Wellington Scoop

The fall-out from the Wade-Brown withdrawal

Well, that sure took a few people by surprise. Celia Wade-Brown has taken the noble way out and announced she won’t be standing in the October mayoral election. Which may not be bad news if you’re not a fan of the Island Bay Cycleway (or own cats, perhaps), but will mark a sea-change in Wellington’s local body politics. So how will her decision affect the rest of the campaign?

There’s no endorsement!

Strangely, Celia has declined to endorse any of her competitors. She was widely expected to do so for Justin Lester, who was seen as her anointed successor for the Big Office. That’s not to say she won’t throw her weight behind him at some later point, but you’d think a quick flick-pass in Lester’s direction would be better than some drawn-out head-scratching.

Of course, she may not be completely entranced by Justin’s boyish good looks or his innocuous populist policies. Looking from the outside, there seems to have been some friction between mayor and deputy over the past year – or at least since Justin made his ambitions known – so perhaps Wade-Brown is merely burying the hatchet … in his mayoral campaign.

Speaking of endorsements, Jo Coughlan has been furiously tweeting that former mayor Kerry Prendergast has endorsed her. Which is interesting. Coughlan has been seen as the minor player in the tussle to secure the all-important property developer and corporate mover-and-shaker demographic – currently a hard-fought battle between developer-friendly Leggett and developer-friendly Lester – so perhaps she has more reach than we gave her credit for.

Does this mean Peak Green has arrived?

Not so long ago, we were speculating that councillor Iona Pannett would be moving to the deputy mayor’s office if Celia signed on for a third term. Those dreams have now receded well out of reach, because we can’t think of a single serious mayoral contender who would be rushing to sign Pannett up for the role.

And no matter what else happens between now and the polls closing, Wade-Brown’s departure means the Green ascendancy around the council table is at an end (well, unless this bloke comes from behind in a major way). The Green bloc will go back to being what it was before Celia’s mayoralty – a tight-knit but small faction that could only get its way by negotiating rather than insisting.

In addition to Pannett, councillors Sarah Free and David Lee are all devoted to the Green cause. But without a green (sorry, independent) mayor to provide the necessary heavyweight support and useful portfolio allocation, their influence around the council table is probably going to wane. Which may make some anti-cycleway lobbyists pretty happy.

What happens to the ABCs?

Some campaigns – we’re looking at you, Nicola Young – almost seem to be defined by the things they’re against, rather than the things they’re for. In many respects, the sheer number of councillors climbing onto the mayoral bandwagon seemed to be a vote of no confidence in Wade-Brown’s leadership skills. What happens now that their arch-nemesis has exited the stage?

The first problem for a few of the contenders is that they’ll have to define their own policy platforms, rather than just opposing Celia’s. It’s no good being anti-cycleway if the bicycling advocate-in-chief is no longer there to oppose. Some late-night policy rewriting over the weekend may be necessary to reflect the new reality.

And the pretenders – the people who don’t really have a snowball’s chance of taking the mayoral chains – will have to decide whether they can be bothered. If their intention was to get rid of Celia by pulling preferences away from her, well … job done.

Mayoral campaigns are a tough, expensive business that are as much a test of stamina as anything else, so they may have second thoughts about the effort needed, and decide that a bit of time with the family might be a more enjoyable way to spend the next couple of months. We’ll have to see what happens when nominations close on 12 August.


  1. Hamish G, 5. August 2016, 20:14

    So is Lester more pro-property developer than pro-Labour? Two of my workmates have been phone canvassed by him this past month. Both said that they didn’t know he was the Labour candidate for mayor cos he didn’t mention that on the phone. He’s ok to take Labour’s resources but not their brand? Bet he’ll go crawling back to Labour when Ohariu selection rolls around. What’s to bet that selection won’t be until after the mayoral election either.

  2. Mosey, 5. August 2016, 21:08

    Very good. Nicola, Andy and Helene should reflect over the weekend and probably withdraw. And what of Justin? Go for the Ward mate. You can’t be Mayor.

  3. luke, 6. August 2016, 1:08

    I doubt i’ll bother voting for any of these candidates, all they seem interested in is roads roads roads. I want better public transport, cycleways, the airport runway extension, and light rail – not endless motorways only.

