Kerry’s climb

October 29th, 2012 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

A very moving and emotional article last week in the Dom Post by former Mayor Kerry Prendergast. A couple of extracts:

I’ve thought long and hard about where the idea to climb Kilimanjaro, in Tanzania, came from. It has been on my bucket list a long time. I’d wanted to do it before husband Rex and I turned 70 and 60. Time was running out.

What turned this into a passionate desire to do it this year was the death of my lovely 30-year-old son, Andrew, in March 2011. Andrew, always mad on – and very good with – horses, was just beginning to retrain a difficult horse. The horse shied while on a lunge-line and Andrew was thrown off, on to hard and rough ground, sustaining what subsequently proved to be a fatal head injury.

I was a religious person until the loss of my first son, Paul, at his birth in 1979. His loss fundamentally challenged my beliefs. Logic tells me not to believe in heaven, but if I’m wrong, then climbing to 6000 metres might bring me a little closer to Andrew’s spirit. It’s irrational, I know, but there you have it.

And the climb itself:

This morning we descend off the edge of the lava sheet with high valley walls around us, swirling cloud below us, the mountain above us, a perfect sunny morning, and what appears to be a cliff in front of us. For the first two hours we climb the 200m-high Barranco Wall, poles clipped to packs to free our hands for this steep hand-climbing section. Challenging, but satisfying and fun. Fortunately there are frequent rests on tiny ledges and steps as porters move past, one hand balancing the load on their heads – while we hold on tight with both hands. Amazing. ACC and OSH would be most unappreciative but we are thoroughly impressed.

Having climbed the wall, we descend a steep, slippery stream bed. But up the next heavy climb is the promise of a cooked lunch – carbo loading for our ascent tomorrow. The last water on the mountain is in this valley so our porters traipse back with large containers for our lunch, and then on and up to base camp. Water-purifying tablets cater to our pampered Western stomachs.

After a relentless three hours of steep uphill climbing through swirling cloud, we reach 4600m Barafu Camp about 4pm. This is base camp for the ascent. It is cold, bleak, and cloudy, with the imposing, somewhat daunting, snowy slopes above us. The long drops here are hung over a cliff!

Sounds an amazing experience.

Then the summit:

We set out at midnight, pitch-black and minus-12C, but mercifully without wind. Our headlamps blazing, we obediently follow Thomas; there are cliffs on both sides in places. A string of headlamps weaves ahead – it is a seven-hour, 7km slog up 1300m to the rim. Walking is extremely slow. We are told to breathe really deeply and this helps. The frequent stops are welcome.

We are supposed to drink two litres of water on the way up – containers are cosseted under jackets to prevent freezing. We also have energy bars, jelly beans, chocolate, but I refuse it all as I’m so nauseated. I am bitterly cold, my fingers numb.

And then I notice, 5cm above the top of my left pole, an oval white light hovering. If I look it goes away, but it is there in the corner of my eye and I’m convinced it is Andrew – my fairy – keeping his eye on me, encouraging me, guiding my every step. Later, when I swap to a lighter headlamp the “fairy-light” effect goes away, of course, as the sceptics among you would expect.

We had been told to empty our minds and think only of each next step but my ascent continues to be a time to relive the last days we had with Andrew, and I shed many tears.

For 18 months I have pushed the memories of those last 10 days of Andrew’s life to the back of my mind. Even though it is not easy, I now try to remember them in detail in the hope that my nightmares will go away, probably a false hope … I remember the first panicked call about the accident, the rush to A&E, the bad scan results, the experiences in the ICU, decisions and advice from the experts, our hopes dashed as Andrew doesn’t regain consciousness. Then the agonising decision to turn off life support, followed by six days caring for Andrew at home with the support of family and friends, Andrew lying deeply unconscious in our midst, then that last morning as Andrew took his final breaths.

I find it comforting, though others don’t, when Rex tells me we are halfway, then three-quarters. I begin to feel it is possible to make the top. Then, about 5.30am, as the sky begins to lighten and we can see the lights bobbing up to the rim of the crater, I know I can make it. The last 500m is a bottleneck. People ahead exhaustedly stop, and then start slowly off again. The rim finally arrives at 6.40am and the relief manifests in different ways to each of us; for me, hugging and crying.

