The local election campaign has been going for a while now, and I can’t help noticing the “teams” put forward by the main Mayoral candidates. This isn’t surprising: in the latest Resident Monitoring Survey, “in-fighting” at the Wellington City Council was one of the main reasons why people were dissatisfied with it. The “team” messages are saying: “If you vote for me as a Mayor, consider voting for these other Councillor candidates in your ward to create a coherent Council that will vote consistently for a set of policies”.
The most articulate of these teams is the Greens’, led by Tory Whanau, who’ve pushed the following visual both online and as flyers:
Andy Foster’s team, called “Together for Wellington” is a bit confusing. It came out first on a poorly designed flyer, with two Mayoral candidates on it (Andy and Ray Chung), and people were quick to notice it had as many women in the line-up as a common set of policies: none. Some candidates, who were thought to be in the group, distanced themselves, and the mood went one notch further down with the rumour that Barbara McKenzie had joined one of its meetings. Nevertheless, here is the flyer that went out:
It remains to be seen what “common set of policies” or “shared values” this group is made of.
The last “team” is called “Team Eagle”, and its allegiances are obvious to people with a keen interest in local politics. In this group, we find Eagle’s most vocal supporter (and also the most surprising to some), Dianne Calvert. But also other surprising profiles such as David Lee and Tim Brown. No team flyer has been distributed, but a shared branding language is being used, both online and on hoardings:
This last team confuses me a lot, very much like Paul Eagle’s candidacy to be Mayor. There are a lot of questions or contradictions I would have loved to discuss directly with Paul if he hadn’t declined an interview. This would have given him the chance to clear the air for all the people who, like me, can’t be sure of what his proposition is for Wellington. So, in the absence of direct answers from Paul, let me outline here what does not ring right to me.
Paul Eagle has been a Labour Councillor and a Labour MP for twelve years. But when he announced his candidacy for the Wellington Mayoralty, he did so as an independent, endorsed by Labour. And off went the first alarm bell: why, after so many years as a member of the Labour Party couldn’t Paul Eagle be THE Labour candidate? How can one be on-leave-Labour-MP-independent-Labour-endorsed all at the same time? This question became even more nagging when Dianne Calvert, a Councillor who couldn’t be more distant from Labour’s values, popped as his main supporter. So, what are residents voting if they vote for Paul Eagle?
Then the Labour’s set of policies for Wellington came out. They were quickly endorsed by all Labour candidates in their wards. The cycleway policy is very salient for the budget it’ll require (the Council’s Long-Term Plan is committed to spending $226M on the cycle network) and the set of values underpinning it. It reads:
As members of Wellington City Council, we will advocate to (…) Roll out the full cycle network across the city to ensure safer journeys for cyclists and to provide separation where possible from pedestriansLabour policies, page 1
Now, what does Paul Eagle’s website says in terms of cycleway policies?
This should not come as a surprise, as in 2020, Labour MP Paul Eagle said:
“The council has had an unhealthy obsession with cycleways in the absence of looking at all modes. Even in public participation, it’s been ‘cycling, cycling, cycling’. Pedestrians, commercial vehicle operators, are asking, ‘What about us? We just want a fair bite of the apple’ … Commuting by bike is viable in some parts of the city, but not everywhere … Wellington is not The Netherlands, we’re not Copenhagen”.Stuff, June 2020
On this fundamental strategic direction, Labour and Paul Eagle’s policies are in opposition. So, what are residents voting for if they vote for Paul Eagle?
On climate too, the gap between Labour and Paul Eagle is wide. The Labour policies not only support mode shift (for mitigation), but also:
As members of Wellington City Council, we will (…) Implement and fund Te Atakura – First to Zero (Blueprint to make Wellington City a zero carbon capital).Labour policies, page 1
Now, is there just one policy on Paul Eagle’s website to mitigate climate change? If you have found one, please send me a link, because there aren’t any at this point in time. What can be found when looking for the word “climate” on Paul’s website is some mention of climate change adaptation. In the Te Upoko o te Ika Radio mayoral debate, organised on Wednesday the 31st of August, candidates were asked what they’d do about climate change. Paul Eagle said the following:
All my policies are underpinned by three things which one is tackling the climate crisis. One of the big things I want to focus on is a Mayoral taskforce for climate adaptation.Te Upoko o te Ika Radio mayoral debate (at 16:26)
What I’m reading is that Paul Eagle has no intention to see Wellington do its bit to mitigate climate change, that ship has sailed. He thinks we now need to adapt while continuing living the lives we live. With that in mind, I would have loved to ask if Paul supports the airport expansion. I am assuming with the information I have, that he does, despite the development being bad for the climate and life destroying for Eastern suburbs’ residents.
To be fair, I haven’t found Labour Councillors to be overly concerned about the airport expansion. However, Labour is putting forward some climate mitigation policies, whereas Paul Eagle has none. So, what are residents voting for if they choose Paul Eagle?
To be completely exhaustive and fair, there is one opinion Paul seems to share with Labour mayor Justin Lester, and that is his support for the Shelly Bay development (as discussed in part 2 of the 31st of August mayoral debate).
So while Paul makes his priorities kind of clear, they are not aligned – if not in contradiction – with the party he belongs to, and the flag he has carried for all these years. And there lies the problem: if name recognition is worth anything, many voters are likely to vote for Paul Eagle, the Labour guy, not the independent, anti-cycleway, climate bench-warmer he seems to be.
So, what are residents voting for if they choose to vote for Paul Eagle?