A conversation with Sean Rush

Mid-July, I wrote an article called “A mid-term City Council assessment and the Eastern mega developments”. This piece was an opportunity to look at our city, its issues and its opportunities. I also looked at how our City Council had navigated these troubled waters and is sailing towards the approaching icebergs (namely climate change, housing, transport or how to restore faith in our local democracy). I drifted to the East where mega-developments are lining up, seemingly without community input.

I closed the article in inviting the Mayor and the three Eastern ward Councilors to react and comment. Below is the transcript of my conversation with Sean Rush, Easter Ward Councilor together with the recording.

It is the third in a series of three (maybe four) conversations which, I hope, will give the readers of this blog a sense of how their elected members are faring the challenges the city is facing.

Music: https://www.bensound.com

Benoit Pette: Today is Friday the 13th of August 2021. I am sitting with Sean Rush, a first time Councilor in the Eastern ward. Sean, you no stranger to controversies whether it’s your career in energy and oil which seemed to be discovered after your election by some, or when you turn you back on the waiata. Now you are also keen to learn. So you undertook a master’s in climate science and policy in 2019 at Victoria University. And you so committed to learn more about Maori Customs. You are not afraid to speak your mind and not afraid to change it when it matters. You are approachable, energetic, and it was the past few months you’ve made no mistake that you were wondering if you would be running again next year.

Today, we’ll be discussing city council, climate change, the big developments in the East, like the airport expansion, Shelly Bay, Mount Crawford and engagement. Sean, how are you?

Sean Rush: Very good. Thank you very much. I’m particularly interested in your comment that my career was discovered after the election. Of course the Dom Post ran a full page op-ed that I wrote in 2018 after the government banned oil and gas exploration. And I wrote how disappointed I was not because of the oil and gas industry, of course, but as a criminal defense lawyer in Napier, where I grew up, I just knew that a big development that created jobs and wellbeing and brought wealth and prosperity to an area like Hawkes Bay could do a lot of good things for those young men, predominantly in Maori, who were doing tough yards. So, it shouldn’t have been, I didn’t hide it.

Climate Change

BP: No, but for some people it was a discovery and of course, you knew then perhaps, but you know now that for Wellingtonians, there’s a strong, strong demand for climate action (90% want action on climate change, no matter what). So that’s actually the first topic. Te Atakura was voted a year ago and of course we’ve seen in the past few months, extreme weather events throughout the world, and even here close to home, we’ve seen floods on the South Coast in March this year, in April last year. Do you think we’re doing enough as a city to address climate change?

SR: Well, I suppose first all, yes, I studied and graduated this year with a master’s in climate change science and policy from Victoria University with merits, I think they called it. And actually a year ago I was an expert reviewer for the Sixth Assessment Report that came out on Monday. So whilst I can’t say I’ve read the whole thing, I read the bits that I reviewed and I was quite pleased to find that some of my comments have actually been accepted. So it was a real good reinforcement that the processes are good. As far as Wellington’s concern, we have the lowest carbon footprint of any capital city in the Southern hemisphere, with the lowest carbon footprint of any city in New Zealand. So you might say we’re doing moderately well. The big item really, I suppose, outside of transport is our electricity generation.

And I have lobbied the government to shut down Huntly. What they need to do is to do what governments have done for decades, which is to mobilize and build renewable electricity generation. Don’t leave it to the market because the market won’t do it while Huntly is still burning coal. So that’s the first thing that I think we, as Wellingtonians should be asking our government who own Genesis, they own Huntly. I offered to James Shaw to mobilize the oil and guests industry expertise to do a study on converting it to hydrogen and James was strong for that. And I said, well, you’re going to have to pay for it and he never got back to me.