But Stella Point is, unfortunately, not the real top! After a brief pause to see the sunrise completed, we set off for Uhuru Peak. At 5895m (19,340ft) this is the summit, and it takes us more than an hour to reach it. Not a hard walk but that last 150m vertically is dreadful. We shuffle past wonderful views of the snow-filled crater on our right and a magnificent 30m-high glacier on our left. The combination of tiredness, altitude, a migraine and vomiting make this last hour almost impossible for me. With 200m to go I have to be cajoled by our guides to continue.

We queue to get in front of the sign for photos, proudly holding up our Kiwi flag.

Well done Kerry and Rex – a great achievement.

So what have I achieved? We have ticked off a large item on our bucket list – but have also discovered the limit of our endurance, physically and mentally. Rex and I decide four items are now off all our future plans: tents, sleeping bags, mountains, and, for me especially, long- drops!

As for Andrew – have I found him? Was he up there with me? I believe I can answer “Yes”. But I also know that for every step I take forward in my grief pathway, some days I feel I fall back two.

If there is any place you can feel close to a lost loved one, up the top of a mountain like Kilimanjaro would be it.

I’m glad Kerry shared her story. I think I may have just added Kilimanjaro to my own bucket list!

Why Kerry lost

October 12th, 2010 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The impending loss of Kerry Prendergast has some saying that it was due to a bad campaign. But in fact my analysis suggests it was more tactical voting on the left. Kerry in fact got a significantly higher proportion of first preferences in 2010 than 2007.

In 2007 Kerry got 17,910 first preferences, which was 34.9%. She lifted that significantly in 2010 to 21,597 first preferences or 41.0%.

So Kerry’s vote went up by 3,687 or 20.6% relative to her 2007 vote, an absolute lift of 6.1 percentage points.

So I’d say Kerry (probably) lost for three reasons:

  1. The STV system was better used by the left, with their preferences staying with other left candidates
  2. There was only one really viable alternative – not three as in 2007
  3. Celia Wade-Brown did run a good campaign (and other Council candidates campaigned on her behalf)


I now have fuller details of the preliminary results. As each candidate was eliminated, this is how his votes went:

  1. Mansell dropped out first with 535 votes which went 10% Kerry, 21% Celia, 54% Others and 15% wasted
  2. Bernard dropped out second with 1161 votes which went 13% Kerry, 28% Celia, 45% Others and 14% wasted
  3. Brian dropped out third with 5891 votes which went 15% Kerry, 41% Celia, 21% Yan and 23% wasted
  4. Jack Yan dropped out fourth with 7,341 votes which went 24% Kerry, 46% Celia and 29% wasted

There were 2,140 people who voted for Jack Yan but did not give either Kerry or Celia a preference.

Celia favoured to win

October 11th, 2010 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Dom Post reports:

Kerry Prendergast’s tenuous hold on the Wellington mayoralty is likely to be undone by a wave of Green special votes, analysts predict.

Her political future hangs on a knife edge, with 40 votes separating her from rival Celia Wade-Brown and more than 900 special votes still to be counted.

Special votes, which have historically favoured left-wing challengers, could lead to victory for Green Party member Ms Wade-Brown. ….

Ms Wade-Brown said she had reviewed figures from the last election, which showed that, of the 800 valid special votes, 265 went to Ms Prendergast while 409 went to the second and third-placed candidates.

I’m glad I managed to squeak my vote in at 11.53 am on Saturday, as if Kerry lost by one vote I’d be very upset.

I agree that Celia is favoured to win on the specials. Graeme Edgeler pointed out that in 2007 Kerry got 12% fewer first preferences in the specials, than amongst ordinary votes.

Celia needs to win 52% of the specials to become Mayor. In this context “win” means be ranked higher than Kerry.

Wellington has not had a National MP elected since 1993. Despite that it has had centre-right Mayors for the last 15 years. But STV has made it even harder as all the votes against you tend to accumulate. I will be interested to see the vote iterations when they are published.

Kerry squeaks home – for now

October 9th, 2010 at 6:26 pm by David Farrar

Kerry Prendergast has a margin of just 40 votes on the ordinary votes. If this holds up against specials, then it will be congrats to Kerry on winning a 4th term – a hard thing to do in an STV environment where all the votes of those against you accumulate.

