Wellington Scoop

Why Andy Foster would be a good mayor


by Ian Apperley
One of Wellington’s worst kept secrets popped out last Friday afternoon with Andy Foster announcing his run for the mayoralty with Peter Jackson in support.

The reaction to the announcement was sadly predictable, with several people taking on both men, avoiding the ball and avoiding facts, as the Labour and Left on Twitter launched an all out assault.

Andy has been vocal about the stuffup at Shelly Bay, and Peter Jackson took the gloves off some months back – damning the WCC and various councillors who were separated into a naughty and nice list over their voting at stages through the shambles. (He had much more to say yesterday.)

Despite the WCC and councillors desperately wanting to avoid Shelly Bay as an election issue, Andy has lobbed it into the mix, as it should be. As I have commented before, Shelly Bay is a microcosm of all the issues that are important this election. Housing, transport, climate change, trust, and transparency. The way that this issue and others around the city have been managed this triennium is not at all good. Shelly Bay represents all the reasons why the WCC is under such a high degree of scrutiny, and provides active examples on various failings.

Then the rebuffs started.

Wellington Mayor Justin Lester welcomed the competition from the long-time councillor, but said the city was bigger than one issue. “As mayor, you are duty-bound to represent the interests of the whole of the city. The city is much larger than one issue. He is being funded by Sir Peter for this single issue.”

He’s right, the city is much larger than one issue, but he missed the significance of the announcement being at Shelly Bay, the fact that Peter Jackson has significant resources at his disposal, and that Andy also laid out several other policies that relate to the entire city.

Mayoral candidate Conor Hill took aim at Foster for campaigning on one issue. “Along with housing, transport, the central library, the convention centre, and the airport, Shelly Bay is one of the important issues facing Wellington…Of course, Andy Foster will be able to have his entire campaign funded by one individual, so I can see the attraction for him.”

Again, missing the point. While Andy was grandstanding at Shelly Bay, he has a number of policies that look at the wider city. As does Conor. Both he and Andy have policy statements on housing, transport, the central library, convention centre, and airport. Things that Justin so far has not covered adequately.

Andy Foster has the experience and depth to be a good Mayor. One of his skills (that most do not have) is his ability to work the WCC machinery to achieve outcomes. Sure, some of the others do as well, but in terms of sheer process, Andy just gets it.

The Labour and Left hacks immediately took to social media. It was amateurish, Trump-like, lacking facts, and had all the desperate hallmarks you’d expect from a group that is hoping like hell they can land enough Labour puppets in the WCC this time around so they can enforce central party policy on the city.

Peter Jackson was attacked on his record around the so called “Hobbit Law”, something that is now incredibly dated and in fact has been supported by Labour themselves. Collective bargaining was restored but the fact remains that Labour wouldn’t then, and will not now, touch a very golden goose.

And those of us who know the inner workings of the movie industry in New Zealand, also know that working conditions within the sector have increased for the better in the last few years. But sideline amateurs who are more interested in smearing candidates as opposed to debating the issues are generally uneducated in these things and lack the intelligence and grit to research issues properly.

We also know that the industry props up Wellington city significantly in terms of economic output, employment, jobs, creation of small business, upgrades of key infrastructure, and a range of other benefits.

Jackson was then accused of being a NIMBY, not wanting development in his backyard, which is again untrue. Jackson has never suggested wiping the proposed development of Shelly Bay under the carpet for good, he’s suggested that the way this process has been run is basically awful and that certain parties, such as Mau Whenua, have been run over by a bulldozer. That is indisputable as we know.

Andy was accused of being bought by Jackson and having his entire campaign funded by one individual.

In terms of funding, that’s also wrong. Both have denied that and while time will tell, because donations are transparent, there doesn’t seem to be a massive chunk of cash flowing in Andy’s direction. Even if there were, it would be no larger or smaller than the Labour Party’s contributions, which they are using to buy their own men and women, following the same logic.

As to being bought .… Does anyone remember Ian Cassels’ donations to several key candidates last election that saw two of them having to opt out of key votes on Shelly Bay? And oh wait, wasn’t one of those a Labour Party puppet? Pot calling the kettle anyone?

