WCC Eastern Ward Candidates Analysed; A seat going begging, a boring campaign, running in the same pack, and I rank who will win and who will come last

Seven candidates are vying for three places in the Eastern Ward. Each has strengths and weaknesses while some are simply ghosts who are cluttering up the ballot. With Simon Marsh stepping down this year the Ward will see a new candidate, the only question is who that will be.

Issues out East include Shelly Bay and the traffic, which is arguably the worst in the city by a country-mile.

The current Councillors are high-profile across the city holding some critical portfolios that keep their names and faces in the press.

So let’s see who is running and what their chances are. We’ll look at their weaknesses and “face factor.” Face factor is importantly, sadly, because the majority of people have absolutely no idea who to vote for so default to two benchmarks; whether or not the candidate has a trustworthy face and name recognition.

Generally, out East, all the candidates are effectively promising the same stuff with no real pack breakers. It makes it hard to choose who to vote for, because they all look exactly the same. So barring any major screw-ups, those with a good face and strong name are going to get back in.

Outliers might want to break from the pack and consider some contrary policy backed up with actual plans about how things could be delivered better and differently.

See the list of candidates who’ve been nominated to stand for Motukairangi/Eastern Ward in the 2019 local body elections. 

Candidate List

Steph Edlin

Steph Edlin is the youngest candidate in Eastern Ward, in fact, probably right across Wellington. We’ve asked for youth to take an interest in politics and particularly local politics, and Steph has stepped up.

My aim is simple. I want a city that consults, and listens to its inhabitants before change is made.

Steph is independent, which gives her an advantage over Party Puppet candidates that are seen as being “yes people” for whichever party has paid to get them installed as a Councillor.

She’s finding her way in the campaign with some humorous missteps along the way, like being slightly confused as to whether she was running for GWRC or WCC and rules around hoardings. All of which has been gently pointed out to her by existing Councillors, Brian Dawson in particular, and taken in good grace.

Personally; I like the campaign. Youth, with a focus on community engagement leading to change being more in control of residents than other interests. It’s simple, tidy, and effective.

Face Factor; Steph’s picture is one of youthful exuberance and you can see genuine emotion in her face. It’s an open face that speaks of trust and one that people will vote for.

Weaknesses; getting recognised in a campaign where a lot of people are throwing money around that Steph does not have. She’ll need to find other ways to raise her profile. There have been a few missteps along the way around election rules and guidelines, best get the book out and do some research.

Verdict; A wild card. We know that Eastern Ward must elect a new Councillor so the question is, will it be Steph or someone else. I’m really going to roll the dice here and say that Steph has a good chance given the demographics of Eastern Ward and her biggest competition is going to be Teri O’Neill, who is not independent. Eastern Ward are younger demographically and tend to be quite family oriented. I think that will help with Steph’s chances.

If she doesn’t make it this time around she currently has a great platform to speak about things which she thinks are important, it’s good experience for the next attempt, and it’s a good start to a potential political career.

Sarah Free

Sarah Free is a current Councillor in Eastern Ward and runs on the Green ticket, which frankly, brings her brand down a tad. She behaves more of an independent than a Party Puppet, but the tag remains. Highly active in the Community this is what will save her from being knocked out of the race, that, and the fact that Simon Marsh has stepped down.

I have an engineering degree and Masters in Public Health and experience in engineering, education and health.

Personally; I’d be surprised if Sarah does not get back in, however, there are some weaknesses that need to be dealt with. The campaign so far is weak, I think a stronger focus on the actual “how” of policy and a priority ranking of things she is going to focus on would be better. Right now she’s falling into that very broad category of “fix all the things” without explaining why.

Face Factor; an open face that engineers trust. (See what I did there?)

Weaknesses; Sarah is very much known as the face of cycle ways out East, in a negative way. Multiple social media pages have actively campaigned for three years against what they see as a draconian WCC that does not listen to residents and Sarah has often been the face of that campaign. Couple that with the Green backing, who are seen as weak in Council, and she could have some issues as the campaign progresses. Shelly Bay is also a weak point. Sarah has not spoken out about the issue at all, and needs too.

Verdict; she should sneak back in, but I suspect with a lot less votes than the last time around. The fact Sarah spends a lot of time in the community from Seatoun to Strathmore, gives her kudos.

