Wellington Scoop

Andy Foster on working together

Newshub Nation:
Finn Hogan interviews Wellington Mayor-elect Andy Foster, and first asks how he’s feeling about a potential recount.

Foster: it’s been a bit of a roller-coaster road over the last seven days. The margins get a little bit narrower and a little bit narrower. They’ve done the count. I’m going to ask somebody who’s been through that process before — how that went, and how much movement there is if you do a recount. I’ll see. I would have liked it if it was a little bit of a wider margin, to be fair.

Hogan: Assuming you are mayor, moving forward, what is your first and most urgent action?

the first thing is to get the council together — working together. It’s not going to be particularly easy to do that. What I’ve got to do is put together a package of responsibilities that the people are going to be happy with and that we can all contribute.

Talking about building consensus, a lot of your Councillors have different political leanings. You’ve got in by a very, very small margin. Of your policies, what are you willing to give up? Compromise is now inevitable.

Well, it’s not about my policies. It’s about the policies that are good for Wellington, so obviously the biggest area that’s going to be a challenge is transport because there are people who are wanting to get some things done, and other people who are adamantly opposed to those things. It’s not just the people around the council table. There are a lot of other players in this, and we’ll just see where we get to.

One of your proposals is bringing the second Mount Vic tunnel forward on that timeline, but how are you going to do that?

We’re going to do the business case, both for the Mount Victoria tunnel, Basin Reserve, and for mass transit. I have a view as to how I think those business cases will end up. Let’s see where they do, and then we’ll be able to make some decisions about where we go from here.

You’ll need to get that past NZTA, your council and central government. Are you confident you can do that?

Well, I’m really confident on NZTA, I’m really confident with the Ministry of Transport, I’m really confident of Treasury. My own council will be slightly more challenging. The public, I think, will be on-board with it, and, I expect, the regional council and certainly the council of the region will be on-board with it as well.

Okay, you say you want a more sustainable city, but aren’t you prioritising cars over public transport? How is that sustainable?

Look, I’ve been in charge of transport for quite a few years of my time on council, and in that time, every year, we’ve built the number of people — the proportion of people — who travel to work and to education by bike, by bus and by train and on foot, and we are by far the— We have by far the highest proportion of people doing that of any city in the country, and that has grown and grown and grown. I’ve shown that we can do that, and I want on keep on doing that. I think people are focused on a project in isolation from a big picture.

You’re also proposing cutting rate increases essentially by half over the next 10 years. How are you going to build a better city with much less money?

At the moment we have a projection of 70-80% rates rise over the next 10 years. To me, that’s utterly unsustainable. We will be driving people out of their homes, literally, if we do that. And certainly a lot of businesses won’t be able to cope with that either. We have to be able to prioritise. Some of the things we quite clearly can push beyond that 10 year time frame, and obviously, we’ve got some pretty big decisions to make around transport.

You’re a vocal opponent of the Shelly Bay development. What is your vision for Shelly Bay?

What I’ve said for the whole of Miramar Peninsular — Shelly Bay, Te Motu Kairangi — it’s a special part of the city, and I really would like to have all the parties able to sit down and develop a master plan together that actually celebrates the really important parts—the really good aspects of that part of our city.

But what’s your personal vision?

We’ve got the potential, the determination, to deliver a heritage park. We’ve got some fantastic military and Maori heritage on the old defence land there. I think there is the potential to so some quite special things. I think some of the people within the iwi would like to have a place to stand — a turangawaewae, that there is an iwi presence in that area. I think there are some potentials for visitor attractions in the area as well.

Peter Jackson opposed that development and he made a sizeable contribution to your campaign. Did he influence your policy at all?

No, because I’ve been in exactly that space for four and a half years, which is long before I even met him. No, they came on board with me because of what I was doing, not to try and influence what I was doing.

You also agree with him on building a movie museum. How are you going to shift perception that he has influence over your policy?

The first time I thought a movie museum was a good idea was probably 15-plus years ago when I worked behind the scenes at Weta. I think Kerry was the mayor at the time, and I saw the creativity that was being displayed there, whether it was prosthetics or the digital stuff or making weapons etc, and I thought people would love to see this. We’ve got 600,000 people going to see Hobbiton at the moment in rural Waikato. If we have that kind of attraction, most cities would give their eye-teeth for it. Now, I probably won’t be able to vote on it, but I think most people would say that will be a fantastic attraction for Wellington.

