Wellington Scoop

Reducing the portfolios

by Ian Apperley
New Wellington city councillors will be shortly assigned portfolios. But I understand that the model may be changed. It certainly needs a refresh because right now it’s barely manageable.

I hear from multiple sources that certain councillors are having temper tantrums over this process. In something akin to throwing toys around LGWM, and that infamous letter, I understand that there is some brute force negotiation going on.

That’s a shame. Because if that is true, then we have councillors putting their interests ahead of the city – a sign that this Council is off to a rocky start.

Not everyone is going to get the portfolios they want, so they need to suck that up, realise they are working for us, the residents, and get on with it like a bunch of grownups.

If I were King of the World, I would start by collapsing the portfolios into something that is far more manageable than the overlapping and often pointless portfolios of the last Council.

The basic model I’ve dreamed up at 3am reduces the portfolio and responsibility count from the original twenty-five to a more manageable fourteen, which matches the total number of councillors. By reducing the portfolios, more attention can be given to each and this means we can hold each councillor more accountable in a far easier way.

Here’s the rationale, noting that obviously, the portfolios can’t stand alone and do have to act with, service, and inform each other.

Arts and Culture

A critical portfolio for Wellington that forms not only our own identity. However it’s often the lens through which the rest of the world views us, and as such, it’s something that we need to invest in continuously. This would subsume the Events portfolio, as the majority of that will fall neatly into the Arts and Culture category.

Children & Young People

No change here with the hope that we see more attention in this portfolio this triennium than the last. It’s a crucial part of the city’s makeup, and we have traditionally let it languish.

City Resilience

Infrastructure & Sustainability becomes City Resilience, which better encompasses what that portfolio is trying to achieve, raises its profile and links fundamental (perceived as boring) services to resilience. City Resilience would have strong links to other portfolios, such as Transport.

City Wide Projects

The model adopted by Central City Projects can be extended across the entire city. It works. It is also clear that large-scale projects attempted by the Council need far more scrutiny and help with cost blowouts, time blowouts, and failures to even get started. Given this area sees a vast swathe of ratepayers’ cash spent each year, it deserves better.

Climate Change

Given that the Council declared a Climate Change Emergency, and this has remained a hot topic, and necessarily so, then it needs to retain this portfolio. And that portfolio needs some teeth, rather than being relegated to a confused corner where the Council can point at it languishing whenever someone asks what they are doing about rising sea-levels. It needs to focus on pollution reduction and adaptation fast.

Community Development

This has been a confusing area over the last triennium because it’s been split into so many different spaces. Community is made up of a lot of different components. This old portfolio would take on the following portfolios under its wing; City Safety, Community Resilience, Recreation, and Sport. All of which are inherently community-based.

Deputy Mayor

Remains the same and is included because it is an important portfolio by nature and links to the Mayor and all other portfolios. The Wellington Ambassador could be rolled into this responsibility. It is also a role that is full-time, and as such, stands alone.

Economic Development

This portfolio remains the same, however incorporates the existing Small Business portfolio could do with a healthy shot in the arm. Small business makes up a large proportion of the city’s economy and has been poorly served to date, particularly in the area of the trades.

Maori Partnerships

Retains its current status and purpose in the new model.

Sector Partnerships

This new portfolio would subsume Education Partnerships and boost itself to take on other partnerships and sector relationships. The tourism industry, film & media sector, technology & high-tech businesses, are all important to Wellington and need more attention. This would very much be a development portfolio and one where the Council asked industry what they needed to grow. It connects with multiple portfolios, not just the Economic one.

Smart City

Smart City would subsume the City Scientist and the Technology & Innovation portfolios, both of which are critical and both of which have been poorly served. This portfolio would study and implement smart city strategies in line with the rest of the world’s best (and similar cities) to support all portfolios. This area has the possibility of significantly growing Wellington across all areas.

Social Development

Subsuming the following portfolios; Living Wage and Social Housing. This is something the Council traditionally does well and so it should be preserved and strengthened. Wellbeing and other social hot points could be added as well.


Until we start treating transport as an eco-system comprising many parts, we are going to continue to fail. This portfolio would subsume Public Transport along with Walking & Cycling and pick up future LGWM responsibilities.

Trust, Transparency, and Engagement

Finally, this portfolio would replace Community Engagement and Governance. The Council has a serious trust issue with its residents that must be resolved for the city to move forward. Because engagement is such a mess, groups rise in its place to halt progress because of a lack of understanding. Radical thinking is required to make a change in this area, which has been a chain around the city’s ankle for far too long.