So there’s that aspect. The other one is transport, of course. We don’t have lots of cattle in Wellington other than in the supermarket and we need to remember that’s got a footprint as well. But transport we’ve just approved a record budget for cycleways. What I really think I want to do as the chair of infrastructure is, and I’ve started, a conversation with Wellington Electricity around what we need to do to our grid in order to support thousands of electric vehicles. So that’s the next step I think for infrastructure in Wellington. We need to put in place the type of settings that enabled us to use low carbon energy. And that’s in the transport sector, whether it be what you burn in your oven and in heating as well.

BP: Energy generation and support for a cleaner grid or perhaps a more reliable, stronger grid is yet… Well, it’s got to be done. It’s not the prerogative of the city council. Within the city council, what can be done?

What I think we should be doing is taking the low hanging fruit Benoit and that for me is insulating the houses that we have. The simplest easiest, no argument, let’s get on with that thing, let’s do that. Everyone around my table will say let’s do it is to insulate the homes, the social housing, it’s a win, win all over.

SR: Well, no, I disagree. We are going to be doing a lot of digging up of the roads as part of Let’s Get Wellington Moving and Wellington Water, routinely dig up the roads as well. Wellington Electricity are also needing to dig up the roads to replace old cable and that’s part of traffic management and so forth. So we need to be coordinating with Wellington Electricity is about what they need to do over the next 30, 40 years in order to give us a grid that will support the extra requirements we’re going to need.

So it is future planning. And as part of the city council’s role. As a city council ourselves, we can go electric with all our vehicle fleet. What I think we should be doing is taking the low hanging fruit Benoit and that for me is insulating the houses that we have. The simplest easiest, no argument, let’s get on with that thing, let’s do that. Everyone around my table will say let’s do it is to insulate the homes, the social housing, it’s a win, win all over.

Urban planning

BP: Speaking of urban planning, there’s been obviously the debates earlier this year on the spatial plan. And there’s going to be a lot of construction coming our way. However, you’re very aware that construction and concrete is very high emitting. Wasn’t there an opportunity to push for more working from home and repurpose existing office buildings by engaging with the private sector and say: “you own that building, you put offices in there, rezone it for housing” and doing so addressing the housing crisis as well as climate crisis. Do we think there should have been perhaps a little bit forward thinking there?

SR: So, you might be surprised to know that I’ve been championing the green infrastructure provisions that are coming up in the new district plan. So water sensitive urban design, for example, use of materials that don’t rely on concrete. So there’s good technology that’s available now, which has essentially has wood as its basis, but is laminated in… I’m not sure what the coding is. It won’t be plastic, but it’s super strong stuff and you can use that. And that’s effectively locking carbon away for the life of that building. So those are the sorts of things that we, as part of our bylaws for building and so forth are able to maybe influence.

BP: But is this for new houses though?

SR: No. That will be used in buildings as well. Yeah. I have to say, I haven’t looked at this now for a couple of years, but it was one of the things that… The other thing is hemp, believe it or not, but I’m not going to talk too much about it. But apparently hemp, once it’s been treated properly, it’s tunes as hard as concrete and actually keeps sucking CO2 out of the air the longer it… And that turns that CO2 into something that makes it stronger.

BP: Do you think that it is something the district plan would be able to enforce?

SR: Probably not. No. But it’s something that… I just keep these things on my radar. The first thing I did when I was given the portfolio of low carbon energy was to have Wellington City Council join the Hydrogen Council of New Zealand. We were the second city council to do so after New Plymouth, I think. And we’ve had dialogue with the likes of Hiringa Energy they are putting in place a small demonstration hydrogen plant in Taranaki. We see there’s a possibility that, that hydrogen might power buses. It’s not going to be any good for your standard motor vehicle, but for trucks and heavy vehicles, it’s a possible answer, but there’s a lot of technical issues around it.

BP: Okay. Well, there’s a lot of suggestions out there and some of them I hear a lot of advocating ways and the private sector with central government. In Wellington here, we have Te Atakura – First to Zero and when it was voted last year, it was quite surprising to find that there was this massive gap between the target set for 2030, of a 43% emission reduction. And if all the actions were rolled out in that same plan, we would only reach 24% emission reduction by 2030. So 19 points difference between those two. So there’s still a lot to find. What can you say about this?

