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The WCC week that was; Taskforce Waterspout grows, fiddling on the edges, a crime wave in Miramar, Shelly Bay raises its head, and a “know nothing, do nothing” Council on the cards?

In the last week, the Wellington City Councillors have been extremely busy. Water has been high on the agenda, but other significant issues are starting to crowd into the conversation. Media has had a crack at the “dysfunctional” Council, and there’s been another high-profile resignation.

Taskforce Waterspout got a lot of attention during the week, though not always positive. The terms of reference appear to have been settled, and after an outcry by some Councillors and the public, a whole bunch of new members were added to the fast-becoming Frankenstein.

Frankly, the WCC needs to split the growing mosh-pit that is the Taskforce into governance, line-management, expert bodies, and the public. Otherwise, it risks being turned into a giant gabfest of the uninformed, a place for finger-pointing, grandstanding, while solving nothing.

The Mayor’s original smaller group had been endorsed by council chief executive Barbara McKerrow, who said including community members and experts risked creating confusion about accountability.

“Ultimately it will be [councillors’] role to sit in that taskforce and really understand the details well because you are going to end up having to make – as the governing body, the Wellington City Council – some significant decisions on the future investment in that infrastructure,” she said.

She said hiring additional experts could be costly and those others should have input from outside the taskforce. The Council needed to be careful not to end up with a large body that was “bigger than Ben Hur”, she said.

Councillors add extra members including experts to water taskforce

Too late, and the blame for Taskforce Waterspouts sudden bloat can be laid squarely at the Council’s feet, for coming late to the party to try and contain this massive problem. The public does not trust the Council and the continued PR pipeline can be likened to the broken pipelines we see all over the city.

The Council gets points for tackling the issue, however, how that occurs appears to have thrown logic to the wind in a rush to fill a vacuum of leadership. Leadership that has been lacking from the Mayor, CEO, Wellington Water, and the other Councils who are nowhere to be seen in this debate.

Are the other owners of Wellington Water going to set up their Taskforces? There are murmurings that the entire council-controlled organisation could just come to a sticky end with the (usually invisible) Local Government Minister weighing in with warnings.

Parking costs are back on the agenda this week as well as the Council continues to try and boil the frog over inner-city issues while, disingenuously, linking the matter to rates increases. Tamatha Paul, apparently the new expert on parking, broke ranks.

Tamatha Paul, who holds the climate change and associate community wellbeing portfolios, said the changes involved “tweaking round the edges” and only made people’s lives more difficult.

She advocated for a more “revolutionary” and wide-ranging solution such as congestion charging.

“This tweaking round the edges stuff is not sustainable.”

Wellington drivers could be stung by night parking charges or hourly rate hike

I agree with her on the “tweaking around the edges” comment. It’s a stupid strategy that was adopted about a decade ago and has made the life of residents and Council officers difficult. Each small change has about as much uproar as a large change.

But here we are talking about parking changes, in secret, mere dollars and cents, when as at 3:40pm today as I write, it is taking people from the airport 45 minutes to get into the city. Where there are no parks to be found. Because the bus debacle drove people, literally, back into cars and into ride-share options, the city is now full.

Putting the cost of parking up is a) going to make FA difference to the rates bill and b) not going to solve congestion.

Memo to Council, we’re not all idiots out there.

Councillors Free, Rush, and O’Neill made an incredibly rare appearance this week in Miramar after locals got the pitchforks out over a mini-crime wave that has been going on for the past few weeks.

Social media has noted increased rates of burglaries, car break-ins, school break-ins, dairy robberies (one had been hit three times), and a total of fourteen break-ins of local businesses. It’s taken the local Councillors nearly four months to front up on the issue at a local community meeting this week. That’s appalling bad reaction time, and we’ve probably only seen them because Radio New Zealand and Enterprise Miramar got in on the action.

Wellington City councillor Teri O’Neill said thieves were targeting small businesses like bakeries, dairies and liquor stores, and she blamed alcohol and drugs issues for many of the problems.

Her local Four Square was recently hit.

