Wellington Scoop

Iona for deputy mayor?

A recent tweet alerted us to a possibility that had yet to occur to the wellington.scoop brains trust – that left-leaning Green councillor Iona Pannett might well be Wellington’s next deputy mayor, assuming incumbent Celia Wade-Brown gets re-elected. The logic seems curiously inescapable – and goes like this.

Celia Wade-Brown’s council is now in open revolt, with five councillors having thrown their hat into the ring to succeed her – including current deputy mayor Justin Lester, long-term ally and transport portfolio leader Andy Foster, council stalwart and elder states-person Helene Ritchie, economic development leader Jo Coughlan, and energetic Lambton Ward councillor Nicola Young. Given the range of senior portfolios held by the challengers, it’s hard to see this as anything other than a vote of no confidence in Wade-Brown’s leadership.

But assuming she does make it home for a third term, it’s safe to say that she will be searching long and hard for a suitable deputy. After all, if the most experienced and capable councillors have expressed their desire to usurp her, who would you trust to stand behind the throne?

The list of possible candidates – who have the requisite experience and mana, as well as not being implacably opposed to Wade-Brown’s policies – turns out to be remarkably short. Clearly there are challenges with inviting the more right-wing councillors such as Simon “Swampy” Marsh into the position, and the lack of experience of many of the others – such as Simon Woolf – might make their ascension to the deputy role pretty risky.

If Wade-Brown is looking for allies at the top table, there’s really only one contender – Lambton Ward stalwart Iona Pannett. Like Celia, she’s a Green Party graduate, shares similar views on many issues such as the living wage and public transport, and – importantly – has three terms under her belt. So she understands how the council operates and (presumably) how to get things done in the increasingly toxic environment of WCC.

Of course, councillor Pannett’s ascension would also signal a greater drift of council leadership towards the left/green spectrum. In her first term, Wade-Brown was happy to welcome the notably conservative Ian McKinnon to the deputy position, while her second term brought in the Labour councillor Justin Lester. But Iona Pannett appears to be further to left again – she is a vocal advocate for greater public transport subsidies, reduced fares for students, the living wage, protecting Wellington from the ravages of the local feline population … in short, a grab-bag of Green Party policies.

If you’re a fan of everything green (or Green), then this is probably great news. But if you were hoping for a bit of balance on items such as rates increases – and perhaps thought that the odd roading improvement might not go astray – then having a green-leaning mayor plus a Green Party spokesperson as deputy might give you pause.

The only fly in the ointment may be that councillor Pannett also seems to be less than enthusiastic about the proposed airport extension, which could be a deal-breaker for the mayor. But if not Pannett, then whom?


  1. Charlotte, 26. July 2016, 8:01

    This is indeed an interesting analysis which does make sense. Indeed could this be the reason why Celia encouraged her Deputy to run for Mayor, then knifed him in the back by running herself? This of course pre-supposes that Celia actually submits her nomination form to Wellington City Council. There are increasing noises about her possibly switching to become a Regional Council candidate (with a view to challenging Laidlaw for Chair). The salary is almost as good and there is almost no scrutiny. What a wonderful job!
    Meanwhile word swirling around the Local Government Conference yesterday suggests that the Leggett camp are becoming increasingly worried by the momentum building behind Coughlan who they initially wrote off. The rumour suggests that Coughlan was picking up enough second preferences to probably eliminate Lester and be one of the final three contenders. Would Lester’s Labour Party supporters really back a renegade like Leggett?
    Then there were the interesting Facebook exchanges over the weekend stimulated by Simon Woolf. And there is a strong rumour that two more people are planning to run for Mayor. This is the most interesting Local Government contest in years!

  2. Kez, 26. July 2016, 8:25

    If Nick Leggett truly cared about Wellington (and wanted to ditch the ‘carpetbagger’ tag) he’d run for Northern ward. He’d be far more acceptable as a Deputy Mayor than Pannett.

  3. Laidback Chap, 26. July 2016, 8:51

    You have forgotten about Malcolm Sparrow. Assuming he gets re-elected, which may not be as certain as one thinks. Justin Lester is trying to unseat Helene Ritchie by recommending you vote for a tree planter and his mother in law’s work mate and Mr Sparrow. Not sure whether his recommendations are the golden touch he thinks.

