Analysing Council Portfolios; a significant workload, some interesting additions, a couple of hospital passes, an ok balance

The Mayor announced a raft of portfolio responsibilities yesterday for the Council. Rather than simplifying the previous list it’s been expanded to cover some fifty or so areas of responsibility. But are the Councillors up for it?

Mayor Andy Foster

Transport and Urban Development
Spatial Plan and District Plan
Let’s Get Wellington Moving
New funding tools (Including central government funding)

There is no doubt that Andy has deep experience across the machinery of Council, so taking on the Spatial and District Plans makes sense, both are areas of high-complexity and slow-burn, taking time to manipulate.

Let’s Get Wellington Moving has effectively been put to the side by the Council, while still retaining a headline. The reality is that LGWM is going nowhere fast and I would expect to see little progress and many more tantrums over the coming triennium. I think the Council will do much to avoid LGWM while trying to make progress where they see opportunities they can control.

We can only wonder what “new funding tools” entails; however, this feels a little more think tank in nature.

Deputy Mayor Sarah Free


Associate Transport
Let’s Get Wellington Moving (associate)
Public Transport Infrastructure

With Sarah’s background experience Governance should be a natural fit for her skill set. While it sounds a dry and boring topic, it is integral to getting things done. Governance is the mechanism by which all decisions are ultimately made and has a set of principles, including transparency, that are necessary for democracy to operate.

Walking, Cycling, and Public Transport Infrastructure should be a walk in the park given Sarah’s previous experience over the last triennium in this area and the fact that these are the only areas where Council has some control over transport.

Cr Iona Pannett

Associate Urban Development
District Plan (shared with Mayor Foster)
Civic Square
CBD Apartments Resilience
Weathertight buildings
Building Resilience
Consenting – One stop shop
Place-making and Community-led planning (shared with Cr Rush)

An interesting choice for Iona given you would think her natural fit was more around climate change and the environment, those traditional “green” areas. She has experience around buildings and resilience, and I expect those skills can be pushed out to the other areas like Civic Square.

Insurance and CBD Apartments Resilience are sort of the same thing and a very big hospital pass. With apartment dwellers abandoning the city and investment in the same in question, coupled with some very noisy community groups and developers, this is not going to be a cakewalk.

It looks like a full day for Iona, and you would expect this to be a full-time job to get things done, the workload from these responsibilities is going to be immense.  

Cr Sean Rush

Associate Urban Development
Place-making and Community-led Planning (Shared with Cr Pannett)
Urban Development Agency
Alternative energy
Infrastructure (3 Waters)

Putting Iona and Sean together is an interesting proposition, but, perhaps rather than sparring partners, the two can work out a binary-star arrangement of working.

Alternative Energy is a new portfolio area, and Sean Rush is somewhat of an expert in the area bringing a set of skills we have not seen around the Council table before. Watch this space; it could be a very interesting area to see developed.

Property is a hospital pass and the fact that Urban Development Agency holds its title shows that the Council is going to go down the route of trying to establish one. Odds on that will fail. Based on previous attempts at similar constructs the outcomes have been failure or sub-optimal. Good luck with that one.

Cr Diane Calvert

Economic Development

Diane has some background in this area as a Management Consultant in the past and with a focus on small business. This is a very tough area to measure and control. It’s also an area where the Council needs fresh thinking, rather than tired old models dominating the discussion.

Boosting the economy means working with business, attracting it to the city and region, and central government, who are traditionally poor at contracting out services to local business. Ditto the Council itself. It’s going to require some strong allies, brute force, and battery, but it’s possible to improve.

Cr Simon Woolf

Sport and Recreation

Not much to see here. Seriously.

Cr Malcolm Sparrow

Associate Resilience
Community Resilience and Emergency Preparedness

Malcolm has an affinity to the community and has done well in his suburb. However, this role means getting out of Tawa, which he appears reluctant to do some of the time, and work with the whole city. That means a lot more travel away from home base and a lot of educating on how communities are different across Wellington.

Emergency Preparedness requires significant creativity and thinking to get people to engage; Malcolm will need some help here from experts on how that can happen. The current model for this is weak and needs strengthening.