Rent in Wellington is now comparable to Auckland. What specific action are you going to take to address the housing shortage?

Well, clearly we need more houses. There’s two key initiatives there. One is to change the district planning rules. We’re about to go out and consult. In the New Year we will consult on a spatial plan, so where we want development, which bits of the city maybe we want to protect and which bits we want to develop.

But how many are you going to build and how quickly?

Look, I’m not going to give you a number. We need a lot. We need to change the planning rules, and also we need to set up, in my view, an urban development agency. Should’ve happened in the last three years. That’s about council getting actively involved in the process of development and urban renewal.

So if you don’t have an exact number in mind, what have you based your policy on?

I’ve based my policy on — we need about 30,000 over the next 30 years. How many are going to be delivered in the next year or the next year or the year after that? I’m not going to put a number on at the moment.

So in this term you don’t have a number in mind?

The Labour Government does things that way, and then they decided it wasn’t a very good idea, so, no, I’m not going to give you a number.

You’ve learnt your lessons from KiwiBuild?



  1. Marion Leader, 20. October 2019, 17:57

    A grown-up answer to each of the last two questions.

  2. Farmer Bill, 21. October 2019, 8:15

    Let Peter Jackson build and fund a cinema museum – why not in Masterton where he lives part of the time? Perhaps near Hood Aerodrome so some of his famous film friends can fly in and out on their private jets.

  3. GillyT, 21. October 2019, 13:40

    “New Zealanders have lost their stomach for the big jobs” said my council-employed, civil-engineering dad shortly before he died 10 years ago. One of this country’s post-war nation-builders, he helped put through the Napier-Taupo deviation that opened in 1974. Before that it was a 5 hour gravel road endurance test!

    How did we, a nation of a million people in the post-war years, build a first-class infrastructure – roads, rail, tunnels, bridges, energy system – in one of the most hostile physical environments in the world? We did it via a thing called the Planning Council and by investing in a highly skilled (yet not exactly overpaid compared to today’s salaries) Ministry of Works department, the greatest training entity for civil construction this country has ever seen. Amazing that at one time, overseas observers came here to see how we pulled it off.

    Value for money rather than ‘the cheapest’ option was the ethos of those years, which meant that a degree of inefficiency was built into the system, ie Works picked up the slack during tough economic times when people needed work, because our leaders placed more ‘value’ on having a settled, productive, invested citizenry than ‘cost’ alone, due to memories of/participation in a particularly nasty economic depression & two bloody big world wars. The Boomer politicians of the 1980s and 90s swept all that away and it’s evident, given the talk in this morning’s Dom Post about “asset recycling” (euphemism for asset sales), that the ideology that brought market forces to bear on every aspect of public life and massively drove up the cost of living, has not yet run its course.

    Now in 2019 cutting-edge economist Mariana Mazzucato argues in her book ‘The Value of Everything’ that when we confuse price with value, we end up with a form of capitalism that rewards value EXTRACTION activities over value CREATION; that in turn increase inequality. She also argues that the real driver of innovation isn’t lone geniuses but state investment and gives powerful examples.
    Very timely given the machinations and hand-wringing about the degree of public investment in the upgrade of Wellington’s public transport infrastructure where arguments about ‘cost’ alone prevail. If not now, when?

    Turns out my old dad was right.

  4. Dave B, 21. October 2019, 15:21

    Totally agree, Gilly T. The dismantling of the state-run apparatus threw the baby out with the bathwater. It surely could have been upgraded rather than jettisoned. Unfortunately political and managerial ideologists seem to find it easier to demolish and build something different, rather than carefully renovate and improve what’s there already.

    The other problem we have faced since the heady days of major state-infrastructure projects is the increasing disagreement as a population on what we want, as well as increasing empowerment to object to what we don’t want. This is no more true than in transport, where once-upon-a-time our nation was solidly behind the construction of railways, then it switched to solidly supporting road-building (dropping the railways like an unwanted toy), then becoming divided as some people saw a big mistake had been made, while others saw a rosy nirvana they just wanted more of. And this is where we still are today. Add-in the left-right polarisation, and the free-market-growth versus managed-restraint argument, and the picture of dysfunction is complete. At least be don’t have an “NZexit” to worry about!

    It may take the passing of the ‘boomer’ generation (of whom I am one) to return to a more solid consensus on what society needs.

