Wellington Scoop

Tough times for the city council – so let’s have a party

by Lindsay Shelton
On the same day that it told us “these are … tough times and we all have to make savings,” I discovered that the Wellington City Council is being asked to spend $350,000 on an “iconic Rugby World Cup Sculpture”.

The proposal – which seems to contradict the council’s ‘tough times’ definition – is to create a large sculpture somewhere on the waterfront “to be an outstanding iconic centerpiece” for next year’s Rugby World Cup celebrations.

The full quote about tough times comes from the council’s communications chief Richard MacLean, who sent a comment to Wellington.Scoop last week telling us the council had to cut spending on websites for 540 community groups because “these are, after all, tough times and we all have to make savings wherever possible to help keep the Council’s budget in check.”

Applause to Richard. No one could disagree with him. But unfortunately the council isn’t paying attention. Or else it wouldn’t be coming up with the idea of a $350,000 rugby sculpture.

No one’s name is attached to this extravagant and unqualified recommendation, which is to be considered by councilors at a meeting tomorrow. It’s probably the same person who wants ratepayers to pay $450,000 towards the cost of a grandiose gateway sculpture which will be “the largest sculpture commission in Wellington’s history.”

Anyway, if city councilors decide they must add $350,000 to their budget during these tough times, they have a way of saving almost the same amount of money – by cutting back on their spending for eating and drinking. As Dave Burgess revealed in the Dominion Post last week, food and drink for the council cost Wellington ratepayers a total of $329,000 for the 12 months ending last October. That’s twice as much as the Regional Council spends, and six times as much as the Porirua City Council.

Councilors, who no doubt hoped that no one noticed this report, have shown an ability to ignore other concerns about their spending. A DomPost poll last year asked whether ratepayers should be contributing $800,000 towards the cost of the big new wharewaka being built on Taranaki Wharf. A total of 84 per cent of respondents said “No, it’s outrageous.” The council went ahead anyway. And now it’s planning to spend a further $150,000 to rent the wharewaka as the centre of a fan zone for the Rugby World Cup, no doubt with the $350,000 rugby sculpture nearby.

The wharewaka, planned as “a permanent expression of Maori art and culture,” now faces the danger of being overrun by the culture of rugby and beer. Another council staff member was no doubt thinking of all the after-match celebrations when he announced a rugby cup website today and boasted: “Wellington throws an unsurpassed party.” But not till the city has paid the rent for the wharewaka.

The council is anxious to make Wellington a memorable venue for World Cup visitors. But its extravagances are shaping up as an expensive venture for Wellington ratepayers. Specially when the council’s own spokesperson says times are tough and we should be making savings to keep the council’s budget in check.

Read also
Drunkenness at the rugby sevens


  1. Jarrod Coburn, 2. March 2010, 9:55

    Wellingtonians have had enough. Let’s see who votes “yes” to the sculpture at the Council meeting… and vote them out.

    This year YOU have a chance to have your say. The citizens of Wellington have been putting up with corrupt parking wardens, un-notified developments, and financial mismanagement for TOO LONG.

    You – the people of Wellington – will have your say this year at the local body elections. Think carefully who you vote for. But remember this: most of your current batch of Councillors have blindly approved millions of dollars of spending over the past few years. Ultimately they MUST be held to account.

  2. richard maclean, 2. March 2010, 12:02

    Jarrod – you mention corrupt parking wardens. Would you like to name anyone in particular and detail any particular corrupt act, or would you like to pull your head in before someone decides to take action against you, possibly on the grounds of defamation?
    Richard MacLean – WCC Communications

  3. traveller, 2. March 2010, 13:46

    I remember media reports about a corrupt Wellington parking warden who stole millions of dollars and had it stashed all over his house.

  4. Wendy Slieker, 2. March 2010, 14:07

    Interesting that Richard MacLean takes exception to statements of corruption amongst parking wardens and goes on to threaten legal action, but completely ignores the issue of financial mismanagement and non-notified consents that were also referred to. Methinks he doth protest too much…..
    If anyone needs to pull their head in it is the Wellington City Council. I am sure there are many talented and useful people employed there – it’s only a shame that those holding those qualities are not the ones constantly raising their ugly heads to be shot at!

  5. richard maclean, 2. March 2010, 16:22

    In response to the two previous comments: it wasn’t a parking warden who stole the money.
    And I didn’t personally threaten legal action – I mentioned to Jarrod that to call someone corrupt is at the high end of the defamation scale so it would be wise for him to back up his comments with fact otherwise he may get slapped with a suit (it wouldn’t come from me because I am not a parking warden).
    Richard MacLean – WCC Communications

  6. Nunca_Caminaras_Solo, 2. March 2010, 20:19

    Is it me or does that look like plain english under a veiled threat? Of course it does not sound like threat personally, but sure sounds like a ‘veiled’ one.

