WCC Elections: Current Councillor Scorecard; in which I judge people and make up numbers based on wild flights of fancy

I swore I wasn’t going to do one this time around; however I’ve been reading a few over the last week and given some of their wild scoring I am quite sure I can do a little better. The Dominion Post has taken a bit of a battering from some incumbents from their opinion piece, which I think does get it quite wrong with a couple of Councillors.

Other lobby and pressure groups have scored all the candidates on a range of niche policies and some broader topics, transport and climate behind the front of mind; however these are usually bias to the policies any particular group is promoting.

Having scored before, I know it is hard to make an objective assessment, particularly if I do not know a Councillor well. Some Councillors can work hard behind the scenes, but unfortunately, democracy needs to be seen to be done, so visibility of work is paramount.

I’m going to score the Councillor and Mayor as best I can, noting it is quite subjective, and then also score the Council proper on the portfolio area that each incumbent is the figurehead of. Often, Councillors can only champion portfolio areas with the machinery of Council needed to operate them.

As always, personal attacks, trolls (I am in a blocking mood) and other such nastiness will all end up in the great electronic deletion box. Constructive feedback is most welcome.

Diane Calvert – Karori’s Iron Lady

Generally, Diane has had a good outing this term and remained high-profile. She’s quick to jump on topical bandwagons and has made a lot of noise about buses in her ward, or lack of them. The general perception is that she’s landed a lot of punches in the right places and has a tough delivery method.

Community Planning and Engagement, on the other hand, has not fared well. In my opinion, the Council does not understand engagement at best, and at worst, doesn’t want it at all. Some members of Council would prefer that the public was not engaged in any meaningful way.

A lack of engagement doesn’t mean that engagement doesn’t occur; it means that it occurs on social media, across lobby groups, pressure groups, and other community groups in an uncontrolled and organic way. This means that initiatives can be shut down because residents don’t have the correct data to back a project and can mobilise a community army to bring down a project.

Personal Score: 6.5 / 10

Greatest Quality: Doggedness.

Portfolio Score: 2 / 10

Chris Calvi-Freeman – Miramar’s Outspoken Councillor

Another independent, Chris, has been high visibility for most of the triennium. He is outspoken at times and frequently challenged for his style, if not content, of transmissions. He is a new councillor, sometimes criticised for flip-flopping on issues. However, he does make a good effort to explain his stances, even if they change (part of learning), and can be articulate and eloquent when he takes the time to plan a response.

Transport Strategy and Operations is a complete shambles. The reality is that the WCC has almost zero control over issues that matter most in the transport portfolio. With so many politically appointed groups and central government interference from all central parties, transport has become increasingly congested, and the city risks a heart attack.

It’s an issue the city needs to find answers to, and quickly. With a growing population and more roads bringing traffic to the CBD, coupled with an appalling public transport system, fiddling around the edges is not an option.

Personal Score: 6.5 / 10

Greatest Quality: Ability to listen to reasoned debate and change his mind.

Portfolio Score: 3 / 10

Brian Dawson – Social Housing Hero

Brian Dawson tends to rile some constituents with his occasional brusk style and retorts. I would expect nothing less from a bus driver, who must deal with constant negative feedback from disgruntled punters. He’s accessible, not afraid to engage in debate, and is usually the one to have the last say without resorting to personal attack.

He’s remained true to his beliefs and values throughout the triennium and has a relatively high-profile in the city due to his portfolio.

Social Development and Housing have been a mixed bag this term. Social housing has once again come forward in leaps and bounds with significant investment in this area over the three years in the form of new housing, creative partnerships for the future, and much-needed upgrades. In terms of general housing, there are still significant challenges as the city has growing pains with rent, house prices, a lack of land, plus unnecessary red tape in the area of consenting slowing progress.

Personal Score: 8 / 10

Greatest Quality: Debate.

Portfolio Score: 7 / 10 (Social) – 4 / 10 (“General” Housing)

Jill Day – The Invisible Deputy

People often ask me who the Deputy Mayor is. Sometimes I struggle to remember. In the past, the role has been incredibly visible and a strong supporter of the Mayor themselves. Not so Jill Day. She has very much remained behind the scenes and been silent on a lot of issues. She has been recognised with efforts around raising the profile of Te Reo in and around the city.

Maori Partnerships, Children & Young People, and Governance are all distinct portfolios. In terms of Maori Partnership, aside from Te Reo, any work that has been carried out has been largely unseen. In fact, in all these areas, it seems like little work has been carried out.

Children & Young People are a clear and present concern for the world, our supporting them to take the reins, providing them the opportunity to govern, and providing them with world-class education, you’d expect a strong outing in this area, but it just isn’t there.

As to Governance, we could write a book on that and how it really is, in my opinion, not operating well leading to real delays in progress due to messy, overly complex, and onerous processes. It’s an anchor around the Councillor’s collective feet.

Personal Score: 4 / 10

Greatest Quality: Consistency.

