Wellington Scoop

The council isn’t selling shoes

Cr Fleur Fitzsimons has had encouraging feedback from across the political spectrum since she criticised last week’s external review of the Wellington City Council’s communications and engagement functions. The review recommends a “refreshed corporate identity” for the council, but Cr Fitzsimons says this makes the council seem as if it is “a corporation with something to sell, like a sneakers brand or an insurance company.”

Cr Fitzimons’ opinions were published in the Spinoff, where she writes that the last thing Wellingtonians need is corporate spin:

The council does not operate in a competitive marketplace, and there is no share price to protect. The council exists for simple reasons, to make Wellington function properly as a city that residents can live well in. The council has enough challenges living up to that basic expectation.

The council exists to address the reality that for residents and businesses, it is better if we collectively build pipes, transport and recreation infrastructure. It is better if together we plan for housing, shopping and hospitality and it is better if we as a city provide the support needed for residents who are struggling.

She continues:

It’s nice to have an appealing logo, and essential we communicate with residents with clarity and honesty. But we are not a “brand” in any meaningful sense of the word, and nor should we aspire to behave like one.

The review, written by Wellington-based public sector management consultant Ross Tanner, said the communications team had not widely publicised the council’s vision and priorities, and was sometimes “reactive” instead of proactive.

But Cr Fitzsimons says she cannot recall any instance when a resident has pulled her aside to express frustration at a council failure to be more proactive or streamlined in its communications. She doesn’t think that concerns about branding will figure largely in next year’s elections, either.

And she concludes:

We should never allow reputation management to supersede democratic accountability.

The council’s chief strategy and governance officer Stephen McArthur seemed, however, more enthusiastic about the recommendations of by the review. He told the DomPost that the review recognised the talent within the communications team, but focused on the need to develop a clear media strategy.

“The review noted that all the staff referred to had a high workload, and we are confident that our new strategy will address these pressures,” he said. “By far the most significant outcome is that this review has charted a very clear path to take the team forward.”

The review made eight recommendations and all were supported by the council’s executive leadership team, McArthur said. “Implementing those will be the team’s most important priority from today onwards.”

Coming ready or not – is re-branding happening regardless?

Experience Wellington: a growing bureaucracy seeking to be a brand
Dave Armstrong on corporate cliches


  1. Claire, 13. September 2021, 19:33

    I actually would be happy if it was a company running the city. Then there would be less wannabe activism and political interference.
    And they could be better at comms. The last communication was about how only 16 per cent of Wellingtonians are satisfied with the council…

  2. Ray Chung, 13. September 2021, 21:26

    I recall the WCC advertised a few months ago for a “story-teller” to be paid circa $140,000 to tell the public what a great job the council is doing and to find “feel good” stories. I assume that this person has been hired but are we feeling any better about the council? Obviously not based on the 16% satisfaction rating.

  3. Michael, 13. September 2021, 22:23

    As Councillor Fitzsimmons states the “council exists to “collectively build pipes, transport and recreation infrastructure” which so far is not going too well for them. Do they think that refreshing WCC’s “corporate identity” is going to magically make all the city problems go away?

  4. Toni, 13. September 2021, 22:52

    Disheartening how the council wastes money commissioning and actioning reports that do nothing to fix the major problems facing the city, while reports to address real problems are replaced with peer reviews, more reports and more peer reviews until nothing happens. Are we now meant to be impressed by a “refreshed corporate identity”? Perhaps the council expects this will justify this year’s huge rates increase?

  5. Mickey mouse, 14. September 2021, 9:33

    Good points Cr Fitzsimons. In any case, if the Council did sell shoes would they be the right size?

  6. bssmith, 14. September 2021, 10:07

    Cr Fitzsimons has had plenty of time to, in her words ” build, pipes and infrastructure”. I would also like to know what her comment in the Spinoff article refers to – “The crisis facing the council is plain for all to see and much-needed government reform is coming”. Is she hinting at Three Waters, and if so, does she see WCC holding a referendum on the subject?

  7. Traveller, 14. September 2021, 10:13

    The council may not be selling shoes. But I recall that one of Wellington’s previous mayors had been in the shoe selling business. Is there a connection somewhere?

  8. Richie Bestingface, 14. September 2021, 10:46

    Traveller – you mean is there a Shoe Connection? Surely the council wouldn’t be into that sort of Mischief.

  9. Alan, 14. September 2021, 15:21

    One is reminded of The Muppets and their Rainbow Connection!

  10. Ray Chung, 14. September 2021, 17:01

    Richie Bestingface, very good! This is the first comment that’s made me smile! So many of the others make me cry!

    I read in the DomPost on Saturday that the WCC is expecting a shortfall of $11.5 million because of Covid19 disruptions and reduced funding from NZTA, so will have to borrow more money after already extending its borrowing cap. Then today, the revelation that WOW is going to send the WCC a bill for as much as $5m for underwriting the WOW show that was cancelled, so that will also have to be borrowed. Please, no more PR spin, and cancel or at least defer some of these money-guzzling projects that are “nice to have” but unnecessary when we’re obviously skint!

  11. michael, 14. September 2021, 22:55

    Ray, when has the council ever really worried about spending money they haven’t got, or worried about spending the money they do get on the things the city needs? ‘Creative Storytellers’ and increased rates solve those problems. And now we will have a “refreshed corporate identity” to sell the council’s “vision and priorities”, which never seem to produce action to address the huge problems facing the city.

  12. Ray Chung, 15. September 2021, 13:00

    Hi Michael, well, certainly not this council! One of the problems when I talk to councillors, a lot of the time they say, “Well, it’s only a few million…” as if we have a few million to spare! We need a change of councillors to give us a focus on the important issues.