What do I know! This could be a terrible model. So, tell me what you think. Also, I’ve been racking my brains about the new councillors and who you could assign to each portfolio. It’s not easy.

First published on Inside Wellington.


  1. Marion Leader, 17. October 2019, 16:10

    This is very good. Andy must keep in touch with you.

  2. TrevorH, 18. October 2019, 7:35

    How about “portfolios” that address the Council’s actual responsibilities like rubbish, recycling, sanitation and sewerage, water, roads and transport, street lighting, footpaths and civil defence etc?

  3. Brendan, 18. October 2019, 10:02

    Brilliant idea TrevorH but I can’t see today’s councillors going for such mundane stuff when rainbow crossings, climate change emergency signing and ‘kill all small mammallian life’ porfolios are available.

  4. michael, 19. October 2019, 12:43

    Many of us had naively hoped things might change this time around, and councillors might do what is best for the city, but it sounds like the new council is not off to a good start if they are bickering already. Why am I not surprised. It seems to have been the culture for the past few years, and one that has possibly played a big part in the stagnation of Wellington.

  5. Chris Calvi-Freeman, 21. October 2019, 13:16

    Did you see my posting on another recent thread, Michael? There was remarkably little bickering in 2016-19 (at least not until near the end of the triennium, when several councillors sought to gain advantage for their campaigns). Virtually all of the “stagnation” that you allege is in fact the direct or indirect result of the Kaikoura earthquake: buildings demolished or closed, rates and other charges rising etc. But despite this, the St James and the Old Town Hall are both undergoing restoration, city housing is being redeveloped, a new water supply reservoir is being built, the city’s road tunnels strengthened, and the “early improvements” from LGWM will start to be delivered in 2020.

    TrevorH, I think those who hold very specific portfolios (transport, city housing etc) are less likely to be reelected than those with more nebulous job titles. Make of that what you will.

  6. Dave B, 21. October 2019, 14:17

    Michael, when you say that you “hoped things might change this time around, and councillors might do what is best for the city”, what did you have in mind? What do you think the previous lot did wrong?
    Did they not push hard enough for more motorways? Or for mass transit? Did they push too hard for cycleways? Were they overly panicked into shutting down the library? Or overly keen on prioritizing a convention centre, runway-extension, and Chinese Garden?
    The thing is, we all seem to have varying ideas about what is best for the city. A dithering and non-achieving council is perhaps properly representative of our diversity, and just what we need until we can reach a more solid base of agreement. Perhaps a visionary and insightful leader/statesman(woman) will emerge to inspire us all into agreement on a particular way forward (wouldn’t advise holding any breath for that).
    Or, given that it is the younger generation who will inherit whatever successes or messes we make now, perhaps more weight should be given to their views. How about an upper voting-age limit as well as a lower one? (Tongue in cheek perhaps, since I’m not so young anymore myself).

  7. michael, 21. October 2019, 16:50

    Dave, the previous council was not transparent enough in its dealings with the public, particularly regarding Shelley Bay. I am also unimpressed with financial overruns in WCC projects. Not only that, I cannot imagine what WCC has paid out in legal fees justifying poor council decisions over the past 3 years or more. Ratepayers are not a bottomless pit!
    Once the movie museum was not a goer, I don’t believe they made a good business case for a stand-alone convention centre. They would have been better off incentivising a hotel chain to build a hotel with a convention centre, especially as Wellington has a shortage of beds. Also, the monies earmarked for the convention centre should have been transferred to sorting our iconic Civic Square.
    And yes, they were too quick to close the library which has been the heart of our city with one million users per year. They have been too closed minded about getting it reopened as quickly as possible. Instead they have spent millions of dollars opening “hubs” around the city which gives them the excuse to keep the library shut indefinitely.
    I also believe the council should have lobbied the GWRC much more strenuously to prevent Wellington being saddled with all of Auckland’s 2nd-hand buses which are causing a noticeable increase in carcinogenic and noise pollution. Just ask shops and apartments along Willis Street that are experiencing higher levels of soot etc.
    Over the last few weeks of WOW, many friends visiting Wellington have mentioned that parts of Wellington look depressing, and I unfortunately agree.
    And finally, YES we do need a strong, visionary and insisghtful leader and I am not holding my breath about that either.

  8. Dave B, 21. October 2019, 18:59

    Thanks Michael. I see where you are coming from now. I am inclined to agree, and also hope that the new team doesn’t adopt the same furtive way of dealing.