  4. Warren, 6. August 2016, 13:44

    The panel on The Nation this morning said what the Stuff online poll is showing: this is a three horse race. The candidate representing the Labour Party, current Celia deputy and living wage hypocrite Justin Lester; the candidate from Porirua and former Labour Party member Nick Leggett; and the candidate representing the centre-right and business woman Jo Coughlan. Jo is leading well in the online poll from Nick then Justin, and then a long way back to the others who are either unknown or standing for mayor to boost name recognition for their council re-election. They should withdraw to avoid further embarrassment. Of the three serious candidates, looking at the performances on The Nation this morning, the two Labour men behaved like it was a general election debate slugfest, and as though their trailing in the polls requires them to “man up”. Nick showed his imperious and domineering style which he is known for in Porirua where virtually nothing has been achieved in the last decade despite what he will have you believe. Justin doesn’t know where he’s at or what his views are meant to be and tried to join Nick in being a macho bully but looked awkward. Their mutual dislike will be a feature of the campaign. Jo seemed quite reserved and with the men talking over her will come across as the obvious person to unite and lead the city and not be seen as the bully in charge. She is also the only one of the lead candidates with economic credibility and has at least been transparent on the policies she believes will take Wellington forward. Nick keeps talking about things being toxic without spelling out what he will actually do other than build a sports museum. I’m yet to hear a current councillor embrace Nick as the next mayor. They fear him and his intentions. Jo appears to genuinely want to be mayor whereas the ex and current Labour duo see this as the next step in their political careers.

  5. CC, 6. August 2016, 16:14

    You must have watched a different programme to the rest of us Warren. It was clearly established that Jo Coughlan is a National Party candidate in drag who never saw a bit of ratepayer or taxpayer funding that she didn’t want to toss to the private sector. She couldn’t even answer the financial question related to her current portfolio and policy intentions. Otherwise, you were not far wrong. Looks like we are in for a continued Mayoral fiasco unless a credible alternative fronts up within the next week.

  6. Trevor, 6. August 2016, 17:33

    Leggett was appallingly rude and overbearing in this morning’s debate on TV3’s The Nation. Not the kind of person one would want as mayor.

  7. Steve Todd, 6. August 2016, 18:04

    “And the pretenders … will have to decide whether they can be bothered. If their intention was to get rid of Celia by pulling preferences away from her, well … job done.”

    No, no, no, PCGM. Even if “pulling preferences away from her” was their intention, which is extremely unlikely, the second and later preferences for Celia on the voting documents of “the pretenders” would have kept Celia in the race, as they were successively excluded from the count, perhaps even contributing to her re-election. Under single transferable voting, an increased number of candidates, standing in opposition to an incumbent, does not, in and of itself, reduce the incumbent’s chances of being re-elected.

    And no, Mosey, there is absolutely no need for Nicola, Andy and Helene to withdraw. As Nicola said on ‘The Nation’ this morning, the campaign hasn’t even begun yet. This election is not an FPP contest; it is by preferential voting. As Celia showed in 2010, it is quite possible for a candidate to come from behind, and take the prize. Any candidate who genuinely wants to be mayor has every right to stand.

  8. Steve Todd, 6. August 2016, 20:44

    Journalist Tracy Watkins said on ‘The Nation’ this morning that Celia Wade-Brown might have withdrawn from the mayoral election because “polling” may have indicated to her that she was not going to win. Such so-called polling could only have been FPP polling, which, quite frankly, would have been next-to-useless in an STV electoral environment. I have previously suggested elsewhere that, to get a more accurate idea of which of the serious candidates is preferred by a majority of likely voters, two-candidate preferred (TCP, or 2CP) polling is required.

    The questions asked of potential voters could be something like these —
    Q. If the [Wellington] mayoral election were to be held today, to which candidate would you probably give your first-preference vote? If not sure, which candidate are you currently leaning toward?
    Q. If your first-preference candidate were eliminated during the count, to which other candidate (your second-preference choice) would you wish your vote to be transferred? (If the respondent can’t answer, no matter.)
    Q. If your second-preference candidate were eliminated during the count, to which other candidate (your third-preference choice) would you wish your vote to be transferred? (If the respondent can’t answer, no matter.)
    NB. Respondents who answer ‘don’t know’ to the first question are not included in the results.

    Given that most people would have trouble giving more than two preferences, little would be served by pushing on and asking a fourth question. Once the pollsters have gathered the data, they then perform a notional count, through as many iterations as are necessary, to determine the last two candidates standing (even if one candidate has attained an absolute majority of votes before the other most-preferred candidate has been identified). The total of votes for each of the two remaining candidates is then expressed as a percentage of the total of votes remaining in the count, to produce the 2CP result.

    For people who knew what they were doing, a (manual) hand-count would not be too onerous – say, 750 people polled; up to just three preferences given? Easy. The poll result would be reported in two parts: (1) the first preferences given for each of the candidates – say, 750 in total; and (2) the 2CP result based on the lesser number of people who expressed a preference for one or other of the two remaining candidates (that number being the total of votes remaining in the count). Surely there’s a polling company out there that could produce several such polls between next weekend and Friday, 7 October.

  9. Hamish G, 6. August 2016, 22:39

    Sheeeez Warren, tell us what you really think. Agree with your assessment totally. Wasnt 100% about Jo but having watched her this morning I definitely think she’s the best option for Wellington. Nick should go back to Porirua and reopen those pools and libraries he closed.