SR: And actually we’re going to be going backwards in the next report, because a large part of our footprint is our electricity generation, and we are sourcing it from Huntly. So when Huntly went almost a hundred percent gas, a few years ago, Wellington City Council’s footprint dropped. It was the biggest cause of our reduction in emissions that and the methane capture scheme at the landfill. Huntly is now burning all three berths units using coal. They had messaged that they were going to shut them all down, but they aren’t now. So that’s going to be a problem. So I’ve said to our officers, we can buy a green certified electricity from the likes of Meridian and at least… And although Huntly will carry on burning, we can make that a premium product. So I’ve asked officers to look into that.

But we can do more in the public transport. That’s the obvious place we should be focusing. And I have to say, whilst I’ve been supportive of the cycleway program, I am concerned that, that’s been too much focus and not enough on the public transport side of it. Because a bus can take 30 cyclists there and back and 30 cyclists of all ages and all experiences as well.

BP: But Te Atakura though, correct me if I’m wrong. Te Atakura is citywide it’s not only the city council. What you’re suggesting is how as the city council will sort it some other way. So in Te Atakura we have got this gap. Throughout the city, 19 points, we still have to find 19 points of emission reduction. How are we going to do this?

SR: Well, to be quite honest there’s a lively debate in the policy science section around climate change. Do you put in place the heroic targets without having a road to get there, or do you put the road based on current technology and then put your targets in. We’ve gone for a target without having a defined road to get there. So it’s going to require technology change, it’s going to mean more cars off the road and it’s going to mean more offsets. I don’t think that we will be in 2050 all walking, and people aren’t going to walk from that. But we can do more in the public transport. That’s the obvious place we should be focusing. And I have to say, whilst I’ve been supportive of the cycleway program, I am concerned that, that’s been too much focus and not enough on the public transport side of it. Because a bus can take 30 cyclists there and back and 30 cyclists of all ages and all experiences as well.

So, I think we’ve missed a bit of a trick there, but that said, unfortunately, greater Wellington’s in charge of the buses. And I hate saying this, but I campaign on the view that we’d take the bus service back, but it’s all tied up in legislation that can’t be undone and I’m sorry folks, we can’t. So they are bringing in electric buses, I think they’ve got 98 have been ordered from China awkwardly.

BP: I heard 20% of the fleet will be electric by 2023, I take it?

SR: So there’s the opportunity Benoit. So as someone experienced in the oil, gas, power, energy sector, we’ve got near on a hundred buses that are going to need to be charged every day with a base load. Now that’s significant. Why aren’t we going to Meridian saying, we will do a 25 year contract with you, we’ll pay you a guarantee payments that will recover your investment if you go and build me a wind farm. That’s what we really need to be doing. And the government needs to be steering that. That is basic 1-0-1 take-or-pay contracts that people in the power sector are familiar with.

The airport expansion

BP: Yeah. Continuing on climate change while drifting towards more local endeavors. I would be very interested to hear your thoughts on this one. So, as you know the airport is planning to expand. They’ve got this grand expansion plan over the golf course, which would attract a billion dollars investment by 2040. And when I touched on this project with Mayor Foster earlier this week, I said, what do you think of this project? Well, the demand is driving the growth. And to the question of whether it wasn’t best thing to do in a climate emergency to expand an airport, which is 20% of our emissions following transport, he said, “Well, demand is the driving force.” So I heard you saying earlier: “we don’t leave it to the market to decide” when you touched on the… I think it was electricity, wasn’t it?

SR: Yeah. Electricity generation.

BP: So with all that in mind, do you think this project, this expansion of the airport over the golf course is the best idea today?

SR: Yeah. This is just that they bought the golf course and they’re going to reconfigure the international and domestic terminals. As an Eastern ward resident and a golfer, I’m mortified that they’re going to do that. I feel so much for the people who’ve got those lovely views around the golf course. But I would also say that I understand that the golf course was struggling and that this is a… We live in a free society where people can buy and sell and so forth. And so if the airport’s done that deal with the golf club, that’s their private business. And if they think that building a new terminal there is a smart thing for their business then that’s really their prerogative.

