by Geoffrey Churchman

For my Saturday evening entertainment I went to a meeting of the 9 candidates in the Johnsonville Community Hall as did about 100 others, not quite as good a turnout as I expected and population-proportionately a lot less than the Grey Power meeting in Waikanae.

As Wellington is NZ’s second biggest city (depending on who you ask) it’s important at the national level as well as the local level. The issues are different to those in Waikanae and Kapiti, although the housing intensification wants of the Jacinda government are just as potent and controversial.

Of the 9 candidates 4 can’t be treated seriously — the ones who can are Barbara McKenzie, Ray Chung, the incumbent Andy Foster, the Labour Party-endorsed Paul Eagle and Tory Whanau the Green candidate (endorsed by the Stuffers who probably wish she had a different first name. 🙂 )

Barbara McKenzie I’ve mentioned in an article already; trans-national-business experienced Ray Chung would make a good WCC Chief Executive as he is unimpressed with that office holder and said that there is a big lack of ‘business in council’ — of the numerous council staff about 20–30% could be dispensed with; making it leaner and more efficient could shave $50 million off the city’s annual $470 million expenditure. We have had and still have the same issue in Kapiti although we have a new CE taking office the Monday after the election who we shouldn’t pre-judge.

Both Barbara and Ray are standing in the Onslow-Western ward and would make good councilors if they don’t get the mayoralty.

One big problem that Wellington has suffered from is the insidious Green/Labour Party councilor block who gave Andy Foster a hard time in his first year, and really are only interested in their respective parties’ national agendas. In a survey of city residents only 12% of respondents expressed satisfaction with the council, which is no surprise considering some of the loathsome councilors who have been on it this last triennium.

Both Paul Eagle and Tory Whanau came across as ego trippers, espousing their social ideals without giving any details on how they can be achieved, although Paul Eagle definitely has the better grasp of reality.

Andy Foster spoke of the impact that covidiocy has had on the central city because of the practice of working from home that it caused and it has yet to revert to the old days, if it ever will. The city as he put it has lost its mojo (the equivalent of the Maori word mana which Paul Eagle used). Restoring it won’t be an easy task and the present council making Wellington a very car-unfriendly place has made that even harder. The problem of land grabs under SNAs, something Barbara McKenzie firmly opposes, didn’t get mentioned as I thought it might.

Unreliable bus services is a big issue in Wellington as it causes big problems for workers getting to their employment and meetings on time. The train from Johnsonville is normally better. This is a Regional Council matter, but many want the WCC to step in.

The Jacinda government’s light rail fantasy from Downtown to Island Bay was raised and the Green candidate was the only supporter of it; even Paul Eagle has major doubts about it. The disaster of the city’s cycleways didn’t cause as much agitation as I expected, although other parts of the city, particularly Island Bay where they are a major problem, could be different

Some questions were mundane — for example, why doesn’t the council mow the grass more often, remove graffiti quicker, but fortunately there were no Jacindanistas present asking about whether or not candidates supported her vax and mask mandates as happened in Waikanae.

Who will take the job? As in Kapiti I don’t want to guess, but don’t rate Andy Foster’s chances too highly with the average 13.3% Rates hike this year. Ray Chung’s message of cutting waste out of the budget should resonate as should the issues that Barbara McKenzie is campaigning on.