Again and again, on Twitter, the key messaging from the Left was spread in increasingly heated and desperate statements. And they should be worried. Because Andy could win this.

First, the language he is using is likely to appeal over other mayoral candidates for the younger voting blocks who are being rallied by fresh new candidates like Tamatha Paul and Steph Edlin. We can’t rely on Teri O’Neill for endorsement because she’s in Labour’s pocket and that would be suicide.

At least half of the mayoral candidates are complete no names. They are going to soak up a few votes at best, but they aren’t going anywhere.

Last time around, Justin won by a relatively narrow margin to Nick Leggett; however when you added up the centre right votes, if the three candidates had endorsed one candidate, then they could have blown Justin away by ten thousand votes roughly.

This time around, we don’t have centre-right candidates other than perhaps Diane Calvert, who has been endorsed by the Wellington Party. So there are a lot of votes going begging in that area.

The Wellington Party is not going well. What started with a hiss and a roar has turned into a minor blip with unknown candidates and some pretty weak looking policy. I can’t see them having much of a difference.

It would be better for Diane Calvert and Andy Foster to reach an agreement now, that in return for Diane capitulating her votes to Andy at the last minute and endorsing him, while dropping out of the race, she gets the Deputy Mayoralty. That sets her up for high-profile attempts in the future at the Mayoralty.

It also drags a bunch of potential centre-right votes to Andy. And that must be where he plays, because that block is going begging right now. If he sticks to transport, housing, and environment (as opposed to climate emergencies, which are seen to be left), then he can pull them into his campaign. Plus, he’s playing an independent card and many voters are over the Labour and Green influence on local government.

One of the accusations on Twitter has been the fact that Andy is an ex-New Zealand First member. This could backfire on the attack brigade because it puts him to the centre-right again, with those voters.

There are still votes for Andy in the Western Ward, probably around two thousand or more. What Andy needs to do is convince everyone who votes for him in that ward to also tick the Mayoralty box as number one as well. That will drag in more votes.

He also needs to cater to voters who have had enough of what they see as a stagnating Council that is increasing rates year on year and seems more interested in vanity projects than basics.

That means he needs to go after Justin’s voter base with some kind of strategy to pull them away to “his side.” This is a tough ask to do in a way that is not seen as overly aggressive. Andy is not someone who has ever played the person and not the ball, it’s a professional quality.

While it remains to be seen what financial contribution Peter Jackson makes toward Andy, Peter has considerable resource at his disposal that will definitely help, including his millions of followers across social media of which a dense proportion will be in Wellington City.

The industry also comprises of some thousands of workers, mostly young, and encouraging them to enrol and vote will lift Andy’s chances. And hey, isn’t that what we wanted? To get more young people voting? They are also reading that left attack rhetoric on Peter and the industry, and that is likely to galvanize them to vote in the other direction.

And let’s not forget Mau Whenua, the most disaffected party in the Shelly Bay SNAFU by a long-shot. They also will fall behind Andy as a result of the Peter Jackson endorsement. They must mobilise their members to vote for Andy, who is seen as a key ally in their fight.

Andy has a better than fighting chance to take the Mayoralty. It really is that simple.

This article was first published on Inside Wellington.


  1. Marion Leader, 22. August 2019, 13:06

    This is beautifully written and full of very good thinking.
    I am following the advice I have just seen and I will be leaving a blank against the name of somebody who I do not want as Mayor. I will probably put number 1 against Andy’s name.

  2. Whā Write, 22. August 2019, 13:43

    Is Justin really a candidate of the left? He appears to be in the thrall of property developers, building big expensive projects and saddling the city with massive increases in debt. Behaviour I would associate with the previous right leaning central government. I’m not sure painting a rainbow on the street and naming a few things in te reo is enough to fall under the left wing umbrella?

  3. Andrew S, 22. August 2019, 15:06

    Yip even the local Govt is rightwing. It appears deceptive as even the so-called left and central parties in Govt are rightwing in actions.
    Agree with you WW – painting a rainbow on the ratepayers’ tab does not make one either progressive, left or inclusive. Having a red brand doesn’t change behavior.