Bernard O’Shaughnessy

I’ve never heard of this person. So that’s not a great start, because if I don’t know who they are, then the Ward is not going to either.

His profile would lead you to believe that he is a Labour supporter swinging to the left sharply, has been actively involved in the community (particularly Newtown) and is active on some committees and boards.

Angry as bus Hubs unnecessary. No cars in Lambton Quay. No ratepayer funding for Shelly Bay and Airport extension projects. Rainbow supporter.

Personally; He may get a few hundred votes from his local suburbs where people know him, though I suspect it will be well under a thousand. It’s a bit of a shame because Newtown and Kilbirnie traditionally get poor representation by sitting Councillors in the Ward who think that East means past the airport.

Face Factor; a better profile picture would make a great deal of difference to this gentleman’s chances.

Weaknesses; is a relative unknown within the Ward and is going to really struggle to bring that profile up, particularly when he is a ghost online, and online is where all the cool kids are. There is a lot of chatter being watched by media in the social media space, which is then being filtered through to press. Any candidate that is not visible has no real chance. Bernard would also do well to change his profile text, it’s very, very hard to read and follow.

Verdict; won’t fly.

Sean Rush

Again, Sean was someone I hadn’t heard of until he threw his hat in the ring. He’s being backed by the Wellington Part, but I wouldn’t hold that against him, the Wellington Party have been pretty ineffective so far.

From his profile we know he is local, intelligent, and relatively focussed on what he thinks needs to be fixed.

Our community needs a local champion with common sense and who will stand up for you. My family and I sit in the same gridlocked traffic as you, I worry for my kids about the rising cost of living, unaffordable housing and poor transport infrastructure. Wellington deserves better.

Personally; Sean is not going to get a look in up against Chris Calvi-Freeman. They both feel quite similar in their style and language. Sean could focus on Climate Change Science, because none of the others have yet, and some intelligent, pragmatic discourse in this area could be a vote winner.

Face Factor; Sean looks like he gets shit done.

Weaknesses; Name recognition. Pick your demographic, get door knocking, start last month. Get media time, most candidates have had zero, consider a press release or two around some kind of Climate Change angle.

Verdict; unlikely to make the pack of three unless there is some serious work put in over the next three weeks, time is now running out, once those packs hit letterboxes the bulk of voting is done and over.

Chris Calvi-Freeman

A Councillor with high name recognition, a reputation for opening his mouth before thinking sometimes, highly-active on social media, and with a decent sense of humour coupled with thick skin. He’s going to romp back in and probably be the top vote taker. He’s independent, which gives him quite the boost in this currently climate where residents believe that central government interests are over-riding local residents wishes with Party Puppets rolling decisions through for their masters.

I support a balanced transport network that underpins the growth of Wellington as a great place to live. I’m championing the proposed mass transit system between the CBD and Miramar/the airport; a second Mt Victoria tunnel (with highquality walking and cycling facilities); and improved walking and cycling routes throughout Wellington.

Personally; Chris does come across to me as quite a lot of talk and not so much action, possibly because he holds the Transport Portfolio and spends most of his time in the media. As a first term Councillor, he’s stumbled around some decisions and more importantly explaining stuff. However, he’s become noticeably more articulate in the last year taking on some large issues, like Shelly Bay, and at least talking about them, where others, Sarah Free, are not.

Face Factor; I don’t know what to say about that face. It’s a little bit more radio DJ than city Councillor, but it does the job.

Weaknesses; Can come across as condescending or slightly aggressive in public debates even though it’s not his intention. I think he just gets excited. Toning that down a tad will help. Transport is Chris’s portfolio, and it is a complete shambles, he needs to be careful that at some point other candidates don’t go after his record.

Verdict; Will romp in, probably with the most votes, if he doesn’t put his foot in a controversy between now and voting cut-off.  

Teri O’Neill

Teri O’Neill is another of the younger candidates in the elections this year. She’s running on the Labour ticket, which gives her a resource pool, but also drops her into the Party Puppet zone.

My top priorities are fixing our transport system, taking a compassionate approach to homelessness and creating the fairest little capital in the world.