As an Eastern ward resident and a golfer, I’m mortified that they’re going to do that. I feel so much for the people who’ve got those lovely views around the golf course. But (…) We live in a free society where people can buy and sell and so forth. And so if the airport’s done that deal with the golf club, that’s their private business.

You’ve got to remember that with the emissions trading scheme now are actually becoming effective. They sell up over $50 a ton now I think. And the productivity commission, reckons that to get to real change in your fuel source, you need to be up to the 100 to $200. So they were saying, I think, this is a few years ago, I submitted on their Meet 2050 document. So that will start driving different behaviors. It never used to be that everyone could get on a plane and go places. I never flew internationally till I was in my mid to late twenties. My son’s been to England twice, he’s only seven. So we need to…

And I finished my submission to the productivity commission. I said that there are a couple of things, one is that the government needs to create a state agency, a national champion to champion low carbon electricity generation and other infrastructure. But the other thing is we need to start, instead of telling people that it’s going to be really different in 50 years time. And you know, that scares people. Tell them it’s going to be like it was in 1950 where people lived pretty close to each other. It was a lot more walking. You might’ve had one car and you never got on an aircraft, you caught a bus. And that was a very prosperous time for New Zealand. It’s a very happy time. So that’s where I would be pitching it.

BP: Yeah. So what I’m hearing, Sean, and please correct me if I’m wrong, is that if the council had an opportunity to make a comment, a public statement on this expansion, whether it is appropriate to do it now, you would actually be happy to say that you oppose this project, if that was tabled?

SR: I wouldn’t say that at all Benoit. At a personal level, as a golfer. Yeah. Exactly.

BP: Yeah. But you are Eastern Ward councilor though.

SR: But now as a city councilor, I believe, and I suppose as a center right city councilor I believe that in freedom of contract and freedom of industry to figure things out as best for themselves. And as a consequence, I think making critical statements about a company in which we’re a major shareholder in publicly is doing nothing more than creating the soundbites that sounds good. The place to make these comments is at the board table.

BP: Okay. So in that case, would you suggest or be supportive of selling the council share in the airport?

SR: Oh. Absolutely. Well, before COVID, I’m pretty sure people were already starting to think of it. I’d looked at it and this is a great example of why governments should get into infrastructure projects, because originally, you couldn’t get the private sector to invest in Wellington Airport. So Wellington City did it itself because it needed to have the airport just to survive as a capital city. But over time it became an economic activity that was attractive to the private sector. So we’ve sold out and we’ve taken that money and we’ve spent in other parts of our city, which the private sector won’t invest in.

So for me, if you’re a state entity… So I’ve studied the theory of state participation, mainly in the oil and gas industry, but applies more broadly in theory. So if the private sector find an asset attractive, you should sell out of it and go and invest in social housing, for example, because that’s the role of a state. So before COVID, definitely I would probably wait until the airport gets back on its feet and then flog it.

BP: And then you would feel free to comment on such an expansion in the context of a climate emergency or not.

SR: So, Benoit a lot’s talked about the climate emergency. It is, it is a political statement and again, there’s different way of thinking about, do you declare an emergency and encourage the momentum to be able to get action, recognizing of course, that compared to a pandemic which is immediate and it’s killing people or that sort of thing. (…) But anyway, in terms of the airport, I don’t think it’s the role of a state organization to come out and be critical of any organization that’s acting within the law. We do take, I suppose, moral stances on some things, I mean we could do that I suppose.

Shelly Bay and Mount Crawford

BP: Well, I heard you saying that you are concerned for the residents who live around the airport which will be receiving a lot of the adverse effect directly in their backyard, which is not negligible, I guess.

