Wellington Scoop

Lambton Ward: a tale of two cities


by Ian Apperley
Wellington Central is a fickle place where some areas are dying, some are booming, the fiddling around the edges of policy has unintended consequences, and the economy feels sluggish. It’s important as a place of commerce and to pull in the tourist dollars. Increasingly, it is seen as the answer to Wellington’s booming population, but the persistent concerns around all types of housing are stifling progress.

I spent some time in the CBD this week. As the wind and rain dialled up in intensity, the streets clogged with traffic and it was an altogether unpleasant pedestrian experience. What is noticeable is the number of empty office blocks and shops once you step off the Golden Mile.

The continued tinkering around carparks and traffic “improvements”, along with the shambles of a bus service, means the city is clogged. Latest figures show that the introduction of parking charges on the weekends has impacted many businesses, but almost with a random effect. The lack of public transport is driving, literally, people to other cities in the region to shop.

In the middle of this, we have three City Councillors who are all at varying corners of a triangle. Green, Red, and Blue. It is perhaps a little unfair to categorise them in this way, as the Blue candidate is independent while the Red is a Labour Party member and Green, well Green.

Iona Pannett

Iona once said that she’d only stay for three terms on the Council though we have it on good authority she’s going to stick around for number five. Her portfolios cover Infrastructure and Sustainability.

She’s carried the flag well when it comes to sustainability and has made some good inroads into infrastructure, particularly around keeping the issue of earthquake strengthening front and centre, along with water supply. Sustainability has a feeling of going backwards at times, particularly considering the ongoing issues around waste management.

But you can’t win them all.

There is Green, then there is Iona, who is out on the edge of Green. She’s so Green she’s passed the Greens at their own game and frankly embarrassed them. And the ward loves her. In the last election, she had a margin of close to fifteen hundred votes over her second competitor.

Chances of her getting back in again are very high, she has a solid base of supporters.

Nicola Young

People often mistake Nicola Young for a National Party flunky, but this is not true. While leaning toward Blue, she is independent, and this is her second triennium as a Councillor. She has been described as “social liberal.”

Nicola’s portfolios include Central City Projects, Education Partnerships; and associate Arts and Culture.

While I can’t comment on the education partnerships aspect, we do see her active in the Arts and Culture space as evidenced by reasonably frequent and balanced social media posts. She’s also frequently in the audience at concerts and other performances.

Nicola is one of those quiet achievers who seems to have figured out that small bites at big project pay dividends. Shed has been responsible for things like laneway upgrades, the heritage plaque scheme that tells Wellington’s stories, and an unwavering belief that we are spending far too much of ratepayers’ money.

That last point, around fiscal responsibility, is high on the residents’ agenda right now and could garner her more votes this time around. With the city having to rethink big spending plans, even as most recently as yesterday, there is a feeling from the central ward it is time for the Council to slow down on the vanity projects and speed up on the basics.

Being the only centre-right type candidate on the Council, and then mistaken for being true-blue, Nicola often comes under attack from the left but she takes it in stride, and carries on. A solid Councillor is coming into her own after two terms.

Nicola was a few hundred votes ahead of her next competition and gained almost the same number of votes as Brian Dawson, with a margin of just twenty-one votes. I think that she will be back next time, barring a candidate rolling in who has name recognition and is true blue, right leaning.

Brian Dawson

At number three, Brian Dawson is on his first triennium as a Councillor and putting aside some slips and stumbles has managed to carry himself reasonably well.

His portfolios include Social Development (excluding City Safety), and Housing.

Brian inherited Housing (sort of) from Paul Eagle. The social aspect of housing has been in relatively good heart over this triennium. However wider housing has, through no fault of the Council, descended into a rather perilous place with apartments in trouble and housing growth relatively stagnant.

A lot of promises were made about social development back in the last election that haven’t come to fruition. Anecdotally it feels like we have more homeless, but we do see that social housing continues to be invested in. Given the heart of Council being neo-liberal, the war between investing in social needs versus the basics is likely a challenge.

Brian is riding the Labour ticket this election, and we think there is room for a Labour candidate in this ward. Wellington is a Labour city and no more so than central. But he is at peril if we see a strong, well-known, candidate coming forth.

Other Contenders

So far, we are not seeing any well-known contenders coming forward.

Tamatha Paul, 21, from Tokoroa, and Victoria University’s first female, Maori Student President has thrown her hat in the ring in glorious, youthful abandon.

Tamatha espouses to be independent, and she isn’t riding in with any party, though her views from what we can see are very much in the Green camp, to which she refers a lot. That puts her squarely up against Iona Pannett, who don’t forget, is the boss of this Ward. As Tamatha would say, “hard.” It’s brilliant to see the youthful attack on this candidacy and what Tamatha will need to do is activate the youth to vote (ditto Teri O’Neill out East.)

The centre-right will vote for Nicola Young and “shoo shoo” the youth away while the conservative left, Labour, will vote for Brian. Tamatha is literally up against Iona Pannett.

Rumoured to be running, we can’t confirm but it’s a good source, is Charles Finny. This is the bit where you go “who?” or “I think I know that name, but…” I can’t for the life of me think why we would. Reading his bio he seems better suited to a deep policy advisory role in central government as opposed to a city Councillor. There is a lot of experience there.