  10. Justine Beattie, 7. August 2016, 9:20

    I haven’t seen these three in person much before. But watching the show, I was thinking about how it would be if that was the council in a meeting. I thought Nick and to a lesser extent Justin were totally domineering and aggressive in their style which is a complete turnoff. Yes it was a debate but I thought they were both behaving like the young men they still are. Celia has been very ordinary as mayor but I like the way she been dignified despite all the attacks on her and the council. Jo made the point that the council is a place where different views and perspectives are brought and debated. She at least seems likely to be able to work with different interests and not bully her way through if she becomes mayor.

  11. Marion Leader, 7. August 2016, 11:11

    If the candidates were in a meeting, as suggested by Justine Beattie, the atmosphere would be “normal” for WCC i.e. toxic, a word mentioned on the panel afterwards. The panel also pointed out what loathing was indicated by the candidates’ body-language.
    But it was the second group where the worst behaviour occurred, with boss-of-bosses Andy Foster (determined not to let Nicola Young make her points) talking over her the whole time. Regrettably, Lisa Owen failed to stop this. No wonder there was such an effort to get rid of the boss-of-bosses.

  12. Hamish G, 7. August 2016, 22:39

    Despite Nick’s comments about the WCC being toxic, his attitude and behaviour was the most childish and toxic of all the mayoral candidates. I don’t want a mayor who reacts to differing opinions by talking over people, I want someone who’s actually going to listen to us residents and the councillors we elect.

  13. Justine Beattie, 8. August 2016, 13:17

    I’m very confused about Nick Leggett. Is he really Labour or not? He was a party member until he said he was going to run for Wellington mayor. But he said party politics shouldn’t be in local body politics even though he was Labour as mayor of Porirua. He looked angry on The Nation when he and Justin Lester were asked about Justin winning Labour’s selection battle (which I didn’t know had happened). It seemed he didn’t like missing out and is now saying he was leaving the party anyway. I don’t mind that he’s not but all of this Labour stuff is very political rather than what we want from our next mayor.

  14. Warren, 8. August 2016, 14:56

    Justine: Nick is not Labour in the same way Celia was not Green.

  15. Mosey, 8. August 2016, 19:02

    Justine: word is that you don’t need to worry too much about Nick. His performance on Saturday is impacting around town. As Morrison found out last time, you alienate the female vote at considerable cost. He has no troops on the ground, just plenty of fat cat property developers and their ilk writing cheques.

  16. CC, 8. August 2016, 20:30

    Mosey: except that it isn’t a matter of electing an outstanding candidate but voting for the least damaging prospect. Both Coughlan and Lester are slush fund signatories and both have unrestrained spending aspirations. Lester is an executive member of the Property Council, so is probably even deeper in the pockets of the ‘fat cat property developers’ than Leggett.

  17. time for change, 8. August 2016, 22:26

    Dirty politics and Labour Party warfare has emerged in Wellington mayoral campaign by the sound of things. Should be an entertaining few weeks watching this war between the two of them. Can’t wait for Labour to start dishing the dirt on the “truths” of Porirua and angry Nick the mayor.

  18. Marion Leader, 9. August 2016, 8:05

    Astonishing about Justin Lester! Thanks to CC for the tip about his being an Executive member of the Property Council and amazing to read the names of the other Executive members and to see how they have been helped in their activities by the WCC. It also explains why residential rates have been increasing by far more than business rates with the increase in residential rates being double the increase in residential rates this year, completely unjustified when most of the plans and schemes set out to help businesses rather than ordinary householders or tenants or students etc.. Is Justin really standing for Labour? I can’t believe it.

  19. chris, 9. August 2016, 9:03

    News of Nick’s short-fuse isn’t anything new. He previously told his deputy mayor to shut up in a council meeting which put him offside with women, councillors and Ngati Toa. Nick must be in full control and doesn’t handle being challenged very well which will be why he is angry with Justin winning the Labour selection. Be careful what you wish for Wellington.

  20. time for change, 9. August 2016, 16:57

    Chris: you are correct about Nick ruffling feathers. As I predicted yesterday the Labour Party is cranking up its campaign against Nick. Have a look at what Labour leader Andrew Little said about Nick today. Pretty damning. I didn’t know the Act party was behind Nick though, as well as the property developers.

  21. Hamish G, 10. August 2016, 0:45

    Thanks TFC interesting comments from Little. We’re barely into the campaign and I’m sick of the Labour Party politics that’s dictating Lester and Legget’s campaigns. How are they going to tell us voters about any policy when they’re too busy having arguments over who is ‘more Labour’ (or has Leggett completely signed up to the ACT/Property Developer Party now?). Voters want to know who’s gonna look after their roads, rates and rubbish collections, none of this petty carry on. Take the dirty politics back to Porirua. Jo Coughlan is no Liz Kelly, Nick won’t be able to bully his way through her.