Wellington Scoop

Changing his mind

Will new Wellington mayor Andy Foster be pursuing his idea of selling the city’s shares in Wellington Airport? From his past record, it’s hard to tell.

As Simon Louisson wrote in the Standard last week:

Foster has a history of equivocating over the council’s holding in WIAL. In 1998 he was instrumental in voting against the sale of the council’s airport stake … Then mayor Mark Blumsky and CEO Garry Poole were certain they had lined Foster up on the sale side, despite his many pronouncements against the sale. But they received almost as nasty a shock as Lester received from last month’s election, when Foster jumped the other way.

Rob Laking conducted a fascinating post-mortem of the council’s proposed sale, titled The family silver: the sale of Wellington Airport. In it, Blumsky states: “Andy tends to sit on the fence and … you were never sure at the end of the phone call with Andy: he wouldn’t say he wasn’t going to support you, he would say ‘well he still needed a bit more information but it was probably going to be okay’ and then out of the blue he doesn’t.”

Louisson describes a similar experience when the sale of the Wellington lines company Capital Power, now the Chinese-owned Wellington Electricity, was being debated:

Along with then fellow councillors Jack Ruben and Hazel Armstrong, Foster was a vociferous critic of that sale. But he managed to absent himself when the vote on the sale was taken and then changed his view. In a letter to the Evening Post he said selling the second half of Capital Power, “though unpopular, and personally difficult, made financial and customer sense, and subsequent events have proved the sale right”.

Louisson adds:

Whether he can get his plan to sell the airport stake past a hostile public or a leftist-dominated council seems about as likely as his desire to bulldoze another tunnel through Mt Vic.

A third change of mind by Andy Foster is well remembered by campaigners against the Basin Reserve flyover.

When a head count was done before a crucial meeting in 2013, Andy was known as a long-time opponent of the flyover. He even moved an amendment that the council “not support the flyover.” But when the vote was tied, he used his casting vote to kill the opposition.

Had the flyover been built, critics said it would be called “Foster’s Flyover.”


  1. michael, 4. November 2019, 10:00

    I just hope we aren’t facing another 3 years of nothing but vanity projects while councillors squabble. For Wellington’s sake = stop procrastinating and get on with bringing the city back to a capital we can be proud of.

  2. Conor Hill, 4. November 2019, 14:13

    A massive chunk of Andy’s campaign was based around a very recent flip flop. In June he voted for Let’s Get Wellington Moving, and in August he came out wanting to change it, and spent much of his campaign arguing against it.

  3. Local, 4. November 2019, 17:48

    But then again Mr Lester didn’t seem to know which way Wellington was gping to get moving…
    sometimes trackless, sometimes through tunnels, over tunnels, under ramps, sometimes only pretty pictures of non existent light rail through already pedestrianised Lambton Quay.
    Nekt minute four lanes to his subsidised Singapore planes and his extended Airport runway…

  4. Tim, 4. November 2019, 17:55

    What we are seeing with Andy over the years is a person who is brave enough to change his mind as new information comes to light. It’s a breath of fresh air and a strength not a weakness. There’s no place for party politics or bloody mindedness in local government. It only lowers outcomes. Independent thinking around the table will bring best outcomes for our city. Conor if you remember a number of councillors were told by Justin that not agreeing to Get Wellington Moving would bring the government down because the Greens would walk away from the coalition. Andy whilst Mayor has greater access to the council officers and authority to find out information withheld in some instances from councillors. In the past council officers have worked in isolation to the councillors while they carry out their regulative responsibilities and to some extent have not felt a need to communicate. Some councillors have been happy not to know or trouble themselves with the detail. Andy always has. Lets hope this new council requires more transparency and better communication resulting in less litigation and better decision making. It’s ok to change your mind! Social media awareness and the younger generation expect this. It’s debate and democracy at its best

  5. Chris Calvi-Freeman, 18. November 2019, 14:54

    @Local: Lester knew exactly where the priority was with LGWM – fixing the Basin, mass transit to the hospital and airport, and a second Mt Vic tunnel, in that order. But yes, his apparent fascination with trackless trams was rather a distraction.

    It’s worth remembering, also, that LGWM started in the previous triennium (i.e. 2013-16). Apparently a rocky start, with the two WCC reps not displaying a unified front at the governance group meetings. Those reps? Cllr A Foster and Mayor Wade-Brown.

  6. Chris Calvi-Freeman, 18. November 2019, 14:58

    @Tim. Any idea whom WCC has placed on the WIAL board, presuming Andy has stepped down?