Wellington is a city facing serious issues. Despite – or because of? – having a centre-right Mayor who’s been consistently outvoted by more progressive Councillors during the past three years, Wellington has made some important decisions to move towards a lower-emissions city that isn’t built on the cult of the car. But water, waste and sea level rise, plus the vital need to turn emissions reductions plans into action, mean there are huge issues to be addressed in the next term.
That’s why I’m thinking carefully about how to cast my votes for Mayor, Council and Regional Council. I haven’t finally decided how I’m going to vote, but here’s where I look for information and what I’m thinking.
Sources of information for voters
Here are some survey results and candidate analyses worth checking out:
Vote Climate (nationwide)
Generation Zero (nationwide)
Living Streets Aotearoa Wellington candidates survey
Island Bay Healthy Streets candidate rankings
Personally, I vote mainly on climate policy, transport policy, environmental policy, and when it comes to sitting Councillors, whether they have shown the ability to get good outcomes in areas I care about. I always encourage people to pay attention to the Regional Council, not just the City Council, because the Regional Council plays a crucial role in Wellington’s transport system and many areas of environmental matters.
When it comes to existing or former Councillors who are standing again, a big factor for me is what they have actually achieved as Councillors, not just what they say they will do.
The elections I’ll be voting in are Mayor, Pukehīnau/Lambton Ward of Wellington City Council, and Poneke/Wellington Constituency of Greater Wellington Regional Council.
Mayor of Wellington
According to the only scientific poll I’ve seen, Paul Eagle (Labour-endorsed) entered the campaign very narrowly ahead of Tory Whanau (Greens-endorsed), with sitting Mayor Andy Foster not too far behind. These are three candidates the media has focused on.
I will be ranking Tory Whanau first of these three, followed by Andy Foster well ahead of Paul Eagle. Here’s why:
Tory Whanau has come across best on the campaign trail and appears to have the ability to bring a pro-climate action, pro-low carbon transport majority together on Council. My major reservation is her lack of experience in local body politics, but she has considerable experience at national level.
Andy Foster has been a mixed bag as Mayor. He got off to a very rocky start but has improved. He still tends to change sides at the last minute on major decisions, but has mostly supported climate action, low-carbon transport solutions, and the adoption of measures that embody Te Tiriti in local Government – or at least, stood aside and let them happen.
Paul Eagle is a former Councillor who is the current Labour MP for Rongotai. Despite his relative seniority, he has never been a Minister or chaired a Select Committee. The Labour Party want to replace him in Rongotai, and hit upon the solution of endorsing him as a Mayoral candidate. If he wins, this should trigger a by-election and allow Labour to select a more preferred candidate in Rongotai, such as Fleur Fitzsimons.
Paul, who as a Councillor was a known and at times vitriolic opponent of cycleways and other low-carbon transport options, has repaid Labour’s endorsement by running his own slate of centre-right candidates against Labour’s candidates, and refusing to support Labour candidates until put under duress. Instead, he has aligned himself with Diane Calvert, the leader of the right-wing faction on the existing Council.
I fear that the election of Paul Eagle as Mayor will result in Wellington going backwards on climate action, and lead to a hopelessly divided Council. I hope I am wrong about that, and if elected, I would urge him not to undo the good work of the previous term, and not to let his past positions on transport define him.
Of the candidates less talked up by the media, Ellen Blake has a great track record on walking and many other community issues, and a deep knowledge of how Council processes work.
Pukehīnau/Lambton Ward of Wellington City Council
In my local ward (from which three Councillors are elected), five candidates have impressed me. Sitting Councillors Iona Pannett and Tamatha Paul disagree strongly on housing policy, but nevertheless have worked both together and individually to get many important climate, transport, environment and Te Tiriti policies across the line. I’m backing both of them. Ellen Blake would make an excellent Councillor and her experience would be of benefit there.
Afnan al-Rubayee impressed me both when she came to my doorstep and at the Mt Victoria candidates’ meeting, though like all Labour candidates she faces the dilemma of whether she has to follow Paul Eagle’s lead if he is elected Mayor. I didn’t know anything about Jonathan Markwick prior to this campaign, but I liked him based on his presence at the MVRA meeting.
Pōneke/Wellington constituency of Wellington Regional Council
Your Regional Council vote is vital on transport & environment – it’s the Regional Council that is responsible for Wellington’s buses and trains. Five Regional Councillors are elected from this ward and I think seven candidates deserves careful consideration. Thomas Nash and Roger Blakeley have done excellent work throughout the previous term and are my top choices. Daran Ponter has done a good job overall. Yadana Saw impressed me at the candidates’ meeting, as did Chris Montgomerie – and there is a real dearth of women on the Regional Council. Thomas Bryan would be excellent to have on Council due to his personal experience of and knowledge of disability issues, and under the Dad jokes (which seemed to be a hit with the younger crowd at the MVRA meeting!) Chris Calvi-Freeman also knows his onions when it comes to transport.
A note on using your STV vote
I recommend ranking every candidate, with candidates you really don’t want elected ranked last.
As The Spinoff says in its guide: “Ranking someone last, and ranking every other candidate above them, is the best way to ensure a candidate you are really opposed to isn’t elected.”