Either way it is congrats to Celia Wade-Brown for a strong campaign. Celia did not stand for Council again, but if she does lose and stays active may be a front runner for 2013.

There are 900 special votes, so Celia may still win. She needs to be ranked higher than Kerry in 52.3% of the specials.

(Note re-written from the original which was based on a media story declaring Kerry elected)

UPDATE: We now have fuller results:

  • In Northern Ward Justin Lester has beaten Hayley Wain. Lester topped the ward followed by best and then Ritchie – groan but at least she was last elected.
  • In Onslow-Western the three sitting Councillors all got re-elected. in order Foster, Morrison and Coughlan. Ruben lost badly which is good.
  • Lambton Ward saw the three incumbents re-elected also – in order McKinnon, Pannett and Cook. Marcus Ganley came close to winning the last spot off Cook.
  • In Eastern Ward, Rob Goulden lost his seat to Swampy Marsh. Most of his fellow Councillors will be happy with that. In fact Goulden came 5th behind Allan Probert also. Gill topped the ward ahead of Ahipene-Mercer which surprises me a bit.
  • In Southern Ward they re-elected Paul Eagle and sadly Bryan Pepperell.

For the Wellington Regional Council, the results are:

  • Wellington – Fran Wilde, Chris Laidlaw, Judith Aitken, Paul Bruce and Daran Ponter
  • Lower Hutt – Peter Glensor, Sandra Greig, Prudence Lamason
  • Porirua-Tawa – Jenny Brash, Barbara Donaldson
  • Kapiti Coast – not known
  • Upper Hutt – Paul Swain
  • Wairarapa – Gary McPhee

The next Governor-General

August 17th, 2010 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Prime Minister John Key is about to consider who the next Governor-General will be. And the word is he may buck the recent trend of appointing a former judge and opt for someone more unorthodox to the role.

Some of the names being tossed around by observers include Sir Don McKinnon, Wellington Mayor Kerry Prendergast and arts patron Dame Jenny Gibbs.

Philanthropist and recently named Distinguished Citizen of Auckland Rosie Horton said one person stood head and shoulders above others.

“Sir Don McKinnon. He has had an outstanding and highly revered international life and done a stunning job at the Commonwealth Secretariat, and he’s just a very fine New Zealander that we can all be proud of. And he’s come back to New Zealand.

On a personal level, Sir Don would be well suited for the role and would perform it well. However I maintain that former MPs should not be appointed to the job, regardless of how meritorious their post-parliamentary life.  The GG should be non-partisan.

“[Philanthropist and arts patron] Dame Jenny Gibbs is also marvellous, very clever and gracious to meet and such a marvellous role model.”

Dame Jenny is an interesting possibility.

Property investor Sir Robert Jones said the Governor-General should be a New Zealander who was not a token appointment.

He said Kerry Prendergast would “be wonderful at the job”.

Heh I presume this means he is not standing a Mayoral candidate against her. While there would be precedent fer Kerry to be given the job, as Cath Tizard was, I still maintain that Kerry’s national party background makes her a sub-optimal appointment. Again, nothing to do with her personal qualities, but that the GG should not be a political figure.

Asked about Maori academic Sir Mason Durie, Sir Robert said he would be “very tokenistic”, and former Labour Prime Minister Sir Geoffrey Palmer would be “most unsuitable”.

I can’t see it going to a former Labour PM.

Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei would support a female representative of ethnic groups, but insisted she was not throwing her own hat into the ring.

I am surprised Metiria only insisted that the GG be ethnic and female. She forget to include the additional criteria of being left handed and disabled.

She said former Rugby World Cup Ambassador Andy Haden “might not be the best option”.

Can agree on that one.

The appointment is the Prime Minister’s alone. He can consult whom he wants, or no one at all.

Which is why I think the effective head of state should be (at a minimum) appointed by Parliament, not by the PM solely.

If Mr Key decided that another judge should live in Government House, then Chief Justice Dame Sian Elias could be a candidate, though husband Hugh Fletcher might be a more popular choice.

There is no way the Chief Justice will give up that job to become Governor-General.

Sir Kenneth Keith, who is serving on the International Court of Justice, may be less controversial than either of them.

Sir Kenneth would be a fine choice in my opinion.