The airport expansion is one of the three massive projects in the East that we have. So again, this master plan that the airport as is worth a billion dollars. Shelly Bay is half a billion, Mount Crawford is being discussed heavily. And because it’s about the same development size, we’ve got 350 homes in Shelly Bay, 300 in Mount Crawford. So we could say it’s probably another half a billion, so two billion in total.

And if Let’s Get Wellington Moving is coming to the East, you could even argue that those six billions that’s going to be spent on Let’s Get Wellington Moving to unlock the East. And so a lot of things are happening in the East. Do you agree with that?

SR: I do tend to agree. I went for a meeting with the CEO of the airport and offered to put together a coordinating forum with the Wellington company, for example, and others in order that these developments are managed in a way that causes the least disruption. So we don’t want to have all the trucks coming out to all these sites all the time and that will be more expensive for the developers as well.

But I think more to your point, do the people on the East really understand what’s going on? I got a sense of it during the last campaign, there was a lot of concern that the increased vehicles that would be servicing Shelly Bay could not be accommodated on the very congested roads that we have at the moment. And the old duplicate Mt Vic Tunnel sort of thing came, I’m not going to campaign on that this year, if I stand. But certainly, the transport links are struggling to manage with the existing load and I’ve got real concerns that the added housing, which we do need is going to exacerbate the issues already.

BP: Yeah. But this spatial plan was very clear in its consultation phase, that what Wellingtonians wanted were three things. That the growth would actually happen in the inner suburbs, along a main transport spine, and the developments had to be greener. The three boxes are not ticked by either Shelly Bay or Mount Crawford. They’re not on the main transport spine and not in an inner suburb. You might argue that perhaps they might become greener, whatever that means. But they don’t tick those two other boxes. So, is it something that you embedded into your reasoning when you decided to vote against the sale and lease of the Shelly Bay land back in November last year?

SR: Yeah. So when I campaigned, I didn’t really know and understand the mini detail of the relationship between the council, the legislation that was used, the Iwi and the differences of opinion within the Iwi. I stayed out of that, for me it was all about the fact is: we don’t have good transport, and we need to have a solution for the bottlenecks at the Mt Vic Tunnel and the Basin Reserve. We need to have that, and that’s been signaled for decades.

And my colleague Nicola Young’s father Bill Young campaigned on that in the 60s and successfully. Awkwardly became Minister of Works and didn’t do it. So I supported my friend and colleague Tamatha Paul’s call for a fossil free CBD because the night before I’d read the GAL report, and it was just wonderful, non politicized, non ideology, just good city planning stuff, which talked about, take all the cars off the waterfront, put them all onto a bypass that gets them out to the East to the hospital. And that way you can have this wonderful walkable city. And for me, I was just all very excited when Tam tabled this thing, I said, I’ll sign it. And a lot of people raised their eyebrows. And…

BP: You do change your mind.

SR: No, no, no. For me, it’s all about sensible, balanced, city planning. So at the moment, what I’m seeing with the Innovating Streets program is a lot of, cycleways a lot of parking being taken off and in barriers to be after driving to the CBD for work without actually the public transport to be built. So all this is going to happen before light rail, all the tunnels. So for me, it’s just poor, poor planning and then the officers know this too. They said that, well, we’ll have to figure that out/ So, can’t remember what the question was now.

BP: So the question was around Shelly Bay.

When I first went there I went, “Oh this needs to be all cleared out”. But actually it grows on you. And I love… Sundays you’ll find me at the Chocolate Fish with a cup of coffee. The kids are playing on the little bikes and so forth. And you can go diving out there. It’s just wonderful unspoiled place. And we need to celebrate that.

SR: So, being on council, getting visibility to actually the documents, I might be criticized for having worked in the oil and gas industry, but, because of the very difficult countries that we work in, we have very, very high business standards around who we deal with. And in terms of procurement, business ethics and anyone that’s a little bit dodgy, we drop like a hotcake. Not all of them, but the majors do the Shells, the BP’s, they’re not perfect, but they do have these standards. The company I worked for was Petro-Canada and the Canadians are very high standards. So when I saw that actually the Iwi members had directed their trustees to cease negotiations with the Wellington company, and they didn’t, for me, that was it! No way can I support their development until that was cleared up.