Personally; it’s a bit boring. It feels really Labour formulaic and controlled. In fact, the majority of Labour candidates don’t have their own websites or voice; they are all buried underneath Justin Lester’s website, which is just really weird.

It’s a damn shame because we do want more young people, but we don’t want party cut outs.

Face Factor; an open, honest face, that speaks of a sense of humour, and emphatic.

Weaknesses; Labour Party candidate. This will add a few votes but not enough. Labour is not doing all that well at the moment and people are starting to question how they vote next year, now.

Relying solely on that branding is a no go. Teri is going to have to figure out how to break away from that pack and grab a bit of personality for herself, right now. Because there is a seat at the table up for grabs and with a little strategy she could move in on it, particularly when we have a relatively unknown and weak pack generally.

Having a stance on Shelly Bay, the Airport Extension, Traffic, and all the other hot points would be wise. That stance being different from status quo would also be wise. It’s commendable to talk about kindness, compassion, and fairness, but none of those feed people or get them to and from work.

Verdict; A change in tactics, a break from the Party Hive Mind, and a lift in profile could pay dividends. Of all the candidates vying for that third seat, Teri makes sense to be the one to fill it.

Ajay Rathod

Yet another complete unknown in what is a fairly crowded race out East. His profile focusses almost extensively on running for Mayor, which will put voters off who may think that’s the only reason he’s having a crack.

As Mayor of Wellington I will commit to Wellington City Council for all of Wellingtons people.
My commitment is to listen, be resourceful, make affordable and fair decisions for Wellington City and the people regardless of age, religion, culture, skin colour, gender or income.
I will be a leader that doesn’t tolerate discrimination.
As Mayor I will promote our city and people with respect and trust.

Face Factor; not bad, however a more professional shot could pay dividends.

Weaknesses; as I said above, an unknown, running for Mayor, with Eastern Ward a seeming after thought. No presence on social media will ensure a low voting return. I am not sure that battleship can be turned in the next few weeks.

Verdict; it’s not often I say this, but I have to say, no chance of winning out East or the Mayoralty. I strongly admire people who put their time into campaigns, I just think that they need to be very prepared, very early, with good consistent messaging and policies.


OK, here’s goes the predictions!

  1. Chris Calvi-Freeman
  2. Sarah Free
  3. Steph Edlin
  4. Teri O’Neill
  5. Sean Rush
  6. Bernard O’Shaughnessy
  7. Ajay Rathod

I’m confident about my top two picks, less so about the middle pack that could shift around, and reasonably confident about the last two.

Generally, all candidates are having a crack at fixing all the same things, with no policy, often no ability to actually fix the things (buses), and no explanation as to how that will happen. That is translating into a lot of cynicism in the Ward because residents just don’t believe what they are saying.

I suspect voter turnout will be the lowest on record.

Breakaway candidates are going to need to challenge the record of the existing two sitting Councillors, come up with some unique policy, steer clear of central party influence, and have the guts to speak out on contentious issues like Shelly Bay, Cycling Plans, and Airport Development.

Southern Ward, you’re up next.

3 thoughts on “WCC Eastern Ward Candidates Analysed; A seat going begging, a boring campaign, running in the same pack, and I rank who will win and who will come last

  1. This election I won’t be voting for any of the Labour or Greens painted people, they Like Justin Lester (labour) have had their chance and stuffed it up.
    Besides which I am not going to vote for anyone in Local Government, who is tied to their Central Office on Wellington issues.
    That said I didn’t vote for Chris Calvi-Freeman and probably won’t this time either, big on social media but nothing else.

    Shelly Bay looms large in my mind, someone knew the local Iwi people were getting shafted, amongst other things, whether it was WCC Officers, Politicians or just the developers and their professions, I don’t care, I believe Peter Jackson and it stinks.
    So new people stand up!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Cheers guys – yes, I do get sh*t done – I’ve done light rail, tunnels,. bridges, water treatment plants as well as major debt and equity fundraising. I advised the British Secretary of State and regularly advise Boards of Directors and investors. I have a Masters in infrastructure use and development. And yes, I am about to finish a Masters in Climate Change Science and Policy at Vic so have a pretty good handle on what we can really do in this space. Most of all – I use common sense. More at http://www.seanrush.co.nz.


Comments are closed.