    I guess this is what happens when you voice your opinion against injustice being done. The only way for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing. Keep it up Jarrod and you’re right – there needs to be a change.

  7. Jarrod Coburn, 3. March 2010, 18:46

    Dear Richard MacLean,
    Thank you for your comments strenuously denying corruption amongst parking wardens in Wellington City. My my my, have I hit a raw nerve here?

    Please by all means waste the ratepayer’s money on MORE unnecessary court action. You have publically threatened to sue me for defamation – then by all means send me the summons. I shall see you in court.

    I think it is YOU who needs to pull his head in. What right do you have – as the Council’s mouthpiece – to threaten citizens in such a manner? Or even to SPEAK to them in such a way? I have a right to express an honest opinion. Upon whose authorisation do you act? As you are so intent on carrying out this discussion on a public forum then I invite you to respond with these answers.

    In the meantime, perhaps I should start preparing my defense by requesting documents from the Wellington City Council under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act. As you have publically threatened me with legal action I believe this would give me a much stronger case to access ‘publically excluded’ and commercially-sensitive material.

    Jarrod Coburn

    (People should not be afraid of their government – government should be afraid of the people)

  8. ViV, 3. March 2010, 22:32

    Well Richard I have to say, you’ve certainly been earning your salary recently with all the “damage control” in regards the over- exuberant (take a cut of the fines) WCC-contracted Parking Enforcement Officers. Doesn’t Officer sounds so much better than warden. Warden has such penal connotation attached to it.

    But I do have to agree with you Richard, the gent convicted of the corrupted practice of “theft as a servant”, (stealing the parking money and investing it in fine art and other such comforts) wasn’t a contracted Parking Warden. He was in fact, an employee of the very same council that employs Richard. Yes; an employee of the Wellington City Council. (Never let the truth get in the way of a good story).

    In his defence, Richard really does earn his money, spinning the truth to protect his masters. So people: cut him some slack he’s not such a bad guy, except when he uses bullying tactics such as threat of litigation to stifle expression of a personal opinion.

  9. richard maclean, 4. March 2010, 12:46

    Jarrod I suggest you read my original message again. I have not personally threatened you with legal action and I’d hazard a guess that no-one else at the Council is currently calling in the lawyers. My objection is that you are accusing our parking wardens of courruption. If any or all of them really could be bothered then they could sue you for defamation. Luckily for you, very few people will actually find your comments so you’ll probably get away with it – but this is just a friendly warning that you should not accuse someone of being corrupt without being able to back it up. I’d imagine you would be on the phone to a lawyer in a shot if someone aimed similar accusations at you.
    In terms of you questioning my right to stand up for the Council – it’s my job. Personally I would much rather not have to waste my time responding to some of the comments on this website – however quite a few of them are brought to our attention, often by Lindsay Shelton, and so we feel a certain obligation to respond.
    Richard MacLean – WCC Communications

  10. Nunca_Caminaras_Solo, 4. March 2010, 16:34

    Nicely written and nicely mentioned but most often not always the right thing to say. What should not have been said, should not have been said. I guess we’ll have to see what happens after the mayoral election and who the next boss is. Everyone knows change is coming.

  11. Jarrod Coburn, 4. March 2010, 16:45

    My questions were:
    What right do you have … to threaten citizens in such a manner?
    What right do you have … to SPEAK to them in such a way?
    Upon whose authorisation do you act?

  12. Allan Probert, 5. March 2010, 15:26

    I think we should defend Jarrod’s right to question what council gets up to and why so much is held behind closed doors. Council has for too long ridden roughshod over the wishes of those citizens who are motivated to speak up; let alone all the others who are too busy or cant be bothered! There are certainly things that are happening within council that are questionable and the public has a right to know about ie. how our money is spent ; staffing-why they have 31 people in HR let alone how many in communications(!) and why the draft annual plan has already taken shape as officers have asked councillors for ideas and their pet projects. I am unaware of ANY public consultation at this stage? This is not how such processes should be run and I agree that change will occur at the next election in october.

  13. The City is Ours Inc., 5. March 2010, 23:25

    E-petition: http://www.wellington.govt.nz/haveyoursay/e-petitions/ep/details/123

    The City is Ours Inc. invites Wellington to sign the e-petition to make a Register of Interests for the Mayor and all councillors publicly available on the WCC website. The E-petition closes on the 23rd of August
    and will be presented at the first SPC meeting of the incoming council after the 2010 elections. Go Wellington Sign and Vote!!

  14. Peter Dawson, 10. June 2010, 9:59

    @The City is Ours Inc., that petition is showing as closed on the WCC website (on May 23rd).