Wellington Scoop

On her bike: US readers learn about Wellington mayor’s workouts

celia wsj
Photo from Wall Street Journal

The Wall Street Journal has this week reported that Wellington mayor Celia Wade-Brown doesn’t think twice about hopping on her bike to go meet visiting dignitaries. Her bike, says the influential American newspaper, is her main transportation.

An article by Rebecca Howard tells the paper’s American readers that Ms. Wade-Brown cycles to work most days, around 4.5 miles, and scuba-dives and kayaks frequently. In February, she kayaked across Cook Strait, a 20.5-mile journey that took around five hours and is considered extremely treacherous. She says it took her more than two years to prepare.

It wasn’t until she emigrated to New Zealand from England in 1983 that Ms. Wade-Brown became interested in adventure sports. New Zealand’s alpine peaks, rain forests and wilderness offer opportunities for hiking, kayaking and cycling. She became hooked on exercise through work and the “New Zealand ethos of actually getting out there and being very active, doing active sports.”

Ms. Wade-Brown started scuba diving in 2005 when one of her sons, who was 12 at the time, wanted to learn. It proved to be “more complex” and “more rewarding than I expected,” she says. She now has advanced diver certification and participates in diving events to clean up the Wellington harbor.

Ms. Wade-Brown bikes to work five days a week and can often be seen around the city, pedaling to parliament or other meetings. “I love my bike. I can stop and talk to people and go and see things,” she says.

She recently rode around the Takapu Valley, north of Wellington, to check the site of a new road. “We spent an hour or so cycling, which was completely canceled out by having scones with jam and cream” afterward.

Ms. Wade-Brown, who lives in the coastal suburb of Island Bay with her husband, kayaks at least twice a week. She tried commuting to work via kayak but said the nearly three-hour trip wasn’t practical. The weather in Wellington can be a deterrent, she says, with wind gusts of up to 74.4 miles an hour a common occurrence.

“One reason I do so many different things is because you can’t rely on being able to kayak three times a week,” she says.

She is a frequent swimmer, participating in events like the State NZ Ocean Swim Series Capital Classic, swimming 300 meters, in January.

The paper also reports that the Wellington mayor bikes in clothes that will be good work clothes, either trousers or bike shorts under a skirt. She rides in heels for short distances and keeps spare shoes at work. She has a high-visibility jacket, and extensive lights on her bike and helmet. For diving, she has a wetsuit and a secondhand buoyancy control device and a regulator. She rents a tank and said a boating trip for two dives costs about $70.

The American reporter asked the mayor about her playlist. The answer was a surprising one.

She doesn’t listen to music when she exercises but instead listens to Chinese lessons. She is learning Mandarin in order to welcome Chinese delegations and visitors, as well as for when she travels to Wellington’s sister cities of Beijing and Xiamen.