-shot. They also will fall behind Andy as a result of the Peter Jackson endorsement, they must mobilise their members to vote for Andy, who is seen as a key ally in their fight.

Andy has a better than fighting chance to take the Mayoralty. It really is that simple.

Given the Labour campaign to re-elect Justin has been incredibly simplistic and somewhat boring so far, the panic will be setting in. The “set and forget” strategy they appear to have adopted simply will not do and needs to be changed now.

This is going to be an interesting election to say the least.

Yes dear readers, I am aware that there are other candidates and as is tradition, over the next few months I’ll be reviewing their chances, policies, and making wild and bold statements. There will be balance, I promise.

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