So I’m very disappointed the lawsuit halted, but yeah, so there’s a number of reasons. Plus Shelly Bay is this lovely… When I first went there I went, oh this needs to be all cleared out. But actually it grows on you. And I love… Sundays you’ll find me at the Chocolate Fish with a cup of coffee. The kids are playing on the little bikes and so forth. And you can go diving out there. It’s just wonderful unspoiled place. And we need to celebrate that. So there’s very few capital cities in the world that have got this wonderful place even on Watts Peninsula generally.

Now, we’ve got to be careful because it is Iwi land. Iwi in the deed of settlement obtained first rights of refusal, which they have exercised and the same with Mount Crawford. And that was provided in order to benefit the Iwi.

So, we need to respect that. We can’t block that, that would be inappropriate to even talk about this sort of thing. In fact, we need to support it. So I’m hoping that actually, whilst we’re going to have this construction going on in parallel, we can have that natural park that we’ve talked about for the wider Watts Peninsula. And I’m really excited about working with our Iwi colleagues that we’ve now got on council and with the Iwi generally, about how we do that to tell the stories, not just of our current Iwi, but the Iwi who lived there beforehand. Do you know there is a really, really interesting scientific article from a paper from the early 1900s, early 20th century, about a pod of whale skeletons found on the Watts Peninsula.

BP: Wow.

SR: Peer reviewed and what they reckon was there was a gigantic tsunami, that’s the only reason they can think of which deposited them 60 feet above sea level. So we need to uncover these wonderful stories, we need to build on them. And of course is the wonderful story of Hataitai and the creation of Port Nicholson, we can celebrate those stories.

Council and engagement

BP: So what I’m hearing Sean is strong focus on urban planning, where having the timing right, for transport, for the CBD. It’s a good segway into something I want to touch on with you around engagement and how we lift our local democracy here in Wellington. Do you think there was an opportunity there for the council to create a better consensus around the council table, but also through the community? Is it the role of the council to carve a shared path?

SR: Well, Benoit, I’m going to be brutally honest here. I have spent the last two years. In fact, it’s probably my success story of trying to build relationships across the table, around the table. But that work is not done. So we need as a council to show unity. And I campaigned on unity. I remember that was one of the reasons I stood. Everything was being divided and we need that unity. And I think things have turned a corner, I’m hopeful that after the Winder Report, we’ve got the new structures working. I’m working very closely with Jenny Condie, which I always have worked closely with. But I’m sharing more time with the Jill Day, Fleur Fitzsimons and people who are on the other side of the political spectrum. You’d think we would be at poles apart, but I wanted to show the people of Wellington that actually we could work together despite our politics.

So the first thing I said to Andy Foster, when we talked about portfolios is I want to share one with Iona and you should’ve seen the look on their face. But we said, I think it was place-making I think. What I did when I first got on council was to look around the table and forget about the political parties, but have a look at the people. So, Rebecca Matthews has got high amount of energy for disabilities, and I’ve got disabilities running my family so I built a bridge there. Councilor Day has got a lot of energy around children. Well, I’ve got a four and a seven year old, so I sort of bring them in. Councilor Fitzsimons, well she’s a lawyer, I’m a lawyer. And one of her friends who used to be a trade union lawyer was one of my best mates at school.

So the first thing I said to Andy Foster, when we talked about portfolios is I want to share one with Iona and you should’ve seen the look on their face. But I think it was place-making. What I did when I first got on council was to look around the table and forget about the political parties, and have a look at the people.

So I’m thankful for her because she got me back in touch with him. So you kind of start looking at what brings us together, okay. And then you start having conversations that aren’t related to the council, about your family, about your mum and dad, about your upbringing, and you start suddenly trusting each other a bit more. And that’s what I’ve been trying to do. And I think we do need to do that with our wider community. There is definitely a role. That is the role of the city council was to make the city feel proud of itself, feel energized about the future and to feel like we’re all in it together.

