Wellington Scoop

Who will prevail in the mayoral race? Part four: summing up the field

Our run through the mayoral field has revealed some real contenders, some wannabes and some rank outsiders. For this week’s edition we thought a bit of summing up would be in order, so readers can start putting pen to paper and ranking candidates as soon as those ballots arrive. Let’s get to the thumbnail sketches of everyone vying for the mayoral chains.

Celia Wade-Brown

Just give me the elevator pitch: Aspiring third-term incumbent with more time around the council table than anyone else on the ballot.

Pros: Aspiring third-term incumbent with more time around the council table than anyone else on the ballot. Unequalled brand recognition.

Cons: Still waiting on that light rail system. Fan-base has declined noticeably in Island Bay.

Likely prospects: Strong if the ABCs (Anyone But Celia) don’t get their act together, and soon.

Vote for her if: You love the Island Bay Cycleway and think that light rail still has a real chance.

Justin Lester

Just give me the elevator pitch: The Hillary Clinton of Wellington politics – he definitely thinks it’s his turn at the top job.

Pros: Young(ish), energetic, strong left-wing bias in a fairly left-wing town.

Cons: Increasingly tainted by the miasma of ineptitude around the council table, spends ratepayer money like an eight-year-old in a $2 shop.

Likely prospects: Middling, depending on whether the ABCs want a Celia-lite rather than a new broom.

Vote for him if: You mostly like Celia’s policies but think a fresh face is needed at the head of the table.

Jo Coughlan

Just give me the elevator pitch: The Bill English of Wellington politics, who aspires to be the John Key of Wellington politics.

Pros: Business-focused, a rationalist at heart, understands the power and value of money.

Cons: No real track record of success to hang her hat on after all those years around the council table.

Likely prospects: Not that flash unless her campaign team pull out all the stops.

Vote for her if: You think the council needs the same steady-as-she-goes approach as is currently in vogue at the Beehive.

Nicola Young

Just give me the elevator pitch: Tory with a capital T, with a faint whiff of Ruth Richardson in her policies.

Pros: Energetic, no nonsense, is genuinely concerned about the basics of local government such as balancing the books and curbing rates increases.

Cons: Seems like a 1990s throwback policy-wise, limited experience around the council table, sometimes seems like a political hobbyist rather than a real contender.

Likely prospects: Might do surprisingly well, assuming no mis-steps or campaign trail disasters.

Vote for her if: You looked at your latest rates demand and thought, “how much?!”

Nick Leggett

Just give me the elevator pitch: The big cheese in Porirua wants to move up to the top table in the capital, and is prepared to go all-out to achieve it. The Jack Yan of 2016.

Pros: No lack of dedication, any council disasters in Porirua are unlikely to follow him up the road to Wellington, knows how the local government machinery works.

Cons: His big claim to fame in Wellington was telling off the city over the Basin Reserve flyover; some of his policies make Jo Coughlan look progressive.

Likely prospects: Poor, unless every other contender’s campaign turns to custard.

Vote for him if: You looked out of your Oriental Bay apartment window this morning and thought, “I bet life is nicer in Porirua”.

Keith Johnson

Just give me the elevator pitch: Personable economist with no local body track record, campaigning experience – or even a discernible campaign.

Pros: Totally untainted by the hurly-burly around the council table, might bring some genuinely new ideas and ways of working.

Cons: Did we mention he has no track record or campaigning experience?

Likely prospects: Poor, unless having some good stories from the campaign trail to tell his friends in a few years time counts as success.

Vote for him if: You think there should be an adult in charge at the council and you can’t bear the thought of any of the incumbents. The thinking person’s protest vote.

Next week – how to deploy your mayoral vote tactically in an STV world.

Who will prevail in the mayoral race?
Part one: Celia and Justin
Part two: Nicola and Jo
Part three: Nick and Keith


  1. Ian Apperley, 21. June 2016, 8:11

    Great article.

  2. Michael Gibson, 21. June 2016, 10:40

    Let us hope that all candidates with two or more terms as a Councillor decide (for the benefit of all of us) not to stand again for a ward. That would help me considerably with my vote for the Mayoralty.

  3. Trish, 21. June 2016, 12:04

    Great column – I’m looking forward to the next episode. My pick of the elimination vote-counting rounds is that Nicola will stall around 40% (like Mystery Morrison did – is anyone missing him?) with the real race being a toss up between Celia and Lester. I’m giving my No 1 to Keith just to encourage him – he will be gone early, then my real vote will kick in.

  4. Anabel, 21. June 2016, 16:43

    I’m not voting for the WCC & its extortionist Long Term Plan.

  5. Ben, 21. June 2016, 17:32

    Heaven help us if it is a toss-up between Celia and anyone, as we will end up with more of the same. A dysfunctional leaderless council that ignores the public and spends up large without any cohesive plan.

  6. Polly, 21. June 2016, 17:33

    Well said Trish. Keith is the best qualified and perhaps we should appoint him CEO with his background as an academic, economist, and public policy advisor, He says that reigning in the Council’s sometimes massive and apparently somewhat casual and arbitrary spending plans will be his top priority …

  7. Hel, 21. June 2016, 19:48

    Wellington is in pretty good shape despite a fairly inept and dysfunctional Council table. The malaise is not just at the Mayoral level but much deeper and the quality of individual councillors needs to increase significantly or frankly it doesn’t really matter who the Mayor is. Too many lightweight councillors and lifers. My instinct is someone not tainted by being an existing councillor which leaves Leggett and Johnson. I’ve seen nothing to suggest Johnson has any real credentials so looks like Porirua could prevail.

  8. Morris Oxford, 21. June 2016, 20:06

    “Reigning” is the word alright!

  9. Ben, 21. June 2016, 22:00

    We just have to figure out how to vote to get the right people in and the rest out

  10. Helen S, 22. June 2016, 7:27

    No Ben, when you vote you are giving your consent to the WCC , a local govt council that functions the same no matter what face they have for mayor.

  11. Sarah, 22. June 2016, 10:16

    Leggett is the quintessential ‘lifer’ – on Porirua City Council at the tender age of 19. Not sure what he brings to Wellington, given the dire state of P-town’s infrastructure and their massive rates increases.

  12. Sandra, 6. July 2016, 0:13

    Only vote I can give is for Keith Johnson. He’s the only mayoral candidate against the runway extension and more corporate handouts. He’s got a PhD and has proven he’s got some intellectual skills. He’ll shake things up, which is necessary. Love your quote about Lester spending ratepayer money like an 8-year old in the $2 shop (run by his ‘uncle’ Tim Brown, no doubt!).