  4. Henry Filth, 23. August 2019, 0:46

    Well then, Whā Write, what would be enough to fall under the left wing umbrella?

  5. TrevorH, 23. August 2019, 7:12

    Well I am sick and tired of national political parties dominating local government. Wellington’s needs have played second fiddle to party ideology for too long. As you also suggest, the Shelly Bay fiasco is a microcosm of much else that is wrong with the current Council – a lack of transparency coupled with unbridled arrogance. No wonder sitting councillors are trying to sweep it under the carpet at least until the election is over. If Andy could tone down his eco-warrior rhetoric he would enjoy wider support among those who bother to vote. The suggestion that Diane and Andy should reach an accommodation so as not to split the vote is sensible.

  6. Ron Beernink, 23. August 2019, 8:49

    Well written, Ian. Getting people to make an informed decision at the upcoming election is always hard, and articles like this are very helpful. Shelly Bay is definitely not a single issue to focus on, but it is very much a singular good example of how the Council is still not getting its processes right and is not living up to its promise to listen to its people. As will be the case with Shelly Bay, it is future generations that will pay the price for these poor processes and rushed decisions.

  7. Stephen Todd, 23. August 2019, 9:10

    TrevorH, the mayoral election is by preferential voting, not FPP. That means both Diane and Andy can slug it out, without either giving way to the other.

    Assuming that Justin Lester will hang in there to the end, either Diane or Andy will be excluded from the count, and her or his votes will mainly transfer to the other. There will be no vote-splitting.

  8. Mathew Biars, 23. August 2019, 9:44

    Keeping people informed would be to fully expose the WCC. People wouldn’t vote for this Council if they were fully informed.

  9. Marion Leader, 23. August 2019, 13:15

    Stephen, the important thing is not to put a number on the ballot paper against somebody you don’t want under any circumstances. Diane and Andy definitely do not fall into this category.

  10. TrevorH, 23. August 2019, 18:47

    @Stephen Todd. Thanks for your advice but it seems to me vote splitting can occur through each round of counting preferences. And it seems crucial voters give both Diane and Andy their top preferences and don’t express a preference however low for any other candidate?

  11. Stephen Todd, 23. August 2019, 20:06

    No, Marion. That is not correct.

    There are nine candidates for the Wellington City mayoralty. If voters want to make sure that their vote does not transfer to a particular candidate, e.g., candidate A, then voters can either number the other candidates 1 to 8, *or*, number all the candidates 1 to 9, placing the 9 beside candidate A. Either way, the effect on the outcome is the same.

    In a mayoral election (e.g., Wellington, Porirua, Kāpiti Coast, Marlborough, Palmerston North), it is crucially important that voters understand that their vote – for their *first-preference* candidate – will not transfer to their second-preference candidate until their first-preference candidate has been excluded from the count. Then, it will not transfer to their third-preference candidate (if that candidate is still in the race) until their second-preference candidate has been excluded from the count, and so on. Therefore, it is very safe for voters to rank-order as many candidates as they are able to. In fact, that is exactly what they should do.

    Voters must understand that, in the case of the Wellington mayoral election, if seven candidates have been excluded from the count, but a winner has not yet been found, and the contest is then between, say, Cox and Rathod, they have the opportunity (knowing that someone must, and will, win the election) to have a say as to who that winner will be. In such a circumstance, about 30,000 votes will have accumulated upon one of those two remaining candidates, and about 26,000 votes will have accumulated upon the other candidate. If you and I submitted a voting document that showed Cox as 8, and Rathod as 9, our votes will have transferred to Cox (in preference to Rathod). Whether or not Cox is declared the winner, is another matter.

  12. Tom, 23. August 2019, 20:12

    Even amongst seemingly intelligent people, very few understand STV. So the question must be: is STV a good voting system? Or does it not matter that people don’t really understand it? So long as people understand how to rank from favourite to least favourite…

  13. John Rankin, 23. August 2019, 20:45

    @TrevorH: it depends. If you vote only for candidates A and B, you are saying that if they are both eliminated you are indifferent as to which of candidates C, D, E, F or G wins. But if you look at candidates C to G you might say that the least worst is candidate F, so you had better put them third, otherwise C, D, E or G might win and it will be your fault.

