Wellington Scoop

Strange behaviour at city council – flyover meeting starts, then it’s shut down

There was strange behaviour at the Wellington City Council this afternoon. The council had advertised an extraordinary meeting to make decisions on the Basin Reserve flyover plan. The meeting started 15 minutes late. One minute later, it had been called off.

The meeting collapsed because of Councillor Ahipene-Mercer, who stood up and moved that it be adjourned till after an “ordinary” council meeting which was due to start at 5.30.

A majority of councillors supported his motion. The meeting was then abruptly called off, without any discussion.

Where did this leave the 40 members of the public who had arrived on schedule to hear the flyover discussions? It left them confused. The council had advertised the meeting, so why was it so easily postponed? It left them unable to plan the rest of the day, because council officers couldn’t estimate when the flyover meeting would be rescheduled.

This was because the “ordinary” 5.30 meeting includes a hotly controversial topic to be discussed with the public and staff excluded – the selection of the council’s chief executive, whose job has been advertised. That’s a topic which could keep councillors debating for hours.

When the flyover meeting eventually starts for a second time, councillors will consider a motion from Councillor Lester that they delegate authority for the mayor and the transport portfolio leader to meet the Transport Minister and the Transport Agency to discuss the council’s continuing preference to seek an alternative to the flyover.

Councillors will also be asked to fund up to $50,000 from existing budgets to further explore alternative transport solutions around the Basin Reserve.

8pm. The 5.30 meeting was continuing, with not a clue being offered about when (or if) the postponed extraordinary meeting would begin its discussions. This is democracy at work?
8.30. A council officer sent a message saying the extraordinary meeting will be held tonight, but she didn’t know when it would start.
9.00. It’s now five hours since the advertised starting time of the flyover debate. Nothing more has been heard from the council.
9.30. Silence from the council continues. Councillors must be arguing about who should be their next chief executive.
9.38. A text message says the flyover meeting will begin at 9.45.
10.05pm. The meeting begins. (Read our report here). But only a dozen of the public return to watch the 60 minutes of debate.


  1. Michael Gibson, 23. December 2012, 15:43

    To add to the chaos I can report that my request to speak in “Public Participation” was turned down (without any explanation). Were Cr Ahipene-Mercer’s efforts in protest about this? I cannot believe that he was as selfish as it appears.
    Re my request being turned down: I have asked if this is unusual & been told that my curiosity is to be handled under Official Information procedures. This obviously means that, under the present regime, the answer will take until the last possible minute allowed by the law – or perhaps longer.

  2. Lindsay, 23. December 2012, 18:23

    Michael: when the meeting resumed at 10pm, Cr Stephanie Cook offered a reason for Cr Ahipene-Mercer’s behaviour. She claimed that at 4pm he had seen that her children were waiting for her, and he thought that if the meeting was delayed till late at night she would not be able to return and therefore her vote (against the flyover) would not be counted. Cr Cook said she would stay all night if necessary to make sure that her vote was recorded. (The majority against the flyover was 8 to 7.)

  3. Michael Gibson, 23. December 2012, 18:50

    I am sorry that most people had to leave “early” & missed this explanation.
    I think that Cr Ahipene-Mercer could have mentioned this as his real reason when he spoke at the first bit of the Meeting.

  4. Pauline Swann, 23. December 2012, 19:35

    Michael I too was not allowed to speak to the council meeting as the subject I wanted to talk was not on the Agenda. It was the concern my husband and I have over the fate of the Inconstant and Plimmers Ark while Shed 6 goes through its $6m+ temporary upgrade as a conference venue while the Town Hall is being strengthened….I was told I could speak at the February S and P meeting but it will be too late then as the removal of these relics of our history are to be moved in January and could be lost. We have emailed councillors with our concern and not an acknowledgment except for the Mayor’s secretary. We understand we are not the only concerned Wellingtonians.

  5. Michael Gibson, 24. December 2012, 9:11

    What sensationally good hard work has been done by Pauline Swann this year – she would have been a most worthy “Wellingtonian of the Year” along with the top people at the Creswick Valley Residents’ Association (who have been rather more hamstrung in what they can do because of their still working at the coalface.)
    Such a pity that Cr Ahipene-Mercer & Co. are not in touch with ordinary Wellingtonians & are not prepared to listen to their very valid concerns – but at least Pauline was told why she was prevented from speaking.
    I hope that, when the Council people get back from their holiday trips to exotic overseas destinations, Cr A-M lets me know why my request was turned down. Is my theory about his wanting to play politics correct?