Cr Nicola Young

Arts, Culture and Events
Associate Urban Development
Central city projects
Associate Economic Development
Civic and Global Partnerships

A good mix of responsibilities for Nicola who retains her two key strengths, Arts and Central city projects. Given Nicola’s diplomatic nature, the Civic and Global Partnerships addition makes a great deal of sense. Watch that space; I think it will be quite interesting.

Cr Laurie Foon

Waste Minimisation

Associate Economic
Sustainable small business

A small set of portfolios with great importance playing to Laurie’s core skill sets. With a city landfill that is nearly full and problematic to boot, Waste Minimisation is critical. Sustainable small business can mean many things, and we’ll have to wait and see what that definition is. In my mind, it’s about keeping a business alive, when we see so many failing, and sometimes, because of the WCC’s archaic methods. However, I suspect in this context, sustainable is more green aligned in thinking.

Cr Jill Day

Maori Partnerships

Associate Community Well-being
Play spaces and programmes

Not much to say here, a perfect set of responsibilities for Jill and allowing her to continue the progress she made in the last triennium.

Cr Jenny Condie

Associate Transport
Traffic Resolutions

Oh yuck, I hear you say, a boring set of responsibilities. Maybe, on the surface, but remember that Jenny thinks a lot differently to the old school dogmas around these areas. That means that we can hope to see some innovation, new ideas, and different thinking to the dinosaur constructs of the past. Could be interesting.

Cr Fleur Fitzsimons

Community Well-Being
Social Housing and Housing Partnerships
Libraries and Community Facilities
Community Services
Public Health

Picking up from where Brian Dawson left off Fleur has big shoes to fill and is going to need to rely on her solid relationship with Central Government to make all this happen. Traditionally its an area that the WCC does well, Social Housing at least, and Brian’s legacy must be continued.

The bottom three responsibilities are integral to the Social Housing narrative, providing layers of support for those most in need and bringing them into the community. A good choice of leader for this set.

Cr Teri O’ Neill

Natural Environment
Parks, beaches and open spaces
Conservation attractions
Associate Community Well-Being

An interesting mix for one of our first-time Councillors though not unexpected. Teri certainly lives in the part of the city that has a lot of beaches for example, and with plans for a massive reserve out that way, there is a lot of work to be done.

This is a real tough set of responsibilities for a first-timer and she is going to need to find allies in the Community, there won’t be that many in WCC, and fast. Homelessness adds a whole new dimension to the set of portfolios.

Cr Rebecca Matthews
Community Engagement
Consultation, information and engagement
Associate Community Well-Being
Living Wage

The most important portfolio for the Council and the largest hospital pass of them all. Community Engagement is a shambles currently, and the trust of the residents in Council at I suspect an all-time low, reflected by a very poor voter turnout.

I don’t know what Rebecca’s background is, but this portfolio needs to be turned upside down and started from scratch, using some modern thinking and innovation. It’s a tough responsibility to get in your first term as a Councillor.

The other responsibilities are important and more mature.

Cr Tamatha Paul

Climate Change

Associate Community Well-Being
City Safety and Youth

This is going to be interesting. So far, the Council has not got its head around Climate Change that well in terms of what to do. The fire alarm is blaring, everyone is still sitting at their desk, and the exits are not marked. Getting a monolithic, dinosaur-like organisation to consider building plans of action around climate change into everything they do is going to be a shit fight.

However, Tamatha has been outspoken and has plenty of allies to support her.

The addition of City Safety and Youth to the portfolios is excellent. Having a youth advocate on board the Council is incredibly important for the city. OK, boomer?


Some interesting picks in there and some areas that are going to very much going to struggle. Missing for me were some of the fundamentals around infrastructure and basic services, which I can’t see represented. That is going to disappoint residents who in effect voted for a more austere Council.

Possibly this is the heaviest set of portfolios in some time and Councillors who are not taken the next three years to dedicate to their role are going to struggle badly. The workload is looking very high.

There are some interesting new portfolios and areas of responsibility that will respond very well to innovation and new thinking if they can escape the clutches of the natural dinosaur WCC machine, which will instinctively try to drag Councillors back to the twentieth century and shut them down.

All in all, it lays out clear responsibilities and allows me to now work up a score sheet so we can keep track of how every Councillor is doing against their responsibilities. My next order of business.