Wellington Scoop

For and against Leonie Gill

by Lindsay Shelton
A brief news release about local body candidates has attracted a surprising amount of attention. Most of the comments have focused on Leonie Gill, a Rongotai resident who’s been a city councillor for 15 years and is hoping to be re-elected.

The news release was from the Labour Party, announcing five candidates for the October elections. It has attracted more than 100 “likes.” But it has also attracted a dozen comments, seven of them critical of Ms Gill, who was the highest-polling candidate in her Eastern Ward in 2010.

Is 15 years too long to stay as a councillor? Three of the critical comments are suggesting this. Four other comments ask how she can be a Labour candidate when she voted to support the flyover, against the party policy so clearly promoted by Grant Robertson and Annette King.

Here’s how she describes herself on the official 2013 election website:

Leonie Gill is a longstanding Rongotai resident. Prior to becoming a City Councillor, she was employed as a Draughtsperson with a leading Engineering Firm, for many years. Leonie has been associated with local community groups and chaired the committee which opposed the sale of Wellington Airport shares. She remains opposed to the sale of strategic assets. Leonie has a strong interest in Resource Management and now chairs the Regulatory Processes Committee. She is the Council representative on the Pacific Advisory Group. She achieved getting back the Leisure Card for seniors.

Leonie strongly supports projects for the Eastern Suburbs. Maintenance and upgrades of basic services are a priority. Growing traffic issues in the Eastern Suburbs must be addressed. Planning issues are addressed through the review processes of the District Plan and she wants to see this continue. To inform her actions, Leonie consults regularly by letter and leaflets, listens and acts.

So it seems that her local rather than her political connections may explain her success at the polls. Of the two comments which support her, one says she spends “a huge amount of time helping people in the community” and the other says “she’s an easy person to get hold of when you need a hand with a problem.”

The second highest-polling councillor in the Eastern Ward was Ray Ahipene-Mercer. But he doesn’t seem to be trying this time. When you look at the official election website, his page is a blank. No profile. No issues. Nothing from Ray.

Perhaps the election 2013 website is less than perfect. It lists Mike Mellor as a candidate, when he isn’t standing this year. His page (from the last elections) reminds us that he had great plans for solving traffic problems, if only he’d been elected.

There’ve been remarkably few local body candidates announced so far, considering that the elections are in five months’ time. Jack Yann’s mayoral candidacy was announced without any public reaction at all. And while it seems that Keith Johnson plans to stand, he hasn’t released any formal announcement of his intentions, although on wellington.scoop we’ve published two of his unique analyses of council finances. The first is about the “rebalancing” of the rates. The second exposes council secrecy surrounding its finances. Both contain fascinating information. But will he discover that Wellingtonians are amazingly uninvolved with the subject of their rates and the inevitable annual increases?

Only one other local body candidate announced herself last week. Nicola Young said she’s standing because Wellington is “languishing” and is “in danger of becoming another Canberra.” This wasn’t enough to satisfy the four people who sent comments. Each of them asked: what do you stand for?

The flyover, the rates differential, outsourcing, water meters. Now there are four issues on which candidates should be declaring themselves.


  1. Nora, 1. May 2013, 17:49

    Of greatest concern is the low turnout at local body elections, 40% of ratepayers with the “same old same old” candidates.
    I understand there has been a poor turnout at ward meetings, where supercity and the draft Annual Plan have been on the agenda. So Wellingtonians – it’s in your hands to stop the same OLD faces sitting around the table earning more than they would get in the private sector, not to mention all the perks, and very few of them appear to have actually read the agendas and most ignore the written and oral submissions .

    Cr Gill has sat writing letters and Christmas cards while debate is going on. It would be good to see the attendance records of a number of others.

    Fingers crossed for some new faces who will listen to their communities, not just the developers.

  2. peter@east-welly, 1. May 2013, 20:13

    At the eastern ward meeting, there were around 12 residents in attendance, 3 councillors and the Mayor, and 3 – 4 council staff. At the southern ward meeting, there were maybe 14 residents, the Mayor and one councillor. There were about 4 council staff in attendance.
    Pathetic. And we wonder why we keep getting crap !

  3. Mike Mellor, 1. May 2013, 20:15

    Thanks for your kind words, Lindsay – I wish more Eastern Ward voters had appreciated that at the time! I’m not standing this time, but I sure would like to help candidates with the right ideas.

    One Labour candidate that you don’t mention is Daran Ponter, who has added to the welcome breath of fresh air that Paul Bruce brought to the regional council.

