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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].