Editorials 5 March 2010

March 5th, 2010 at 12:06 pm by David Farrar

The Herald strikes out at a possible faceless Super City:

From right to left, from John Banks and Michael Barnett to Len Brown and Mike Lee, Auckland’s local politicians have begun protesting at a distinctly undemocratic element in the constitution being written for the Super City.

Legislation setting up the new Auckland Council threatens to delegate most decisions to a number of “council-controlled organisations” (CCOs), a piece of Orwellian newspeak if ever there was one.

They will not be directly controlled by the council. They will be run by boards appointed by the council but short of dismissing them there will be little public representatives can do to have a say in decisions about Auckland’s roads and public transport, waterfront development and much else.

I look forward to seeing the final version of the Super City, when the bill comes out of select committee, and when the Auckland Transition Authority produces some final outputs.

No Press editorial online today.

The Dominion Post looks at the upcoming Wellington Mayoral campaign:

The worst-kept secret in Wellington is out. Mayor Kerry Prendergast has announced that she will seek a fourth term, having said after she won the 2007 election that she had promised husband and hotelier Rex Nicholls to give politics away later this year to spend more time with her family.

Ms Prendergast is just the latest to announce her candidacy. She has vowed to stand again as an independent, even though commercial property owner Sir Robert Jones has had hopes of persuading her to stand at the head of the ticket he and a shadowy group of business folk intend will contest the local body elections in October.

Others to have thrown their hats into the ring include sitting councillors Bryan Pepperell, who has had several unsuccessful tilts at the top job, the Greens’ Celia Wade-Brown, and local businessmen Allan Probert and Jack Yan.

You have to say Kerry’s chances look pretty good.

Unspoken, however, is probably another reason for Ms Prendergast’s fourth bid for the mayoralty. That is a perceived lack of experience – perhaps even gravitas – among those who would snatch the chains from her.

The joker in the pack, of course, is Sir Robert. One of Wellington’s biggest ratepayers, even though he lives in Lower Hutt, he wants to turn the Golden Mile into a pedestrian precinct, along the lines of those of some European cities. Ms Prendergast can see the fishhooks in that, which is presumably why she has chosen not to be the knight’s mayoral anointee.

I hope Kerry is only sceptical, not opposed. I think it is a brillant idea, and would like to see a full costed study of how to do it. My intentions at this stage would be to vote Kerry as Mayor, but vote for the “Golden Mile”ticket for Council – unless the candidates are total wallies.

The ODT focuses on wool:

New Zealand’s economy may have been built from wool off the sheep’s back, but the present perilous state of the industry means its contribution could be consigned to history.

It is a widely held view that the strong wool sector, which supplies fibre for carpets and upholstery, has one last chance to remain a credible export industry, let alone regain its former status Strong or crossbred wool made up 89% of the clip last year and earned $570 million in export receipts. …

I am very sceptical that the sector can unite.

Kerry stands again

March 3rd, 2010 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The Dom Post reports:

Kerry Prendergast has confirmed she will stand for a fourth term as Wellington mayor.

She told The Dominion Post last night that she would stand again as an independent, after earlier ruling out contesting the October election so she could spend more time with her family.

She will announce her candidacy this morning, appearing to kill the possibility that she would front an election bid on the Sir Bob Jones-promoted Vibrant Wellington ticket.

“I have decided to seek a fourth term as mayor to ensure there is ongoing confidence in Wellington’s direction, leadership and management of the council. I have always stood as an independent and I will do so again this year.”

Significant challenges included retaining the NZI Sevens tournament, increasing inner-city safety, and ensuring Wellington maintained a strong voice on national issues and resource allocation, Ms Prendergast, 56, said. “My campaign will be about how Wellington is doing really well at the moment and is a fantastic city. Why change?”

iPredict has Kerry;s probability of re-election at 86%, which seems about right to me.

Sir Bob said Ms Prendergast’s decision came as no surprise but he believed there was still a possibility she might stand on the Vibrant Wellington ticket.

The central plank of the business-led group is to create a bus-free pedestrian boulevard in the central city.

“If Kerry is going to back this, and it has been hinted at, then we wouldn’t put a mayoral candidate up. Simple as that. It would create a monument to her tenure as mayor.”

I’m a big fan of the vision to have a vehicle free boulevard from Courtenay Place to Lampton Quay. It will be interesting to see who stands on the Bob Jones ticket.

