Wellington Scoop

Challenging the mayor

With local elections only nine months away, no surprise that a mayoral candidate has emerged offering “fresh leadership.”

But the candidate is up the coast in Kapiti. No mayoral challengers have yet been nominated in Wellington, or Hutt City, or Upper Hutt, or Porirua.

In Wellington, as the DomPost has reported, not a single contender has emerged to take on Wellington Mayor Justin Lester in October’s election. Not even with the encouragement of $10,000 offered by entrepreneur Phil Sprey as an incentive for a viable candidate to oppose the mayor. Mind you, Sprey says he has been approached in confidence by three councillors who expressed “lukewarm” interest in both the mayoralty and his offer.

Justin Lester announced in November that he was standing for a second term with all three Labour city councillors – Brian Dawson, Peter Gilberd and Fleur Fitzsimons – plus two new Labour candidates: Rebecca Matthews-Heron for the Onslow-Western Ward, and 20-year-old Teri O’Neill for the Eastern Ward.

But so far no other nominations have been made.

There’s also silence from the Regional Council, where many voters expect that the councillors responsible for the regrettable bustastrophe should be standing down, led by transport committee chair Councillor Barbara Donaldson. Her deputy Daran Ponter (nominated for another term as a Labour candidate) has shown himself to be far more active in trying to fix the multitude of bus problems. As has councillor Roger Blakeley, who told the DomPost he would “certainly” be interested in leading the council for the next three years; he wasn’t critical of the chair Chris Laidlaw but said sometimes “fresh legs off the bench is a good idea”.

No decision yet from Laidlaw on whether or not he will step down.

Things are much livelier in Auckland, with a high profile contender challenging incumbent Phil Goff for the mayoralty.

Will the Wellington local elections continue to be an excitement-free zone?


  1. Concerned Wellingtonian, 29. January 2019, 15:12

    I don’t want any excitement, I just want a change of Mayor.

  2. Roy Kutel, 29. January 2019, 15:42

    Be careful what you wish for Concerned Wellingtonian. Change is not always for the better (GWRC excluded of course). We could do with some National and NZ First representation to challenge the free spending Labour bloc.

  3. Alf the Aspirational Apteryx, 29. January 2019, 16:02

    An LGBTQ pedestrian crossing, signs in te reo, and the abolition of Guy Fawkes night appear to be the main achievements of this Mayor and his Council so far. That’s probably enough excitement for the time being.

  4. michael, 30. January 2019, 10:52

    I supported Justin Lester but no more. Nothing has improved under his leadership.
    I also do not agree with party politics driving council agendas as these often do not represent the needs of the city ratepayers.
    Bring on some viable non-Labour contenders I say.

  5. Bernard C, 31. January 2019, 9:45

    The Mayor just seems like a Yes-man to the CEO. Same as the ones before.

  6. Paul, 31. January 2019, 11:03

    In the last election I wanted to get the roads built and would have voted for either Jo or Nick – i did not care which, but had to vote for one of them. The result was that they split the vote allowing the current mayor in.

  7. greenwelly, 31. January 2019, 11:17

    @Paul, the Mayoral elections were under STV so you could have quite happily voted for Both Jo and Nick … “vote splitting” is not really an issue.

  8. Anabel, 31. January 2019, 12:40

    I have a candidate I want to run for Wellington mayor, one who would be vastly superior, so how do I access the Phil Sprey $10,000 fund.
    If not, we should at least have a “no confidence” choice box in the ballot.

  9. Benny, 11. February 2019, 14:52

    I really hope someone will offer another vision to the one of Mr Lester. Supporting the runway extension and voting for the convention centre will only fuel growth in an overheating economy. We have far more pressing issues, caused by growth, than getting Wellington even bigger: housing, traffic, noise and air pollution, recycling facility, clean, affordable, reliable public transport, etc. Moreover, Mr Lester’s support for the initial Shelly Bay proposal speaks volumes on how much he values the environment versus rapid & cheap development. During the Long Term Plan submission process, as broken as it was, 3,000+ Wellingtonians made clear they wanted more investment in the environment over everything else. So how come there are no projects worth more than the $M150 (the convention centre price tag) in this priority area?

    The convention centre captures how much our Mayor is listening to the residents. When it got voided from its initial purpose (bundled with a movie museum), were Wellingtonians consulted on having this now business centric facility? No they weren’t, and Mr Lester leaned on … the LTP to justify endorsing this project. Admittedly the area needed a lift, but is it the best way to spend $M150 of residents’ money? Is it in line with what residents clearly stated during the LTP? Or even during the election? Candidate Mr Lester bragged about his intention to fit Wellington with an 100% electric bus fleet (source on scoop in a 2016 interview), only to find, once in the Mayoral chair, that Public Transport had nothing to do with the WCC, was fully in the hands of GWRC, and the only thing he could do was to “advocate”.

    I truly hope someone will stand to tackle Wellington’s challenges, and push for a sustainable development (as requested by Wellingtonians), while preserving its character. Something I don’t trust is embedded in Mr Lester’s vision for Wellington.

  10. Paul Clutterbuck, 17. February 2019, 7:52

    Russell Tregonning, surgeon and chair of Ora Taiao (the New Zealand Climate and Health Council), ran unsuccessfully for GWRC in 2016. I expect he will put his name forward again. It would be good to see Paul Bruce back, despite his long-windedness. Roger Blakeley and Daran Ponter have performed better than other incumbent regional councillors, so they should remain. The next triennium on the regional council needs to focus on getting public transport back in order, which needs New Urbanists with a commitment to getting it right.

    In the mayoral race, there are few obvious candidates other than Justin Lester right at the moment. Any prospective candidate would need to have a solid profile in Wellington, be well-liked, have some political as well as business experience, and preferably be a New Urbanist. Such a person would not be easy to find, since business experience and New Urbanism aren’t typically found together in this part of the world.

  11. Heidi P, 17. February 2019, 15:23

    There are no challenges as people who would run for the greater good (ratepayers) do not have the needed funding support of business and media.

  12. Anabel, 18. February 2019, 5:50

    Wonder why the Councillors always pass business subsidies and unneeded projects that get us into debilitating debt that then makes our rates go up and up.