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.