Wellington Scoop

Aiming to be inclusive and decisive, mayor creates 4 new committees for council

Mayor Celia Wade-Brown’s new committee structure for the Wellington City Council has been released today. The mayor says the new structure is designed to be inclusive at both a political and community level, and will facilitate quality decision making.

In place of the old wide-ranging strategy and planning committee, she has created a more-focused governance, finance and planning committee, to be chaired by deputy mayor Justin Lester. All councillors are members, including the mayor.

Four more new committees are being set up, each with seven councillors (plus the mayor) as members.

A committee for economic growth and arts will be chaired by Jo Coughlan, with Simon Marsh as her deputy. Before the election, Councillor Coughlan was leader of the council’s economic portfolio.

Andy Foster retains his involvement with transport, as chair of a transport and urban development committee.

Paul Eagle is to chair a committee for community, sports and recreation.

Iona Pannett is to chair an environment committee.

Helene Ritchie is leader of the natural environment portfolio, with new councillor David Lee leading the new climate change portfolio.

Iona Pannett is appointed as leader of the buildings portfolio, and new councillor Nicola Young is leader of a central city projects portfolio, another new category.

The small medium enterprise and and tertiary liaison portfolio is to be led by Simon Marsh.

Ray Ahipene-Mercer is again appointed as arts portfolio leader.

New councillor Malcolm Sparrow leads a new portfolio titled community resilience.

New councillor (and former MP) Mark Peck is named as chair of the audit and risk subcommittee.

The mayor says the new governance and decision making structure takes the following key principles into consideration:

Inclusiveness of councillors

Efficiency of decision making

Strategic and integrated decision making

Informed decision making

Decision taken once

Public participation




“The Council structure ensures that elected members are empowered to maximise their contribution to advancing the growth and well-being of Wellington. It is designed to ensure that decisions are made as decisively as possible while ensuring that every decision is well informed by our communities,” says the mayor.

No one has yet been named as transport portfolio leader – this role was handled by Andy Foster in the old council. His role as chair of the transport committee indicates no change. And no one has been named as economic portfolio leader, which was Jo Coughlan’s responsibility last time. However her position as chair of the economic growth committee also seems to indicate no change. Except for the absence of the two portfolio leader titles.

News from WCC
Mayor Celia Wade-Brown says the new committee structure for the Wellington City Council will drive the agenda and provide a sharper focus on the key issues for Wellington. The four new subject-based committees give a focus on pressing issues for Wellington, of good economic growth, access to community facilities, affordable housing, smart urban development and protection of our natural and built heritage.

“The new committee structure provides a great opportunity for our Councillors to focus on opportunities and challenges facing the Capital,” said the Mayor. “This term’s Councillors have considerable experience and knowledge on a wide range of issues, combined with enthusiasm for the city and their role. All have much to offer, and all are keen to get on with the job.

“Under this new arrangement, that experience can be focused more sharply to provide streamlined leadership on the issues that affect Wellingtonians.”

“The new ‘committee of the whole’ Governance Finance and Planning, chaired by Deputy Mayor Justin Lester, allows all Councillors to guide the important financial and planning decisions for the city.”

There are portfolio leaders within each committee, working with the chair as the overall leader of each area. Appointments to the boards and trusts of CCOs (not remunerated), will made in November.

“As circumstances evolve there may also be working parties, liaison groups and potentially further portfolios,” says the Mayor. “Committee work is only one aspect of Council and I’m encouraging elected members to fully connect with their citizens and businesses, both formally and informally.”

The new committee structure, chairs and members, and comment by committee chairs follow.

Economy and Arts:
Chair Jo Coughlan, Deputy Simon Marsh
Portfolio Leader, Arts: Ray Ahipene-Mercer
Portfolio Leader, Small Medium Enterprise and Tertiary Liaison: Simon Marsh
Members: Paul Eagle, Justin Lester, Mark Peck, Nicola Young

“Wellington has enormous potential,” says Cr Coughlan. “This committee is charged with growing the Wellington economy through attracting talent and investment to the Capital, promoting our opportunities, fostering economic collaboration and growing our arts and events sector.”

The Economy and Arts Committee will focus on delivering sustainable long-term economic growth for the city, promote the city’s visitor attractions, deliver high-quality events and support the development of smart businesses in the city. The Committee will also work to build Wellington’s unique identity, raise the city’s international profile, and ensure Wellington continues to be New Zealand’s arts and culture capital by supporting a range of opportunities for entertainment and expression.

Community, Sport and Recreation:
Chair: Paul Eagle
Portfolio Leader, Community Resilience: Malcolm Sparrow
Members: Sarah Free, Simon Marsh, Mark Peck, Helene Ritchie, Simon Woolf

The focus of the Community, Sport and Recreation Committee is to build strong, safe, healthy communities for a better quality of life. It will be responsible for social infrastructure, social cohesion, encourage healthy lifestyles, support local community events, protect public safety, and provide a wide range of recreation facilities for residents to use and enjoy.

“This committee guides our frontline community services, caring for our vulnerable citizens, maintaining excellent social housing and promoting the importance of sport and recreation to maintain a great quality of life,” said Cr Eagle. “A key focus is to acknowledge the importance and uniqueness of our Maori connections and ethnic diversity.”

Chair: Iona Pannett
Portfolio Leader, Natural Environment: Helene Ritchie
Portfolio Leader, Climate Change: David Lee
Members: Ray Ahipene-Mercer, Andy Foster, Sarah Free, Malcolm Sparrow

“This committee’s job is to protect and enhance Wellington’s environment which makes it such a great place to live, work and play,” said Cr Pannett. “Enhancing our distinctive built form, supporting our superb natural environment and climate change are key priorities.”