If he entered the race, he’d be up against Nicola Young I suspect for the most part. A tough call given Nicola’s two successful terms and the fact that she is consistent in her approach, unlike other Councillors who can be given to flipping on issues from time to time.

I think that so far, it is likely to be more of the same for this Ward.

First published today by Inside Wellington. We’ve amended the article since we published it, to correct the spelling of Charles Finny’s surname.


  1. greenwelly, 7. June 2019, 15:42

    > What is noticeable is the number of empty office blocks
    Where?.. unless they are awaiting strengthening, most office space in the CBD is quickly snapped up. And people are still building more… 20 Customhouse/PWC/Stewart Dawsons/Farmers (Cuba St).

  2. Brian Dawson, 7. June 2019, 17:36

    A fairly balanced review. I could quibble about the social development stuff – I think we’ve done rather a lot but I accept some might not be obvious to the casual observer. Dare I say the tumultuous trio make quite a good team! [via twitter]

  3. Nicola Young, 7. June 2019, 17:37

    (Almost) end of term report for Lambton Ward councillors; I think we’ve all done rather well for the varying constituencies we represent. [via twitter]

  4. Dave Armstrong, 7. June 2019, 19:04

    Ian rightly acknowledges your considerable contribution to the arts and heritage this term. [via twitter]

  5. Michael Gibson, 7. June 2019, 19:15

    Nicola – you were the only one to vote against the Chinese Garden which would ruin the arena area in Frank Kitts Park. You fully deserve credit for this.

  6. Iona Pannett, 7. June 2019, 19:44

    Thanks Ian for the analysis. Just one point, on waste management we have made a bit of progress and I hope that we can ramp things up a lot over the next three years. I have led a regional process to commit to the region being waste free through our Regional Waste Plan and won some money to do good things on waste – a trial of a kerbside food collection (we must get food out of the landfill) and money to look into making the tip into a place where instead of throwing things away, we can use our ‘rubbish’ for other purposes. The one big disappointment was the vote to extend the landfill at $20m. I oppose this as I think we need less landfill space. However, if the Government raises the levy and I’m sure they will, we will be able to invest in good waste management infrastructure. People have got on board with getting rid of plastic bags, it is now time to orient our waste system to reuse over and over again instead of being one of the most wasteful countries in the OECD.

  7. michael, 7. June 2019, 23:31

    I would like to see far more action from Lambton Ward councillors against the endless rate rises, and the huge legal costs spent defending council decisions that are a result of poor or no consultation.

    And I am fed-up hearing how well Wellington is doing when, all over the city, we are now faced with years of traffic chaos, years of boarded up buildings, and years of consultant reports that result in years of no action. Try giving up the vanity projects and get back to basics to sort out these problems so the city can move forward.

  8. Joise Talofi, 8. June 2019, 10:49

    Yes I agree Michael I am also pretty fed up with the Councilors patting each other on the back for such a poor performance .

  9. Brendan, 8. June 2019, 11:59

    @Greenwelly – the boarded up buildings were mostly designed by today’s clever architects and engineers and builders, then approved by the Council’s planners/engineers but they weren’t up to earthquake standard! Bring back the Victorians I say.

  10. Benny, 8. June 2019, 15:00

    With the city facing so many unresolved issues (yes I’m thinking about buses), the self back patting is frustrating. Even S Marsh is doing a reappearance on twitter after months (years?) of silence. But since this article is about Lambton Ward, where one of the councillors is in charge of waste, I’d like to point out that there is still nothing, not even a plan, to deal with soft plastics. Until they are completely phased out (which won’t happen anytime soon), we will still need to recycle them. Waste is a city prerogative, and yet, not a word about it, as if it wasn’t even an issue.

  11. Andrew, 8. June 2019, 18:55

    Iona, how about all the plastic bags that things like bread are packaged in? Thinking we have achieved something of substance by removing plastic carry bags is just sweeping the larger issues under the rug.

  12. Charles Finny, 10. June 2019, 15:22

    Ian. I am not sure who your “good source” is but you could have contacted me.

    I have lived in Seatoun for the past 23 years and before that lived in Seatoun Heights. If I were interested in standing for WCC it would be for the Eastern Ward. I don’t agree with candidates standing for constituencies where they do not reside.

    So please let me confirm that I am not running in 2019 for the Lambton Ward.

    Like many Wellingtonians I am deeply frustrated by the state of public transport and some other issues that fall within the responsibility of the Greater Wellington Regional Council. If I am to put my name forward it would most probably be for that Council. But I have yet to make a final decision.

    Regards, Charles Finny (note spelling)

  13. Concerned Wellingtonian, 10. June 2019, 17:34

    Thank goodness that an experienced person like Charles Finny might come to the rescue.
    I hope he is not too polite. If he is, he will fall short in trying to solve the bus problem. It is not a time for shilly-shallying.

  14. Ian Apperley, 11. June 2019, 8:42

    Hi Charles! Thanks for the clarification. 🙂
    Frankly, you’d stand a good chance if you ran for the Eastern Ward I suspect, with only four candidates so far.
    GWRC needs all the help it can get, as we know.

  15. michael, 11. June 2019, 10:10

    Please put your name forward Charles

  16. Alan, 14. June 2019, 17:11

    What a nostalgic photo to accompany this article. Wistfully remembering the days when trolley buses served our city well and we had a bus service that gave us little to grizzle about, unlike now. The wires came down 18 months ago.