    I tend to vote backwards: start with the candidate I least want to win and give them the lowest ranking. Repeat until only one candidate is left and rank them number 1. That’s because I find it easier to eliminate poor candidates than to pick good candidates. YMMV.

  14. Stephen Todd, 23. August 2019, 20:47

    @TrevorH. I suspect that what you refer to as “vote splitting” is actually “seepage”, whereby votes drop out of the count as the count progresses. But, with regard to Diane and Andy, any seepage away from the total of votes for each of them will likely only occur at the penultimate iteration, when one of them is excluded from the count, and the other then goes “head-to-head” with Justin. When seepage (or, the accumulation of non-transferable votes) happens (in respect of any of the candidates), the absolute majority of votes required to be elected is re-calculated, to a lower figure, to take account of the new total of non-transferable votes, and the count continues.

    Have a look at the 2016 Wellington mayoral election, here, to see what I’m getting at. You will see that fully 8,434 of the 65,052 votes cast (12.97%), did not show a preference between Justin Lester and Nick Leggett. Note that the absolute majority of votes needed to be elected, reduced from 32,526 at the start of the count (65,052 / 2 = 32,526), to 28,309 (56,618 / 2 = 28,309) at the end of the count.

    Also, see my response to Marion Leader, above. Under no circumstances can a later preference count against an earlier preference. Therefore, voters should continue to express preferences for as long as they are able to place successive candidates in order.

  15. Vicki Greco, 24. August 2019, 9:13

    Ron Beernink, I can’t get over the irony of your comment,
    “how the Council is still not getting its processes right and is not living up to its promise to listen to its people. As will be the case with Shelly Bay, it is future generations that will pay the price for these poor processes and rushed decisions.”
    You worked with the Council to skew the process on Island Bay, your cycling group pushed hard and got your way for the Council to not listen to the people, and Island Bay has been destroyed for future generations and is incredibly dangerous.
    Transport is a big issue in Wellington so it’s important to know where candidates stand on this. We need people who are going to look at the bigger picture that includes all modes of transport not just bikes and buses.

  16. PHCG, 25. August 2019, 13:40

    It’s also really important to note that Andy Foster was an integral player getting the Island Bay Cycleway through. It is my belief that Andy is not one for listening to residents, just people that he agrees with – and in Island Bay’s case it was Cycle Aware now called Cycle Wellington. BE WARY about voting for him! [Abridged]

  17. Keith Flinders, 25. August 2019, 18:02

    Any candidate who is part of the present WCC will not get my vote. They all voted for the vanity Convention Centre which will end up costing well over the $150 million budgeted for, be under utilised, will require staff who will spend most of the year twiddling their thumbs, and be another financial burden on ratepayers in both loan financing and running costs.

    This additional expenditure as retired people, and others, who were prudent to save, now see their investment income impacted by ever decreasing interest rates thanks to the policies of the current Governor of the Reserve Bank. Negative interest rates are the next shock.

    Additionally I think that anyone who has had the same employer for 27 years shows a lack of ambition, and is not the right fit as mayor. We need someone who is practical and has lateral vision, as well as recognising the need for financial restraint.

  18. Mathew Biars, 26. August 2019, 6:38

    If you vote for a puppet (candidate) and the Council always gets in anyway, how do you guys expect any change? The agenda(LTP) has been laid down in Council and you can see how the Councilors don’t represent the ratepayers’ interests. Yet we do not have a no confidence option.

  19. Brendan, 26. August 2019, 7:45

    Well said Keith – I’ve decided not to vote. None of the Councillors and certainly not the CEO (who continues to be ’employed’ on half a million bucks of our hard-earned money) need any encouragement. They should try out struggle street for 3 years and see what it feels like to pay rates for awful services and stupid decisions.

  20. Steve Doole, 27. August 2019, 4:28

    Keith is right about vanity projects by the city council. I’m not sure they lack vision though. How many world medical or legal conferences are going to come here with the current facilities?
    Decreasing interest rates are mainly due to easy money from lenders, supported by a “Quantitative Easing” approach of large countries since 2010, which gave money to their banks. NZ and Australia used different tactics for the 2009 global financial problem, but the results are similar – soaring house prices for example. Money to borrow is too cheap, so savers cop low interest rates. Australia’a major cities have seen, and London is starting to see, corrections in house prices. It could happen here, and is nothing to do with council decisions.

