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.


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