Portfolio Score: 4 / 10   

Fleur Fitzsimons – Social Justice Champion

Fleur has taken her role in the social side of the city seriously tackling issues that other Councillors shy away from. Sexual abuse, safety, the Living Wage, and alcohol have all had a high-profile as a result over the term. She’s taken a city-centric view of her role, and some criticism has been levelled about the lack of dealing with key issues within her ward.

All the portfolios! Living Wage, Recreation, Social Development, City Safety, and Community Development. A tough ask for any Councillor to sit across all of these and it’s been a mixed bag with some areas gaining traction, while others not so much.

The area of city safety and associated alcohol issues must be an area that receives continued and renewed focus. Many residents do not feel comfortable in the CBD after dark on certain nights and the “entertainment precinct” suffers from continued problems. Alcohol issues still occur in hot spots around the town and suburbs.

Personal Score: 7 / 10

Greatest Quality: Tackles issues that are sensitive.

Portfolio Score: 7 / 10 (on balance.)

Andy Foster – The Explainer

A veteran of many years, Andy can explain complex issues in a reasoned way, if anyone will listen. He understands the machinery of Council and can use it to affect, but it takes time. He takes the time to analyse data and then ask questions, particularly when it comes to finance or regulatory matters. He has been a constant advocate for the Green Belt.

Like Fleur, Andy has several different portfolios, including Urban Development, Finance, Predator Free Wellington, and the Karori Framework. Urban Development has been stuck in limbo for some years with any discussions often lengthy and misunderstood by residents. Depending on who you talk to, Finance is either great or bad. One thing is for certain; the city can’t keep spending how it is and expecting residents to fork out increasingly expensive rates to cover the bills.

Predator Free is making good gains, particularly in the Eastern ward, and is tracking to plan. I don’t know enough about the Karori Framework to understand progress in this area or lack of it.

Personal Score: 6 / 10

Greatest Quality: Patience.

Portfolio Score: 6 / 10

Sarah Free – Community Advocate

Of all the Councillors, perhaps except for one, Sarah is most at home in her community and is often seen around Eastern suburbs. She is accessible and quite passionate about the city. She advocates for the residents where she can. Criticism has been levelled on occasion when she is not seen to speak out on key issues that the community is passionate about; she is not usually silent. She has gained some concessions around bus services in the Eastern ward after many a pitched battle with the GWRC.

Walking & Cycling and Public Transport Infrastructure are Sarah’s portfolios. Rather like Chris Calvi-Freeman, this portfolio set is a hiding to nothing. Changes are either enthusiastically welcomed or unequivocally damned based on which end of the spectrum the resident is at.

What is clear is that we have seen an increase in walking and cycling, with cycle lanes built already and more on the way. Public transport infrastructure has been less of a success with the Council’s timings often delaying improvements.

Personal Score: 8 / 10

Greatest Quality: Listening.

Portfolio Score: 8 / 10

Peter Gilberd – City Scientist

Peter Gilberd is praised for the level of activity within his community and ward, which is what you want in a local Councillor. There is nothing exciting about Peter, he gets on with it, and the only criticism is that like Jill Day, he’s a little invisible. There is something about the three Northern ward Councillors who seem to dislike coming into the city unless they have too.

Peter’s portfolios are the Natural Environment and City Scientist. The environment is clearly under increased stress, and there are some large challenges in the wind including what to do with the pollution from the tip, pressure on the Green Belt, and other portfolio areas that present an imminent risk to the environment.

The City Scientist role, in my opinion, has largely been unexploited. With what should be high-profile, innovate role, there has been a failure to make a mark. In a professional city, with lightweight high-tech industries, and a real will to protect environment and invest in science, we need better.

Personal Score: 7 / 10

Greatest Quality: A calm, level head.

Portfolio Score: 4 / 10

David Lee – Destined for Better Things

If I hadn’t met David more than once, I’d be putting him down as an invisible Councillor. He’s had a rocky term and the Green Party fall out has not helped matters. He’s very smart and a visionary thinker, he’s not managed to turn that into action and now moves on in the political whirlpool to other areas. Frankly, I think he’d make a better entrepreneur than a politician and should reconsider his career choice (I’m half kidding David.)

Technology, Innovation, Enterprise, and Climate Change are his portfolios. Despite promises by candidates the last election to invest in the technology industry, the Council has continued to fail to support them in any meaningful way, which is a major opportunity lost. Having said that, those companies have little need of the Council to operate.

As to Climate Change, well, judge for yourself. It seems to me that the Council is all “do as I say and not do as I do” and while highlighting the issue through the declaration of an emergency, no substantive plan is in place to deal with it.

Justin Lester – Mayor

A tough first term for Justin where he has tried to set down a longer-term plan for the city hoping to gain a second term to carry it through. He generally represents the city well, and as much as some people hate it does display leadership when needed. He’s become mired between central government and the Council from time to time, necessarily, and that’s brushed the gloss off depending on how it has been reported.

As a Mayor, he represents the city internationally and has a self-assured, professional style that carries well. He is not afraid to engage with residents directly where needed and is often out in the wider community at events.

Progress must have been frustratingly slow at times with major projects stalled, costing more money than anticipated, and leftfield issues such as Civic Square proving very hard to pivot quickly on, perhaps leading to a view that the city is not progressing as fast as it should be.

