Wellington City Council

How to hold a city hostage, recount tactics, and a massive opportunity missed by the new Wellington City Council

No further movement this week in the paralysis that has been visited on the Wellington City Council by the former mayor and the six hostage-taking Councillors that have set themselves against the new mayor and all other Councillors.

It’s a disgraceful situation given that while they are grandstanding and thinking only of themselves and the political party’s they represent, a major opportunity for debate has gone sliding past this week in the form of the Airport declaring they plan to massively expand their operations.

The Council should have formed an opinion on this rapidly, especially in the light of their so-called “climate emergency”, and immediately responded to the press release as well as making a statement on the situation given that residents are generally up in arms, very concerned about the impact on the city, and asking questions.

Once again, out East, the Councillors are deathly silent on the issue, with some locals asking whey they bothered to elect Sarah, Teri, and Sean when they are invisible. More about this issue later.

Justin Lester needs to act or get off the pot, putting it nicely. Leaving the decision on whether to go for a recount or not is keeping the city in a state of stasis with no one able to plan or act. Interestingly, Kiwiblog has been doing a little bit of research, and it’s not as cut and dried as to whether an application for recount would even be accepted.

An interesting decision from the District Court in 2016 when it was asked to do a recount in the Dunstan constituency of Otago Regional Council by the candidate who just missed out by 5 votes.

Judge Kellar turned down the application, as he ruled there merely being a close result is not grounds enough. The applicant has to have reasons as to why the result may be incorrect.

Would Lester get a recount even if he applies for one?

Now, Justin’s rhetoric has changed in the past few days from one of considering a recount based on a narrow margin to one of challenging the process itself.

“A lot of mistakes were made, and the process has been flawed,” he said.

“We’ve seen countless stories already coming out where people didn’t receive voting papers, they posted them and may not have been received in time through the postal ballot,” Lester said.

“You have got to uphold the integrity of the election.”

Andy Foster, the Wellington mayor already challenged in office

That signals to me that he is probably taking the time to gather evidence and make a case. Either way, it’s holding everything up and suits the six mutineers in the Council who appear to be loyal to the old mayor and wanting nothing to do with the new.

The mood around the city toward the six Councillors who are holding the city hostage is changing.

Generally, most of the commentary is now painting them as sore losers and a roadblock to progress. Each day that goes by is further damaging their political credibility as the city perceives them in an increasingly negative light.

Regardless of what happens, Pannett, Fitzsimons, Free, O’Neill, Matthews, and Day are starting their triennium in the political red with a suspicious resident base unhappy with what they have done around the deputy mayoralty, the tunnel commentary, and the airport ownership. Another hit to the overall trust and transparency of the Council. Any new mayor should be very, very cautious about assigning any portfolios of importance to them.

Frankly, they need to apologise to the city, the residents, and the mayor for their behaviour and pledge they are going to put Wellington first rather than whatever it is they are doing now. Of course, they’ve all gone silent in the last couple of days, no doubt slinking back to whatever lair they are planning from.

Between the recount and the Hostage Taking Six, a major opportunity went begging this week for the Council to answer some tough questions about the airport’s planned expansion over the next decade.

The airport plans to take half of the Miramar golf course and turn it into a giant concrete slab, will massively increase traffic movements to and from the city, probably cut off through access to residents (my opinion), and want to buy the old Miramar South School land, which will no doubt also be concreted and see the death of many local houses in the vicinity.

It will have to rejig roads in and out of the airport, and no doubt consume access to the current tunnel under the airport.

It’s a devastating blow from, in my opinion, an already bad neighbour who has consistently ignored the wishes of the community in preference to their monopolistic profit-taking.

In a time when we have a housing crisis, need more social housing, have epic traffic issues to Eastern Suburbs, have declared a climate emergency, and are fighting to community rights, this plan goes against everything the city voted for.

It removes housing, it removes social housing, it increases congestion, it sees pollution increased significantly, destroys the community at the end of Broadway crossing into Miramar, and reduces access for residents.

And we, the Council, own a third of it. And despite Fleur Fitzsimons claims of the new mayor grandstanding over the possible sale of the airport shares and her belief that sitting on the board of WIAL can give us influence, she is utterly, dead wrong.

And shame on the Hostage Taking Six for creating a situation where rather than working together, have managed to silence the Council at a time when it needs to have a voice on an incredibly important topic.

A special mention for both Sarah Free and Teri O’Neill who are both completely Left Councillors out East and know exactly how the community feels about this and yet, have been silent. Shame. You’re there to ask questions and represent the community, and you’ve just let slide a massive issue because you’re off playing politics and fighting the rest of the Councillors and new mayor. I’m pretty sure I know where Sean’s allegiances lie, so you expect him to be quiet.

Never mind a recount, can we vote again now that some of these so-called elected officials, who work for us, have shown their true colours within days of getting on the Council? What a mess. All because of one or two players that have managed to gather a minority group of mutineers in the name of party allegiance and personal power-mongering.

5 replies »

  1. Working with a diverse group of councillors to achieve things is the main part of any Mayor’s role. I’m guessing the people who voted for Andy (and particularly those who advocated for him) think he can do that. We’ll see.

    Also I believe it was Diane who first went public with her desire for the Deputy role.

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  2. Hmm, some tough words there Ian. I’m sort-of sorry I’m not still in there, as I think I could have offered a “moderate” voice. Then again, it’s kind of fun watching from the outside. For what it’s worth, I don’t think there’s a great deal to be gained trying to halt the airport’s expansion plans. WIAL has all sorts of levers it can pull, and even if the council’s two reps on the airport board were staunchly anti-expansion, they are only two of six.

    But what the city can and must do is demand some concessions. As I’ve stated over on Neighbourly, two things must be included in the airport expansion plans:

    1. A station to allow light rail vehicles to call at the airport en route between Miramar and central Wellington. My favoured route for light rail is via Rongotai Road, Bridge Street (an ideal location for a light rail depot), a new subway immediately to the south of the current pedestrian subway, then through to a station/stop connected to the airport by travelators in a glazed passageway, then through to Hobart Street, terminating near the Roxy, with a possible future extension to Miramar North (and possibly another branch through to Scots College.) Only light rail will provide the fast, reliable and attractive public transport service that will substantially reduce car, taxi and Uber trips between the airport and the city centre.

    2. An extension of Stewart Duff Drive outside of and behind the expanded airport apron, to link Broadway/Calabar Road with Moa Point Road, for resilience and other reasons. No more taking a ticket at the barrier and getting caught up in the airport carparking areas.

    Additionally, a sizable contribution to the light rail scheme (not just the station) by WIAL would be nice.

    Incidentally, I doubt that a runway extension will ever proceed, as I doubt it will be necessary, and I hope that aircraft will become less environmentally damaging with new propulsion technology.

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