    And yes, staying power is not highly valued at present. Nor are years of public service. Candidates who exhibit these qualities might be worth a vote from me.
    Of course those who signed and oversaw the buses screw-up aren’t.

  21. Goofy, 27. August 2019, 9:14

    Agree with you Keith, Brendan and Mathew and think it’s a shambolic process. In my opinion there are no candidates who will act for the ratepayers. It’s all about spinning central and local govt agendas while ignoring all the Council failures which include the closed Public Library and Town Hall. Simply put I have no representative to vote for.

  22. Stephen Todd, 27. August 2019, 10:20

    “Simply put I have no representative to vote for.” Okay, fair enough. But Goofy, we all know that a new council WILL be in place around about late-October, regardless of who votes, or doesn’t vote. Therefore it is incumbent upon those of us who care about who our elected representatives are, to vote, in order to secure for ourselves the least-damaging outcome (from our respective points of view).

    Fortunately for us, we have the STV electoral system. With STV, you could (if you so wish) rank-order the candidates, 1, 2, 3, …, based on who, in your opinion – given the candidates available – are least likely to bring about the sort of damage that you fear might be imposed on ratepayers / our respective communities, during the next triennium.

    Put simply, if you don’t support the least “damaging” candidates – in your opinion – that you have been presented with, you are increasing the chances of an outcome being achieved that you disapprove of. You have at your disposal the best version of the best voting system currently being used in public elections anywhere in the world, to get what you want. OTY.

  23. Keith Flinders, 27. August 2019, 12:27

    There is an interesting item at https://youtu.be/goSmrfl7jxc Covers the situation where many on “fixed” incomes now find themselves, with ever reducing investment returns versus the rising cost of living, including the extra impost of spendthrift councils. The item is about conditions in Australia, but not dissimilar to here.

    Steve: Just how many conferences would Wellington attract per annum with the high cost and long journeys overseas attendees will face? Where are these people going to stay if they do come, as the hotel capacity situation is already stretched.

  24. Helen, 27. August 2019, 13:00

    Goofy is 100% right. The WCC is a super tanker with a captain in charge who is oblivious to the obvious. Councillors can’t and won’t change a thing. We are heading for a debt iceberg. Best just sit back and watch the non-voting dolphins having a whale of time before we go down with the WCC (the captain will have bailed long before we keel over).

  25. Keith Flinders, 28. August 2019, 9:36

    Harry: There are numerous and spurious activities that the WCC involve themselves in which are not part of their mandated activities. For example using ratepayer funds to subsidise the earthquake strengthening of commercial buildings.They don’t subsidise private residential building strengthening and nor should they.

    If the WCC can act as the vehicle to point out to insurance companies that a one rule does not fit all for Wellington residents, and the WCC does not subsidise insurance premiums, then they are assisting those ratepayers in “distressed” circumstances.

    Wellington has several different risk zones when it comes to earthquakes, but at present the entire area is seen as a common potential of exposure to insurers no matter what the age, and construction (to some degree) of the insured buildings. Three large commercial buildings constructed this century are a pile of rubble, whilst some 1930s concrete buildings escaped 2013 and 2016 unscathed damage wise.

    Meanwhile those to the north of us in Auckland are sitting above several dormant volcanoes, note dormant not extinct. If one of them, say Rangitoto, was to burst into life then the loss to insurers will be far greater than Christchurch was.

  26. Aroha, 28. August 2019, 14:04

    We are not helpless – we could all not vote. Council would say they were voted “back in” but then we could call their bluff as no one would’ve voted for them. The GWRC should be scrapped anyway, at least that is what many people say they want now.

  27. Alf the Aspirational Apteryx, 28. August 2019, 19:58

    Hmmm. Not sure I could vote for Andy Foster if he was involved in the Island Bay cycleway fiasco which is still to be rectified. Nor have I heard him or Diane explain why they support the Convention Centre. Strange times, back to the bush.