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Telling their new mayor what they don’t want him to do

by Lindsay Shelton
On the same day that Lower Hutt’s new mayor announced his deputy (who said she was looking forward to working alongside him), a group of Wellington councillors were reported to be telling their new mayor who he should not choose as his deputy.

The “ultimatum” headline on Tom Hunt’s report in the DomPost [1] said it all:

A group of Wellington councillors have delivered Mayor Andy Foster an ultimatum: choose our deputy … or else. Multiple council sources have confirmed the group approached Foster last week under the understanding he was favouring Nicola Young or Diane Calvert for the deputy role. Both are considered politically centre-right while a majority of the new council is either Green, Labour or otherwise left-leaning.

Tom Hunt also reported:

It is understood many on the left favour Iona Pannett as deputy but it is a role she does not necessarily want….Foster said he was still working through options and would only confirm the deputy role would be chosen from Wellington’s 14 councillors.

Before the councillors’ ultimatum, Ian Apperley had observed (on his Inside Wellington [2] website, that the same six councillors were also opposing the new mayor’s idea of prioritising another Mt Victoria Tunnel, even though the tunnel would favour buses, cyclists and pedestrians:

You would think that the left-leaning Councillors could agree on this one. But Councillors opposed to the idea were Green Party members Sarah Free and Iona Pannett, Labour Party members Teri O’Neill, Fleur Fitzsimons, and Rebecca Matthews, and independent candidate Jill Day…. What’s ugly is that they’ve chosen to go public with it, rather than listening, planning, analysing, and forming an opinion on what it could be. This tells me that it is likely to be more dirty politics based than naivete.

LGWM was already a Frankenstein before the election, with a lot of central party meddling, poor behaviour around leaking, total lack of transparency, and so many lobby groups involved you’d need a stadium to hold a meeting. And while for the city it is critical, for these six councillors it’s a political football to be punted around. Disgraceful.

Apperley was also critical of Fleur Fitzsimons for opposing Andy Foster’s idea of selling the city’s shares in the airport.

The airport is one of the largest polluters in the city and with a council that, in another political stunt, declared a “climate emergency”, they need to act on that. Fitzsimons seems to think that by having a third of the company and sitting on the board of WIAL, we’ll be able to influence it. She’s completely naïve. The airport … plan to grow the airport substantively and massively increase flights… The WCC has sat on that board for years and never managed to influence it on any matters.

…A big up to the other councillors who made considered responses to these ideas and didn’t engage in tribal politics. Well done, you passed the first test. Right now, this city needs some certainty and stability, and having six outliers grandstanding is not helping that cause. It’s not helping their cause either. I can’t tell if that is an orchestrated campaign or just a knee-jerk reaction based on a lack of research, lack of listening to the community, a poor understanding of the history of these things, or just naivete.

No such conflicts were visible in Lower Hutt, where the new mayor said [3] she was

“… looking forward to working alongside the Mayor to deliver on the new council’s priorities.”

How many Wellington councillors will be willing to work alongside the mayor?