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Avoiding the big issues

“With the truth so dull and depressing, the only working alternative is wild bursts of madness and filigree.” – Hunter S Thompson – Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72

by Ian Apperley
Out on the Wellington campaign trail, the going got weird last week with a string of strange occurrences, weird press releases, and general madness. None of the top issues were being talked about and candidates seemed to be bouncing madly inside their own echo chambers like crazed bees.

What does the city need? Better public transport, better and more affordable housing, more affordable rates, a solid plan to prepare for climate change, a more resilient city and economy, and strong future plans.

What do the Labour candidates think we need? “More exciting school holidays.” It’s bad enough that we seem to have a group of hivemind candidates running across the city, all endlessly repeating their master’s directives, but this was hilarious.

I can’t wait for the next policy from this group. I really can’t.

Adding to the general madness, a new Mayoral candidate appeared last week. He’s a former puppeteer. Yes, you heard me right. Did he really appear, or was it a puppet of such realistic proportions we’d never know?

Norbert Hausberg, 64, is at this stage the only one running for anything in Wellington, with no other council or mayoral candidates officially in the mix yet. His two younger competitors for the mayoralty, Lester and Hill, have declared their desire for the top job but haven’t sent in their paperwork. Hausberg, who once ran a puppet theatre company and is now involved in a small real estate development in Carterton, has a different solution: abandon Civic Square for higher ground. His main issue is climate change and says work on many of the council’s major construction projects, including the Town Hall, is pointless if the square is going to be under water.

Are we starting to have fun with this election? Let me hear you say hell yes. I am hoping like crazy that Norbert brings his puppets to the Mayoral debates, and I would advise him to bring one for each of the other candidates so we can have a good old fashioned “Punch and Judy” show. Wouldn’t that be grand!

It’s all about youth this election and more and more young people are putting their hands up to run. We love this. You can hear the shrieking from the traditionalists who are going to have to debate, in their words, “children.” Oh you pesky kids. Perfect. The more the merrier, it’s about time we shook this process up.

Teri O’Neill is running for Eastern Ward and Tamatha Paul for Lambton. For others there is a rundown here by the DomPost.

But missed by media last week was perhaps the youngest candidate signalling their intention to stand:

edlin-steph

It is going to make for an interesting run out East with Simon Marsh stepping down, opening the way for a new Councillor. Right now, the only two that have declared to run are Teri and Steph. There is a good chance that we will see at least one of them sitting on Council next year.

It was pre-election report time again last week and a glowing document was released to the public by the WCC Chief Executive. Sort of. In his press release he was cheerfully optimistic:

“It has been a busy three years and Wellington is thriving and growing. We are in a good position because of a lot of hard work. We have met and are still meeting challenges from the Kaikoura earthquake while continuing to deliver over 400 high-quality services to over 220,000 people every single day.”

But this was met with a lot of skepticism around the political sphere and seemed to be countered by the red flags that were evident in his interview with the Dominion Post:

Wellington residents face tough trade-offs in the future. Fewer than 50 per cent of Wellingtonians believe the council makes decisions in the best interest of the city. Wellington will have to “live with more water” thanks to climate change, the city’s share of the tourism market is “shrinking”, and it is “simply not possible” to keep a lid on rates due to a stack of bills the city faces that were never budgeted for.

The elephant in the room: less than half of us trust the city council.

Lindsay Shelton raised a number of issues:

Our two biggest councils are always telling us that they’re looking on the bright side of life. Typified by the city council’s Kevin Lavery this week announcing that Wellington is “in great shape … thriving and growing,” but later confirming there are costly decisions yet to be made about how to pay for strengthening the buildings around Civic Square, including the Square itself… If rates are becoming out of control (and will there be council candidates willing to oppose endless annual rates increases?) it’s deplorable to find Lavery still mentioning the extravagantly-unnecessary covered arena as something the council wants to build. And though there’s an evident and undeniable need to save money, it seems he doesn’t want to postpone the $179m convention centre, in spite of the likelihood that it will also be a money-loser for the city.

Rates are certainly becoming out of control. A quick read of projected rates levels shows a near 22% increase over the next five years and that doesn’t account for a series of violently expensive infrastructure costs that are not yet accounted. Word on the street is that Civic Square and surrounds is a billion dollar problem, for example.

With increasing calls to curb spending on vanity projects, restore the trust between residents and the Council, curb rates rises, and focus on basic infrastructure, candidates (unless they are Labour ticketed), have an excellent pile of ammunition on which to campaign.

No matter how old they are.

This article was first published on the Inside Wellington website.

4 comments:

  1. michael, 30. July 2019, 10:01

    If the council’s concern about Civic Square flooding is really geniune and not just an excuse to sell it off to developers, how come WCC supported the Shelley Bay development and continue to push for it, when it is right on the sea front?

     
  2. Tony Jansen, 30. July 2019, 10:16

    Patronage Michael. One hand washes the other…..

     
  3. Pauline, 4. August 2019, 14:44

    At a hearing for Shelly Bay when I asked the question of sea level rising, the council officer replied they would have to put apartments up on stilts. To which I replied: will their cars just float away?

     
  4. Ms Green, 4. August 2019, 19:01

    Dear Pauline. Some engineers, councillors, a CEO, and developers seem to want to put the whole CBD “on stilts”…( base isolate..) As I understand it ( I saw pictures) the cars in that ridiculous Shelley Bay development will be stacked – taken up in some kind of lift…in a no doubt very ugly building…on stilts???

     

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