Personal Score: 7/ 10

Greatest Quality: Leads when he needs.

Simon Marsh – Old School

Simon always had name recognition and was often seen around election time lurking in his yellow caravan. He was well known in the Eastern ward and despite criticism to the contrary, got involved in issues that impacted the suburbs out East in a hands-on way. He was your average 1980s’ Councillor, known, consistent, but never one to set the world on fire.

Simon’s portfolios were Economic Development, Small Business, and Events. The economy, particularly small business, has slowed in the past three years and will continue to do so. Hospitality and the trades are suffering an anecdotal slowdown right now, but, large economy drivers such as government and the film industry continue to be in good health.

Events have certainly suffered in the last term with many concerts passing by Wellington and other keystone events, such as the Sevens, lost. This may be a long-term effect of WREDA, who in my opinion, really have failed to perform as anticipated and have allowed opportunities to slip by.

Personal Score: 6 / 10

Greatest Quality: Brings calm.

Portfolio Score: 4 / 10

Iona Pannett – Greener than Green

You know where you stand with Iona and her policies and values. She’s greener than the Greens and a constant advocate for the environment, acting as a lightning rod for serious issues. Why she didn’t get the Climate Change portfolio I will never understand, however, has been a solid Councillor.

Iona’s portfolios are Infrastructure and Sustainability. Infrastructure has seen some small gains, the water reservoirs, for example, however infrastructure is regularly failing around the city from time to time, and there is criticism that not enough is being set aside to deal with future-proofing it.

Sustainability has seen some small gains over the term, but far more could be done. Iona is up for that, but the Council is lagging in there collective thinking. Large issues are looming in terms of recycling issues caused by international problems, the tip itself, and increased pressure on waste management services.

Personal Score: 8 / 10

Greatest Quality: Walks the talk.

Portfolio Score: 5 / 10

Malcolm Sparrow – Mayor of Tawa

Highly active in his own Ward and loathe to come to the city itself, Malcolm is the unofficial mayor of Tawa, and it shows. Another old-school Councillor, Malcolm spends a lot of time close to the residents of his ward, feet firmly grounded, focused on their needs.

Malcolm’s Portfolio is Community Resilience, and while this has been dismissed by some as an undemanding area, it is critical to the city and poorly serviced. Most of us would have no idea what to do in a major disaster, other than return home, and I will guarantee that most of the city is not anywhere near resilient enough.

WREMO have made some gains this year but only after being publicly embarrassed over lack of action on community hubs, which have now been largely resolved. This portfolio demands a much higher profile when we live in a city that is subject to high-risk of disruption.

Personal Score: 9 / 10

Greatest Quality: Community engagement.

Portfolio Score: 2 / 10

Simon Woolf – Instinctual Populist

Simon is accused of being a populist politician, which also infers that is something that he deliberately plans for an executes. I think that Simon is simply passionate and jumps on issues that he is passionate about and then says what he thinks. The fact he riles up the CEO and hierarchy at the Council so much that they become apoplectic is a good thing, in my opinion. Shoot from the hip and fuelled by pure instinct. Simon is a resident’s Councillor.

Portfolios include Sport and Wellington Ambassador for Tourism. As we know, tourism is booming in Wellington, far more likely as a result of the wider New Zealand popularity overseas, but also in part due to perhaps a more stable part of WREDA operating well. In terms of sport, the city maintains the status quo over the last term.

Personal Score: 7 / 10

Greatest Quality: Instinct.

Portfolio Score: 8 / 10

Nicola Young – Quiet Achiever

Nicola Young has been a quiet achiever over the last two terms seemingly have found a way through Council machinery, faster than Andy at times, to get projects and initiatives completed within the central city. Well respected in the arts community she is out most nights at events holding the city flag. Intelligent and approachable, she is not afraid to ask questions and listen to answers. A solid performing Councillor in her ward.

Portfolios include Central City Projects, Education Partnerships, and Arts & Culture. Central city projects have slowly upgraded parts of the city that were otherwise lost to dark alleyways. Some history has been brought back front and centre. Arts and Culture continue to thrive in the city itself.

These portfolios would be greatly improved if they were pushed to the entire city, rather than just the CBD, having the capability to breathe new life into any suburban centre.

Personal Score: 7 / 10

Greatest Quality: Understands the Wellington spirit.

Portfolio Score: 8 / 10

4 thoughts on “WCC Elections: Current Councillor Scorecard; in which I judge people and make up numbers based on wild flights of fancy

  1. Thanks Ian. I think we long-distance guys prefer coach driver to bus driver 🙂 While I know my Housing Portfolio has got most of the coverage I’m actually very pleased with what we’ve achieved in the social development sphere. And while I gave up the portfolio 18 months ago, I would still say my most important achievement was getting the Living Wage extended to contractors.


  2. Thanks Ian. I think we long-distance guys prefer coach driver to bus driver 🙂 While I know my Housing Portfolio has got most of the coverage I’m actually very pleased with what we’ve achieved in the social development sphere. And while I gave up the portfolio 18 months ago, I would still say my most important achievement was getting the Living Wage extended to contractors.


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