Wellington City Council

The Foster and Free Show

Finally, some progress in the Council this week with Foster picking Sarah Free as his new Deputy. The Foster and Free Show is on the road and rolling for now, though may still be hampered by whether a recount occurs or not for the Mayoralty.

Former Wellington mayor Justin Lester Lester will formally apply for a recount tomorrow after losing city’s mayoralty race by only 62 votes.

Justin Lester to apply for recount by ‘close of play’ tomorrow after losing Wellington mayoralty race

I’ll believe it when I see it, One News has not been particularly accurate in the coverage of the local body elections in Wellington so far, and at the time of writing there doesn’t appear to be any verification of a formal recount having been requested.

It’s a tough hill to battle, the recount, I understand that Lester needs to convince a judge that there is something wrong with the election process (you can’t just ask for a recount because the result was close), and even if a recount where to go ahead the result would most likely be the same.

Update: A recount has subsequently confirmed and been requested.

Back to Sarah Free.

Wellington Mayor-elect Andy Foster has chosen Motukairangi-Eastern Ward Councillor Sarah Free as his Deputy Mayor for the 2019-2022 triennium.

Mayor Foster describes Cr Free as an experienced and personable City Councillor who will bring the necessary leadership skills to the Deputy Mayoralty role.

Cr Sarah Free chosen as Wellington’s deputy mayor

Some years back, when Sarah was running her first campaign for Councillor out East, when we met in my lair, the Strathmore Local.

Sarah has a great deal of energy about her and an optimistic disposition most of the time. Like all the Councillors I have the pleasure (usually) of meeting and talking with, we spent some time gossiping about local politics and her chances to land a seat at the table.

Sarah is very earnest, and she is one of those people where “what you see is what you get” applies and has a clever mind that engineers interesting debates about various issues. She told me that if she won that year, the family would be moving to Eastern Suburbs. She won and is now a close neighbour of mine, living around a couple of corners from my home in Strathmore.

I think that people potentially dismiss Sarah like a true Green, part of that ideological ilk that tends to lose their mind at a moment’s notice over anything that fits outside of their fanaticism. She’s anything but.

While she is left and green, she is also a rationalist and pragmatic. This makes her a good candidate for the Deputy role because she’s going to need to help balance Council in their thinking around issues. Too often we see novice Councillors or the ideologists not thinking through an entire issue before spouting off, grandstanding, and then making a vote that they often regret later once the dust has settled.

Sarah is well educated with a qualification in electrical engineering amongst several other academic accolades.

My thesis was on the impact improved home heating could have on school absence rates for children with doctor-diagnosed asthma. Verified absence data for 269 children participating in a randomised controlled trial, showed a statistically significant reduction of 28% in the number of days absent for those who had improved heating.

LinkedIn

The media has largely played out this narrative as Foster being a centre-right Mayor, being forced into choosing a far-Left Deputy, where the Councillors are already at war with him. Some more naïve commentators are still peddling the by-line that the city elected a New Zealand First Mayor, which is just stupid.

I don’t think Foster is on the right at all. If anything, he is more of a blue-green, like Jenny Candie, and I think that label fits his politics far more appropriately. He is an ardent conservationist and environmentalist but hasn’t drunk the deep Green ideological cool-aid. Neither has he supported the traditional right agendas.

Free is a thinking Green. With that education and experience, she is going to analyse and rationalise decisions rather than jump to ill-informed conclusions. There is a lot less emotion, and while some Councillors (on either side of the spectrum) are adept at throwing their toys at the first opportunity, this is something Free won’t entertain.

In short, Foster and Free are quite a good match. They are both experienced analysts that can bridge the gap between the far left and far right in Council.

Both Foster and Free are very-well respected out East. Foster for his stance on the Shelly Bay issues and Free because she is ever-present in the community across all walks of life. As I have said before, the eastern issues are a microcosm of the wider issues the city faces over the next triennium, traffic, climate change, development, and social aspects. In some ways, it will become a barometer and potential testing ground for new solutions to those issues that can be then deployed to the wider city itself.

I have criticised Sarah in the past for her sometimes silence on serious issues. I think that she will need to find her voice far more in the Deputy role, trusting her instinct rather than sometimes overthinking things, the danger of an analytical mind.

Some weeks ago, during the campaign, Sarah Free visited me again in my lair, bringing along David Lee. Sarah had a nervous energy about her, a combination of perhaps over-analysing her chances in the upcoming election and the fact that the campaign trail requires a lot of your life, it’s demanding.

David and I were in no doubt that Sarah would romp back into the Councillor seat for Eastern Ward and much gossip was had about other’s chances, how people were campaigning, and future thoughts for the city. None of us suspected that the Deputy Mayor role would ultimately land with Sarah.

Putting aside that pesky recount, to be or not be, I think we have a solid blue-green Mayor and Deputy that will work well together, with the Council, and the city.

For more on Sarah, I’d suggest reading her blog, Celebrating Urban Living in Wellington.

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