First published on Wellington Scoop on 22nd of November 2021.
Did you miss me? I bet some of you did, and I am pretty sure that a lot of you didn’t; sorry about that, but politics is an addiction, and I can’t help wading in on a couple of issues this week, because wow, there is some orchestrated nonsense going on in the PR space!
While I am ensconced in rural life for the most part these days, I still spend time in Wellington and follow local politics, and I see that we’ve kicked off the election campaign this week.
Huzzah! Such fun. My hit rate on predictions last time around was 77%, and I’d like to remind you that I picked Andy as Mayor. But let’s not forget that meagre margin.
Where shall we start? Mayoral candidates and then Shelly Bay? I see that we have a few putting their hands up and some starting to dance on the smouldering fire that is Shelly Bay. Naughty. Anytime a politician starts shouting “let’s not turn this into a political issue” you can be sure they will be there five minutes later turning it into a political issue.
Let’s start with Mayoral candidates. We’ve had one declare, an ex-Green who now works for a government lobbyist company. That bit has been missed in the small amount of media coverage that Tory Whanau gained last week, or should I say, carefully choreographed puff pieces? No, I shouldn’t say that because I respect Georgina Campbell at the Herald, who wouldn’t have the wool pulled over her eyes, I am sure.
Here’s an opinion piece from the NZ Herald one week before Tory Whanau put herself forward:
“On Thursday it was announced that the recently departed Green Party Chief of Staff in Parliament, Tory Whanau, has become a lobbyist. She has joined the corporate lobbying group Capital Government Relations … Of course, this would be illegal in other countries. But New Zealand has barely any rules about lobbying, and absolutely no rules to stop the “revolving door” of Beehive staffers shifting into lucrative corporate jobs to leverage their political connections and information. The likes of Jones and Whanau move freely and frequently between jobs in the Beehive and roles in which they lobby their ex-colleagues on behalf of the wealthy.”
So, what are her mayoral chances? It depends on who else stands. If there is a full card, then Tory has no chance. If it is a short card, more so.
No chance because the city is not ready for another green Mayor. The days of Celia Wade-Brown still resonate strongly in most of the wards, and the absolute schmozzle that has been the red-green bloc this triennium will firmly close that door. That also locks out any current green councillors who may want to run for Mayor.
It is easy to forget that Wellington is deeply conservative, and while they will vote for Labour, they tend to pick Labour MPs who are, you guessed it, more in the conservative box.
Paul Eagle is the tiger in the jungle. Every other candidate knows that if Paul throws his hat in the ring, they are toast. Burnt, scattered, maudlin, toast. He’s the perfect candidate. Labour, more conservative, outspoken, everywhere at once, and with those magnificent eyebrows, clearly a strong leader.
If he runs, he’ll beat everyone else. I have no doubt of that. Frankly, he must be getting bored as an MP. Labour has given him nothing of note to do, and he seems to be consigned to the “steady as she goes” ship.
Andy Foster, well, well, well … Again, it depends on the card, but I’m going to go with probably not.
When you read his original 150-day plan, very little has been achieved. That’s because he’s had to work with a basket case of councillors who have deliberately vexed any efforts on his part to make progress, flip-flopped like a trout pulled from the river on a warm day, and hissed at every media release with such venom one could be forgiven thinking they are a coterie of poisonous cats.
Still, on the surface, not much has happened that was promised, and Andy will need to wear that.
Justin Lester. A slippery choice. Just like Jesus he could claim he has been in the great business desert, stroking his beard, looking at stone tablets, the odd burning bush perhaps, and now could return in a second coming to save the city.
Saint Justin. I think it could be a thing if he stood again, especially against a weak card, and if he distanced himself from the Labour pack. That would be important. An independent mayor, with a slight lean to the right, immense jaw jutting forward like Caesar.
I think he would win unless you rolled out the tiger from the jungle, Paul Eagle. In fact, that would make a stunning duo. If you ever wanted to sort out the councillors, those two in tandem would probably be able to do it.
Jill Day may have a crack at the mayoralty, but I doubt it. She was the missing deputy in the last triennium, seldom to be seen, which was a shame because that is the once in a lifetime opportunity you get as a politician to dig in, perform, and build a platform for your next move.
Her performance has been weird this triennium, and some of her views tend to be at odds with themselves. And most likely unintended, she sometimes comes across as self-righteous and almost religiously indignant. Opinion pieces like this one, “Safety of people must come first at Shelly Bay”, don’t help. I’m going to dissect this in some detail because it is an excellent example of how the Council is still obviously at odds with itself.
Frankly, I’d be surprised if Jill wrote this piece. At the very least, there would have been someone else helping with it because it doesn’t feel like her style or voice to me.
Of course the safety of people is paramount. This is a churlish statement at best and condescending at worst. That’s why, after the powers-that-be moved the peaceful protest about eight notches up the rung to the nuclear level, several Councillors told the CE and others to back down and walk away for a bit.
If they had strictly followed the letter of the law and started physically moving people based on what has largely been interpreted as a cynical move by the Council to remove protestors because of asbestos concerns, using Police, then there would have been a genuine chance of people being hurt.
Jill rambles on about the difference between governance and operations, wandering along in a poor version of a 101 paper on the blurring of lines between the two. This, despite the fact this Council has done exactly that for the entire triennium, most stepping in to interfere when it politically suited their personal agendas or the agenda of certain blocs.
Whether these councillors like it or not, the City Council agreed to sell land at Shelly Bay to enable mana whenua to partner with the Wellington Company to develop the land they purchased as a result of a Treaty settlement at Shelly Bay. This was rightly a governance decision, and implementation was appropriately delegated to the CEO and her team.
Wow. An amazingly one-eyed view of the situation that simultaneous sounds like a lecture by a particular developer and rewrites history in one fell swoop. This Council, not always the majority, has sought to twist the truth using PR and to bury the past, hoping that no one will remember.
Nicky Hager does an excellent job of explaining Shelly Bay in this article.
And here’s Jill again:
And, that is exactly what mana whenua have asked us to do. They have issued a clear public statement asking for the political interference at Shelly Bay to stop, and I don’t blame them. We risk creating a whole new grievance by interfering with their decisions about how to set up their iwi for their uri well into the future.
The delicious irony is that this entire lecture, or opinion piece, just does that, in my opinion. Interferes politically.
Interestingly, it uses language that is extraordinarily similar to this ridiculous press release: “Developers want politicians to stay out of their Shelly Bay business.” Another misguided PR further alienating all parties.
I don’t know if Jill Day intends to have a crack at the mayoralty, but at least for the sake of argument, say she is. She won’t win. She’s managed to box herself into that left corner over the last triennium to the point where she is now seen as very, very green. And remember, Wellington doesn’t want another green mayor just yet.
The second thing. I know I bang on and on about Shelly Bay. Still, it is an excellent microcosm of how this Council governs and operates. It’s the barometer. When they get this one right, you know that you have an influential Council; until then, well, it’s obvious they don’t.
Frankly, Wellington deserves an effective Council, because right now, as the opinion piece by Jill shows, they are clearly still at each other’s throats, at odds, and far more interested in their own selves than serving the city as our employees.
What do you think? I’ve rambled on for far more than my word budget. Who do you see as contenders? Nick Leggett? Kerry Prendergast? Sarah Free? Conor? Why? And, what can be done to set the Council back on a level footing?