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Southern Ward – a sea change?

Tapu Te Ranga Island, Island Bay, Wellington

by Ian Apperley
The Southern Ward covers some of the wildest landscapes in Wellington, and the politics have always been just as volatile. From cycleways to sea level changes the Southern Ward always promises a good gamut of candidates for the city council.

Back in 2016, the election outcome was a certainty. Paul Eagle was reigning supreme and swept back in what was a complete landslide. Trailing back in the pack was David Lee who while not getting near Paul’s numbers was well ahead of any of the other three candidates.

Then came the by-election as Paul Eagle moved on and a replacement had to be found. Voting numbers were nearly half the previous election with many choosing not to vote for any of the eight candidates who arrived for the competition.

Fleur Fitzsimons, a Labour Party candidate, won the race ever so slightly ahead of Laurie Foon, who we understand was a Greens candidate, and apparently still is. Missing from that second race was Brendon Bonner who had put in a reasonable showing in the previous election.

Fast forward to 2019 and Southern Ward is, like the ferry in a decent southerly, all over the show.

We hear that David Lee has lost his Green support, not only for this seat but also about a tilt at the Regional Council. We also hear that neither side is particularly happy about the falling out and the Greens may have just shot themselves in the foot.

If David chose to run for Southern Ward, then he would have a good chance of winning as an independent. Given that it has also been a traditional Labour stronghold, this could see the Greens losing any puppets they may have had embedded there previously, and a losing an overall vote on Council itself.

Fleur Fitzsimons

There is still some speculation from sources that Fleur will be the next Deputy Mayor though this view is vigorously denied by other sources, so should be taken with a grain of salt. One thing is for certain, Fleur gets a lot more press time than Jill Day, by a country mile.

Fleur has a wide portfolio set, including Living Wage, Recreation, Social Development: City Safety, and Community Facilities. Now, you can’t argue that we have seen an uptick in progress on all these areas, so we think that Fleur has done a relatively good job.

She’s been high-profile around the issue of sexual violence, something that previous Councils have been loathe to debate publicly, and she’s also raised the issue of “loneliness” in the community. She’s also been very quick to dodge any cycleway related issues whenever they appear.

Frankly, with the Labour tick, Labour’s strength in that ward, and Fleur’s profile, I think she will win hands down. The only thing that could unseat her is two strong, high-profile candidates, which would mean a completely new look for the ward. Highly unlikely.

David Lee

I’ve always had a lot of respect for David. He’s an intelligent man, and frankly, I think he is wasted on the Council. A lot of his ideas are well-thought out and researched, but he has found no traction for them in the current climate.

The big question is whether he’ll run again. If he does, and if the rumours the Greens have dispatched him from the tent are true, then he’ll be up against another Green candidate as an independent. He would stand a good chance in that scenario, particularly if he plays the independent card at every turn. Since the days of Celia-Wade Brown the Island Bay community have been very suspicious of Green candidates.

David’s portfolios include Technology, Innovation, Enterprise (TIE), and Climate Change.

It’s hard to see any wins in this mixture of responsibilities, particularly the Technology and Climate Change areas, which have seen little progress. Climate Change now is a confused mixture of messages where the Council seems to have a foot in both camps. Simultaneously supporting projects that are clear will increase the impact of Climate Change while talking about how we need to change.

The bottom line is that David stands a good chance of getting back in no matter which banner he chooses to run under. However, if he doesn’t run, then the door is open for a new Councillor, and so far, we know of only one who has their hat in the ring.

Laurie Foon

Laurie ran in the by-election and came very close to tipping Fleur Fitzsimons into second place. We understand that she’ll be running under the Greens, but this hasn’t been able to be confirmed, and we note there is no branding as such around her online presence.

Laurie is interesting. She has a wide influence across several areas and is clearly a successful person. We see that she has a blog and podcast that writes “Stories from the people who make Wellington tick.”

It’s hard to get a sense of people from online personas, but we think Laurie is a relatively smart candidate.

Other Possibilities

Several candidates have tried to get into Southern previously, and there are two more out there that could make some difference if they chose to run again.

Brendon Bonner put in a good showing for a relative newcomer last time around and categorised himself as a “Red/Green Independent.” Something that the community clearly warmed too. He is a smart guy with clearly moderate views and intelligent solutions. A tough ask to run against a Labour and Green supported candidate, but a possibility.

The Island Bay Cycleway fiasco activated Vicki Greco I believe. She got a good collection of votes in the byelection and ran on that single issue. Unfortunately, running on a single issue is often a non-winner strategy, and up against a couple of well-funded and branded candidates, it is a very tough ask.

Right now, it hinges on how David Lee plans to move forward. If he stays, it’s more of the same, if he goes, we will see a new Councillor.

1 comment:

  1. Concerned Wellingtonian, 4. June 2019, 7:15

    I have kept the cutting from the local paper which says that David Lee has given an assurance that he will not run again.