The Environment Committee will focus on enhancing the city’s open spaces, protecting distinctive plant, bird and animal life, and ensuring there are high quality outdoor areas for residents and visitors to enjoy. The Committee will also look after water and waste services to protect the city’s environment and residents’ health.

Transport and Urban Development:
Chair: Andy Foster
Portfolio Leader, Buildings: Iona Pannett
Portfolio Leader, Central City Projects: Nicola Young
Members: Jo Coughlan, David Lee, Justin Lester, Simon Woolf

“Urban Development is about the shape of our city, it’s the compactness and sustainable urban design, it’s what makes our city work so well,” says Cr Foster. “Whether we walk, cycle, drive or use public transport we all use the transport system, and I’m looking forward to meeting the key challenges and opportunities in this area.”

The focus of the Transport and Urban Development Committee is to direct growth to where the benefits are greatest and where adverse effects are minimised, and to deliver a quality compact urban environment. It will also focus on providing a safe, efficient and sustainable transport system that supports Wellington’s economy and adds to residents’ quality of life.

Ian Apperley: Why the ICT portfolio should have been retained


  1. Cynical, 25. October 2013, 9:12

    I don’t believe that the non-naming of a transport portfolio leader or economic portfolio leader is an oversight; Celia Wade-Brown clearly has decided that there will be no improvement to either transport or the economic state of Wellington for the next three years.

  2. lindsay, 25. October 2013, 9:15

    Cynical. That’s nonsense.Two of the five committees have specific responsibility for transport and the economy.

  3. Cynical, 25. October 2013, 10:27

    Lindsay: They are diluting the focus of both of these portfolios. Economic Growth now has Arts added to it, and Transport now has Urban Development added to it. This will divert focus as both of these large and important portfolios now have equally large add-ons attached to them. Without a clear focus on economic growth and transport (though a large part of this is outside of the WCC’s scope as it is covered by the GWRC), we will continue to lose businesses and opportunities to Auckland and Christchurch.

  4. Elaine Hampton Mt Vic Residents Assn, 25. October 2013, 12:38

    “Enhancing our distinctive built form, supporting our superb natural environment .”

    Mt Victoria would like some protection for its ‘built form’ before it is all but gone, replaced by soulless boxes and swiss chalet like intrusions

  5. Greg, 25. October 2013, 13:35

    Cynical: There is no dilution by bringing Transport and Urban Development into one committee. They are equal members of spatial planning. Focusing on one over the other is akin to a journey without a destination – it sounds nice to the romantics, but not overly useful when you’re trying to make things work.

  6. Michael Gibson, 25. October 2013, 16:02

    Congratulations to the mayor for rooting-out the old Prendergast Committee structure!! Will Environment Commissioners’ Reports be considered by the new Environment Committee, where the emphasis is on the Environment with the proposed new Chair & her very promising new colleagues?
    I hope so, since it would be the height of irony if the much-anticipated Report on the Open Space in Creswick Valley were to be considered as “Economic Development.”

  7. Rosamund, 30. October 2013, 10:11

    I remain astonished that Mayor Celia wants to revert to an earlier time by abolishing the omnibus (in responsibilities) Strategy and Policy Committee. Replacing it with a focused governance committee chaired by Deputy Mayor Lester will effectively decentralise consideration of matters best considered by elected representatives “in the round”. The inevitable outcome is likely to be the further “siloing” of information and the consequential lack of transparency that will not aid democracy. The side effect may also be the rise of competition between portfolio holders as keepers of subject knowledge. Dividing and ruling is a common strategy when one wishes to gain power, the non-elected executive will become stronger and more influential as they will have the “whole picture”.

    Will briefings continue? They have been an excellent means of keeping informed about the issues being raised in reports written by the executive (non-elected staff) to the elected representatives. Briefings are pre-meetings where “Officers” inform elected representatives on the various issues they are to consider at a forthcoming meeting of Council. Pre-meeting briefings have generally been held in public and were introduced to ensure that elected representatives were informed and had an opportunity to clarify and confirm their understandings of topics raised in the “agenda”. No vote was taken at these briefings nor was a quorum required, ensuring a free-exchange of views.

    Will each of the new committees be preceded by a briefing? How many meetings will this mean for an interested citizen wishing to be informed? There are many disadvantages of de-centralisation as can be attested by many organisations, both public and private over many years.

  8. Ian, 30. October 2013, 14:04

    Doing what Cornwall does (televising its meetings) might help if pre-meetings are televised and if anyone has time to watch. Otherwise they are only helpful to people who can turn up. What happens at them is very badly recorded.
    There is nothing like a proper printed report for people to be able to see what the facts are – not a bad idea to have it signed, something which is carefully avoided by Wellington’s present officers.
    A lot of Rosamund’s other points would be resolved if Committees had less power to pass binding resolutions and the Council had to decide things for itself.

  9. Rosamund, 4. November 2013, 13:27

    Thanks Ian.
    I have now learnt that there will be no briefings in this term.
    Council Officers generally produce excellent and comprehensive reports. Sadly they were only read by a few elected representatives and some members of the public, who are of course powerless.
    Committees of the elected representatives pass resolutions that are then ratified by the whole of Council.
    Hopefully our newly elected representatives will take the time, which we are paying for, to become informed by asking questions in public that elucidate. This means no more patsy questions, but lots of healthy debate on salient points before coming to a conclusion either for or against any matter.
    The rule for all of us should ideally be “Question everything, accept nothing”…