  4. Rufus Sixsmith, 2. May 2013, 18:59

    @Nora. The card writing is one of the reasons Cr Gill gets elected … it’s all about name recognition. Each term, she sits at Council meetings with the electoral roll writing cards, that she hand delivers to every household in the Eastern electorate.

    I would have thought that she was paid for a higher quality of input than that … but she votes the same way as John Morrison, so I guess listening to the debate is not required.

  5. Nora, 3. May 2013, 16:11

    Well what a surprise to read that the Remuneration Authority has announced there a Pay Hike of nearly 9% for City and Regional Councillors across the country. But other roles would take pay cuts and the two named are Fran Wilde and Celia Wade Brown. At present only one Wellington city councillor is on the base rate, with the others having their pay topped up by $14,374 for portfolio leaders and $31,594 for the deputy mayor. However it is reported that the increase will be capped so that in Wellington no city councillor can be paid more than $114,900! Poor things.

  6. Atomic Taniwha, 5. May 2013, 12:56

    This council is broken. It’s quite clear there are two blocs. One led by the mayor with her coterie of sycophants and the other a group of the older councillors with more experience.

    The new bloc, under Celia, have managed to ditch a lot of the strategy and thinking from the previous Council that was endorsed in majority by the city ratepayers. That being sensible roading and transport plans along with basics like housing. Celia needs to go. She and her bloc are hurting the city.

    As for Labour being represented on the council. Well, nothing new there. Most of the effective councillors are independent.

    This is the year to get rid of them: http://strathmorepark.org/2013/05/05/its-the-year-to-vote-out-celia-wade-brown-and-her-councillors/

  7. John, 7. May 2013, 12:52

    Ms Atomic, you are so deluded…..I dont know where to start!
    There is no “bloc” in this council, other than the “bloc” of doddery old fools who remain from Prendergast’s tame sycophants who still long for a dictatorship like hers which they can blindly follow and reap fiscal rewards from the automatic voting policy.
    To claim that “strategy and thinking from the previous Council” was endorsed by the majority of ratepayers is laughable: you obviously have never studied the numbers of who actually voted at all, and for whom those policies were such a nightmare. The hatred for those policies was so deep and so widespread that all sorts of folks from across the political spectrum worked together to make sure that Kerry, and her anti-democratic actions, principals, management team and some of her sycophants were eliminated.
    Now we just have to get rid of the rest of “Kerrys Bloc”, and we will be able to enjoy a council where fresh innovative and independent thinkers (I don’t count Leonie Gill … Rufus is dead right in his analysis on that!!) will be able to vote for issues, not for power plays, settling old scores and ego-trips like many of them still do now.
    You are equating “older councilors with more experience” with quality representation and decision making capability?? Have you ever attended WCC meetings and heard these “experienced” people speak??? I dont think you possibly can have done!
    Celia’s TRULY DEMOCRATIC style has been a breath of fresh air, and once the fossils and rightists are eliminated, her second term may finally start to deliver the type of bold and innovative people-driven (rather than fat-cat developer driven) policies that really represent what the people of wellington really do want to see. Once they see this is possible, I am sure the turnout will increase, and the likes of Celia will then be set to stay as long as she still has the fire in her belly to to the Job – which she certainly does have.

  8. The Economic Illiteracy Support Group, 7. May 2013, 18:24

    John Key: nearly as smart as Aaron Gilmore.

  9. Daran Ponter, 13. May 2013, 22:43

    Hi Lindsay, I think you will find that the profiles on the official local government elections website are not for 2013, but are those from the 2010 elections. I have alerted the webmaster of the Local Government Online Limited website

  10. Hayley Robinson, 23. May 2013, 1:40

    Thank you for bringing up the issue of few candidates, perhaps this will encourage other media to publish candidates’ names. I indicated to both The Wellingtonian and The Dom Post approx. three weeks ago that I plan to run in the Onslow-Western Ward, but clearly new candidates are small bikkies and don’t rate a mention. Instead of worrying about this, I am just getting out and meeting people. In case anyone is interested, I am independant, against the flyover, against outsourcing especially if its economic effectiveness is not checked, and I am still researching the issues of water meters and rates differentials. I’m also nuts about maintaining library services (cornerstone of civilisation and all that), and finding ways to increase affordable housing.

    Hayley on facebook.com/LetsWorkTogetherForWellington

    P.S. the DomPost’s first question was “have you stood before?”