A leaked email sent to Wellington city councillors paints a picture of an organisation in chaos, and a “toxic culture” in which personal ambitions reign supreme.
The email, provided to Stuff, is from Pete Whiting, who was hired from Australia as a transport engagement officer to advise on cycleways.
He quit late last month after only four months, saying council power brokers largely ignored his experience and ideas
In an email sent on July 11, after his resignation, he lambasted councillors and senior management, saying he had never before encountered a council that would “bury its head in the sand over transport and future transport issues”.
He accused them of turning the Island Bay cycleway “into a political mess”, to the point “where the project completely stalled”, leaving him with virtually nothing to do.
“You should all be ashamed of yourselves in the way you treat each other and the issue,” Whiting wrote, in reference to the cycleway.
He said councillors divided the community and polarised the cycleway “just for some cheap support”, and he was dumbfounded by the council’s disconnected structure.
“I am just disgusted at the toxic culture I witnessed.
“I also found the lack of teamwork, cohesion, vision and unity of council astounding. I expect this in the community, not in council.”
He claimed authorities for whom he had worked in Siberia and Kazakhstan had better engagement with the public than Wellington did.
He concluded: “Please get your act together for Wellington’s sake.”
If there had been proper public engagement from the beginning on the Island Bay cycleway, it would not have become so toxic.
Councillor Simon Woolf also said Whiting had some fair points. “He’s a credible person. He’s got the goods … I felt he was the real deal.”
Woolf, the council’s community engagement portfolio leader, said Whiting arrived at a bad time, with the cycleway melee scuppering his chances.
“I certainly felt for him. He’s really a good guy, and very capable.”
Councillor Paul Eagle, a staunch critic of the cycleway design and consultation process, said Whiting was a “breath of fresh air”, but had been set up to fail.
“I thought, we’ve finally got a person who understands engagement, not consultation, and he had that Aussie bluntness,” Eagle said.
It was “a real shame” Whiting had left. “We needed that expertise.”
Very clear that the status quo is not acceptable at the Council.