BP: Well, that’s a really good endeavor. Now, the tool that the council has today to engage with the community is consultation. The consultation is very frustrating. Whether people find it’s too long or it’s too short, or that the questions are biased, the outcome is not listened to. Sometimes you’ve got consultation providing an outcome, which is not respected. Spatial plan for example, or sometimes even…

SR: Yeah. They’re intuitively wrong decisions. Feedback’s coming back. That’s telling you something that’s intuitively, not what you’re hearing in the community.

BP: So what can we do to ensure we capture…

SR: So there’s some challenges here. So first of all, we’re a wedded to a statutory process that actually embeds a lot of this process into what we do. For my money though, there’s nothing better than hosting a public meeting and going out and engaging. That’s my favorite part of the job is talking with the ordinary person in the street, whether it’s in a pub, at the dairy or the cafe or a public meeting and I get energized from it.

BP: Yeah. But you do that, Sean, and then you’ll have people say, oh yeah, but the people you engage with or that turn up by the public meetings are people who got time on their hands and they’re retired. Therefore the demographic is not accurate. So what do you do to address this?

SR: Yeah. I held a public meeting about the pop-up cycleways and 100 people came at short notice and some of my colleagues who disagreed with what I was doing, made that allegation. But actually the people that were there, they were young people, there was one woman speaking she was wahine, there were teachers there. And yeah, you’re right about time as a father of two kids, my wife and I can’t both go to a public meeting, someone doesn’t go.

So I guess it is something we need to think through, but I guess just as a starting point, getting out into your community randomly is, is a good thing and being visible and being approachable.

I am also concerned about the lack of participation. So 40% voted in the elections. So I had Peter Williams from Magic Talk, interviewed me about my vote on Iwi representation. And he was talking about the foundations of democracy have been overrun, Sean, how can you possibly oversee that. Peter, only 40% of the people vote in these elections. So we need to get that up to more 80% so that we have a representative vote. And I’m just not sure how you do that, but certainly making very significant decisions that have got a strong opposition is likely to bring out people to vote.

BP: Well, and of course there’s a lot of changes coming our way to towards Wellington. We’ve got climate change is one of the biggest crisis of course, with housing crisis and transport. So I guess it’s a lot of challenges, for which people have got polarized views and it’s not necessarily easy to come up with something that’s going to satisfy everyone, do you think?

SR: Yeah. It is one of the problems with how our democracies work is that you’ve got to vote for one person and they might say five things you really like, but one thing you really don’t like, but by voting to them, you’re kind of giving them a mandate to do the thing you don’t want. So, I don’t know how you’d skin that cat, Benoit. We just need to, in the end, I suppose, make sure we’re trying to listen to as many people as we can and put aside our own prejudices and biases in order to do what the community wants.

BP: What about referendums?

SR: So I supported one that came, which was tabled by Councilor Calvert on Thursday at the infrastructure committee to ask the community about transferring the water assets to a new entity with co-governance with Iwi, not our local Iwi, but Iwi all the way up through to past Gisborne along with elected members, not your elected members, but elected members from Palmerston North, from Gisborne, from Rotorua.

So effectively we pay $100 million dollars a year to Wellington Water and Wellington Water do projects we tell it to do in Wellington. We will be paying $100 million dollars to this entity without any guarantee that it will be spent in Wellington. So that’s a real concern for me. And I know that the government are planning to remove all the consultation rights that would normally require us in and give the community an opportunity to be heard. So I think that a referendum or petition or some way for the community to express their democratic will has got to be on the table.

BP: That’s a very nice way to close those discussion. Thank you Sean. It’s been very informative and all the best with the discussion run the infrastructure.

SR: Well, let’s just hope that black Friday isn’t a black Friday for me. Thanks Benoit.

BP: Thank you Sean.

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