  5. michael, 21. October 2019, 17:06

    Can any councillor explain why their individual political leanings should have any relevance to their jobs as representatives of the Wellington public?. Being voted in does not necessarily qualify as acceptance of their political and individual philosophies!
    This is part of the reason why the council has been so dysfunctional because individual biases and party politics have taken precedence over what is best for Wellington City as a whole, and unfortunately this is not likely to change in the future.

  6. Twerps, 21. October 2019, 18:28

    Michael – you got that right, it turns out they haven’t learnt anything based on the dompost article I just read – delivering ultimatums to the mayor over who should be deputy. Anyone involved in that nonsense should be left without a portfolio. They’re like a rabble of naughty toddlers who need to be taught a lesson.

  7. Zoodoomo, 21. October 2019, 18:35

    Foster given ultimatum on Deputy Mayor …Is this media manipulation, junior reporting or inept self important people putting themselves up there?
    A lovely new elected councillor said in the media today how she is now being treated so importantly – wow – that’s awesome she was elected at that young age as others have as well. Being made to feel important and being important is a big gap to fill. Ask – how important is their city and how important is their party and how because they have minimum experience they may easily be influenced.
    Let’s not talk about GWRC – Blakeley or Ponter for Chair?

  8. Ruz, 21. October 2019, 21:45

    No mention of the sale of the WCC shares in Wellington Airport which apparently Foster is in favour of but failed to mention when on the election trail.

  9. michael, 21. October 2019, 23:26

    Well there seems to be little hope for this new council if what is reported in the DomPost is correct. If the Mayor has been given an ultimatum to choose a politically left leaning Deputy Mayor, then we are just going to have more of the same. Councillors following party lines rather than cooperating to do what is best for Wellington. Unbecoming behaviour from elected officials, but these days it seems to be par for the course. Little wonder the public felt there was no point voting.

  10. Concerned Wellingtonian, 22. October 2019, 7:37

    Let me comment on Zoodoomo with whom I agree entirely. The problem about having party politics at WCC is that a general view takes away from a Wellington view. This was one of Lester’s biggest problems. He was more concerned with being nice to the government and his friends on the Regional Council than the interests of Wellingtonians.
    Definitely Blakeley for GW chair. Let experience and established leadership credentials prevail over inexperience and putting dogma before Wellington.
    I agree about the new, young councillors. It looks as though they are taking their responsibilities seriously.

  11. Chris Calvi-Freeman, 22. October 2019, 9:48

    Ousted Labour councillors Brian Dawson and Peter Gilbert didn’t always vote along “party” lines. Both very reasonable, committed, intelligent and mature men, who will be a significant loss to WCC. And I was an independent who put what I believed was best for Wellington before politics and popularity. I wonder how many of the new councillors have their sights set on the Beehive.

  12. Russell Tregonning, 22. October 2019, 22:16

    Yes, concerned Wellingtonian. Roger Blakeney for chair of the GWRC makes sense. Hard-working, politically very experienced, big on climate change action and polling higher than other aspirants for the chair. Also clear about the need for globally-proven light rail without the ‘mass public transport’ waffle which means more indecision and delay. He wants to delay any decision on a Mt Vic extra road tunnel until light rail has been introduced – wise – another feather in his large cap.

  13. Roy Kutel, 23. October 2019, 8:55

    Leadership should in the first instance go to the person with the greatest number of votes. Who was that? Ideally there would be no GWRC and political representation would come from the city/district councils to a Public Transport Authority. GWRC is an inefficient and unnecessary level of government with average Joe not knowing what it is responsible for. Need Central Government to abolish it.

  14. Eric B., 23. October 2019, 8:57

    Hear hear Chris Calvi-Freemen or should I have gone parp, parp? Have you any eyes on the Beehive?

  15. John Rankin, 23. October 2019, 11:43

    @Russell: be a bit careful with terminology. Given the route currently being proposed for “mass transit”, the make-or-break factor will be whether the service is “rapid transit” — fast, frequent and reliable enough to overcome the penalty of the indirect route. It would also be good to get some clarity from Mayor Foster as to what sort of Mt Victoria tunnel he is seeking. Will it be “for buses and dedicated walking and cycling facilities” as the LGWM cabinet paper says or is he proposing a road tunnel?

    The devil is in the detail; the detail will be in the business cases.