“People came and loaded their car up with bottles of wine and alcohol, and then the next morning we had red wine bottles smashed all over the pavement and intersection, and there’s a primary school just 100 metres up the road, and a nursery 10 metres across the road,” she said.

O’Neill has lived in her Motukairangi/ Eastern ward her whole life. She said, while there’s been a noticeable spike in crime since November, it’s affecting a wider area than just Miramar.

“It’s not just Strathmore Park and Kilbirnie any more, it’s more graffiti in Lyall Bay or communities that are starting to feel more and more unsafe in the more well-off areas, like Roseneath and Hataitai – in places where that’s a shock for people.

“It’s hitting these other areas – we are starting to hear a lot more chatter.”

Spate of break-ins and assaults leave Miramar residents fearful

Singling out Strathmore Park and Kilbirnie, “It’s not just Strathmore Park and Kilbirnie any more”, is a slap in the face for those residents reinforcing negative perception about both suburbs. Frankly, Strathmore and Kilbirnie have generally lower crime rates than other areas. That Councillor should check her language, her bias, and her lack of information before she opens her mouth.

Progress was made by the Police.

Police have confirmed there has been a jump in burglary numbers in Wellington’s eastern suburbs this year but says they have made arrests and that should level out.

Arrests in Miramar, Seatoun should quell rising burglaries – Police

Shelly Bay appeared again this week with yet more confusion over the issue, Peter Jackson weighing in again, and another group (Peninsula Parents) popping up. By my count, there are now seven active groups involved in what can only be described as a massive rolling maul that has forgotten where the try line is.

No comment from Council this week on that issue when again, they could be displaying some leadership, separating the issues, and potentially leading mediation of all parties. But, with legal action being threatened, and some underway, all parties have lawyers in play.

The new Wellington council boss has just hours left to prevent a legal battle with some of the the capital’s wealthiest litigants.

When film-maker pair Sir Peter Jackson and Dame Fran Walsh’s lawyers issued a legal ultimatum to Wellington City Council incoming chief executive Barbara McKerrow on Saturday they gave her till 5pm on Friday to respond. 

Council spokesman Richard MacLean confirmed the Council planned to meet that deadline with an “appropriate response” but would not elaborate on whether the Council would yield to Jackson and Walsh’s requests.

D-Day in Shelly Bay: Council’ deadline for Sir Peter Jackson looms

WCC’s Chief Financial Officer Andy Matthews has resigned this week in what may signal a shake-up under the new CEO. Or maybe he’s just had enough. Six and a half years with a wildly swinging Council is probably enough to drive anyone to look for a new job.

I’m personally hoping that it is a signal that the new CEO is going to clean house. It’s the only chance she’ll get, and the time to do that is right now. Crafting a new leadership team that is well-equipped to deal with the real issues while bringing about some much-needed cultural change can only be a good thing for the city.

The Mayor is coming up on his 150-day planniversary, with little to show. It’s a shambles with issues rising fast and a Council that is hamstrung by their lack of knowledge, governance structure, a poor PR effort, and lawyers hiding behind every rose bush.

Peter Dunne has some interesting insight on that situation that the Mayor faces, which I leave you with because right now, the Council is looking rather like the “know nothing, do nothing” congress of the time.

In a tough battle for re-election as President of the United States in 1948, which many predicted him to lose, Harry Truman decided the best way to defend his record was to attack those preventing him from fulfilling his agenda. So, he took to lambasting the Republican-controlled Congress as the “Know nothing, do nothing” 80th Congress whenever and wherever he spoke. The tactic worked and was a strong contributor to his stunning victory in the election.

Harry Truman’s example came to mind recently when the newly elected Wellington Mayor Andy Foster all but apologised for not being able to achieve some of his plans, like a return to free weekend parking, because of a lack of support within his Council. That looks like the first of many battles the centre-right Mayor will lose with his left-dominated Council over the next three years, which could seriously affect his re-election prospects in 2022. Unless, of course, he changes tack and seizes the initiative.

Dunne Speaks: Does Mayor Foster Need To Follow Harry Truman?

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