  4. Sekhmet Bast Ra, 26. July 2016, 13:21

    We expect Celia to be seeking vocational guidance following the election, but should she be re-elected, Iona Pannett may well be selected as Deputy Mayor. There’s no doubt Iona’s three terms on the Council amount to ‘requisite experience’ but when it comes to mana, in our opinion she’s sorely lacking. Mana is a concept that most people who are not Maori have yet to truly understand. It’s an array of non physical energies functioning in concert, it’s the power of the individual used right. Courage, strength and resolve are all expressions of it. If someone truly has mana, when they address an audience the whole room stops and listens, they are compelled by real energy emanating from the individual which sets everyone resonating on the same frequency. Any toxic atmosphere in a place or amongst a group is swiftly dissipated by the presence of a person who truly has mana and knows how to work with it.

    Back in April when we approached the Council on the matter of the Animal Bylaw Review, Subsection Cats, with all of the difficult questions they did not want to hear; our questions were forwarded to Councillor Pannett, and Council staff promised a response within a specific time frame. We got our response on time from the Councillor, but she replied to the wrong email with a joyful piece of spin which did not address our difficult questions. When we responded to the Councillor, she put her tail between her legs and delegated the matter to Kaine Thompson at the office of the CEO.

    Apologies Iona Pannett, in the mana stakes we’d give you a 1 out of 10.

    Who else might be deputy mayor if Celia Wade-Brown is successful in retaining the mayoral office? That would be none other than Sarah Free. She’s loyal to the Green ideology, seconded the Mayor’s motion to proceed with the Animal Bylaw Review and has been diligently working behind the scenes in her position as WCC representative on the Zoo Trust Board to ensure all involved are firmly indoctrinated with the ideology of restoration ecology and also directing Zoo staff from CEO Karen Fifield through to vet Baukje Lenting to act as propaganda mouthpieces for the Council’s anti-Cat rhetoric.

  5. Ian Apperley, 26. July 2016, 13:28

    You are assuming that Celia is “Green.” I’d question that, I think she is far more right than left. The Green Party refused to endorse Celia OR Iona last election and will most likely run candidates against them (rumour).

    Given that Simon Marsh is like some kind of childhood floppy stuffed bear, he’d be perfect for Celia to control.

  6. Jack Little, 26. July 2016, 18:28

    Dont be surprised if Justin’s name pops up on the northern ward nominees list – ‘justin case’ he needs backup profile for his tilt at ohariu now that Ginny Anderson is a shoein for Hutt South.

  7. Charlotte, 26. July 2016, 21:11

    I didnt realise that Justin’s candidacy for Ohariu is pretty much in the bag. Why is the Dom Post not telling us these things?

  8. Hamish G, 26. July 2016, 21:48

    It’s obvious Lester’s using this campaign as a tilt for Ohariu. Why claim to care about Wellington when he’s clearly trying to advance his political ambitions for 2017! Don’t even get me started on the ragtag bunch he’s running with. Take Lynda McGregor who’s running for Eastern Ward, who says on her Facebook page “I have no magic bullet that will win this battle. Apart from my faith in the cosmic need for balance.” Thanks, but I’d rather not leave important policy and infrastructure decisions to “chance”.

  9. Hel, 26. July 2016, 22:08

    I can’t quite work out if many of these posts are in jest. I cannot envisage a world where Pannett or Free were deputy mayors, this would signal a complete lack of options and a sad day for the city.

  10. Warren, 26. July 2016, 22:17

    Paul Eagle is rumoured to be replacing Annette King in Rongotai too which would leave the southern ward open to another green councillor if he left the council

  11. Michael Gibson, 27. July 2016, 10:30

    I have just read Charlotte’s comments about the current Mayor standing for the Regional Council. This seems to me a very good idea and I recommend it to her.

  12. Warren, 27. July 2016, 12:41

    The regional council is the landing place for former councillors. Celia could join her old deputy Ian McKinnon there when he stands this year. Perhaps Nick Leggett should focus on the regional council given his wish to continue pushing on with amalgamation of the region. Or is he looking to head to Australia after October?