Personally I don’t think the ticket needs to worry about the Mayoral spot – the Mayor has only one vote, and has a huge number of other things to do. All the ticket needs is a majority on Council to instruct officers to draw up a plan for consultation setting out how the boulevard can be created, and what the cost is.

How many terms?

January 2nd, 2010 at 2:36 pm by David Farrar

The Dom Post editorial asks:

In Wellington, voters might well find they are asking themselves whether they should give incumbent Kerry Prendergast a third term, if she decides over this holiday break, as seems likely, to seek office again. If she does, her 2006 majority might take a cut because the number of voters offended every time any politician makes a decision grows steadily. Is Ms Prendergast close to that tipping point?

Really – two basic basic errors in one paragraph. I don’t normally nit pick articles, but editorials you expect to be of a higher standard.

If people don’t want Kerry to have a third term, then they need to hop into a tardis, and travel back in time around 27 months and shoot her.  Because she has been Mayor since 2001 and is two thirds of the way through her third term.

Secondly the last elections were in 2007, not 2006. So there is no such thing as a 2006 majority.

Wellington Mayoralty

November 4th, 2009 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Dom Post reports:

Kerry Prendergast is considering another crack at the Wellington mayoralty, after previously ruling out a fourth term.

But she could find herself in the race of her life against a candidate selected by Sir Robert Jones.

The millionaire Wellington businessman has confirmed he is rounding up a high-profile team to run for both the mayoralty and councillor positions at next year’s election.

This will be interesting. Tickets can be useful for getting a mandate for an agenda. But as Wellington Alive found out, they can also often fall apart.

Already three candidates – green-leaning city councillors Ray Ahipene-Mercer and Bryan Pepperell, and local businessman Jack Yan – have entered the race.

Ahipene-Mercer has always seemed a pretty good Councillor to me, even though his politics are on the left. My comments on Pepperell are unprintable.

I don’t know Jack Yan, but think this is his blog.

Sir Robert expects to announce his election team in the new year, but his name will not be among the candidates. “I won’t be running because I am too contentious.”

His team would ban vehicles from the city’s “Golden Mile” – Lambton Quay, Courtenay Place, Willis and Manners streets – to create a pedestrian mall complete with free trams and cycle lanes.

“The whole ambience of the place would just boom … and the team, who are all name people, feel that Wellington has the potential to be magic.”

I quite like the vision.  Not sure how practical it is, but the vision appeals.

Congratulations Lawrence and Kerry

August 1st, 2008 at 8:36 am by David Farrar

Aaron Bhatnagar blogs on the results of the Local Government NZ elections which saw Hastings District Mayor Lawrence Yule elected President and Wellington Mayor Kerry Prendergast Vice-President. I expected Lawrence to win the top job as the smaller councils do tend to be a bit wary of the larger Councils dominating.

One can understand they are so wary, when you see what Waitakere Mayor Bob Harvey said:

Yesterday, Mr Harvey wished Mr Yule well – but then launched a fresh attack, saying urban centres were the powerhouse of the economy but would continue to be denied a voice in local government.

“The country survives on the strength of the cities and what we bring to the economy. Local government believes it is based around a bunch of cow cockies,” he said.

“I’d rather have cities than cows. It’s always anti-Auckland, it pulls down the competitiveness of New Zealand. It holds New Zealand back. It’s a bizarre sort of thinking that the cities need to be punished. “The rural sector has always dominated local government. This is the sector with their roads that no one drives on, and places no one goes to.

“They think a farmer from Hawke’s Bay can spend that amount of time profiling local government. That’s what they voted for.”

And people wonder why the term JAFA is so popular. Harvey is arrogant and ungracious.

The battle for the Local Govt NZ Presidency

May 16th, 2008 at 12:28 pm by David Farrar

Two Mayors are standing for the presidency of Local Government NZ. Lawrence Yule from Hastings and Wellington’s Kerry Prendergast.

I have the privilege of knowing both contenders, so can say I think it is excellent they whatever the decision, Local Government NZ will be well served.

I’ve known Kerry (and Rex) for a long time, as you would expect in the small city that is Wellington. Lawrence I have got to know through a mutual friend and he is a very nice guy.

Nominations are open until 31 May, so there may be other contenders. It’s a pretty high profile and influential position so will be interesting to see how it goes.