Wellington City Councillor Nicola Young has e-mailed out a report on her first year on Council. It’s a good summary of what she has done, and what she has opposed. I’d encourage other Councillors to do similar reports.
It’s one year since the voters of Lambton Ward elected me to the Wellington City Council. It‘s been an interesting year and I thought you might be interested in some of the things that have happened in the past 12 months.
Some of the big surprises were:
· The extent to which major issues are delegated to sub-committees with limited opportunity for the Council to intervene;
· The need to build shifting coalitions based on issues rather than left/right politics; and
· Councillors’ tendencies to make decisions without taking into account the full financial implications.
My committee responsibilities are:
Economic Growth & Arts;
Transport & Urban Development (with special responsibility for Central City Projects); and
Governance, Finance & Planning (a committee of all councillors).
Council life is often portrayed as a battle between the left and right; in practice, each issue brings about its own coalition of supporters so I have focused on building strong relationships to help me deliver on my promises and the projects that I value.
1) ‘Living Wage’: I led the fight against implementing this for the Council’s direct employees, because the Government is the main beneficiary; the most needy recipients would have their state benefits reduced. We lost, but I’ve received a lot of positive feedback about my role as a new councillor leading this issue. I note that the plan to roll out the so-called ‘living wage’ to council-controlled organisations and contractors has gone rather quiet; there now seems to be a better understanding of the real costs and lack of effect.
2) Bus Fares: Despite late (and tepid) support from fellow councillors, I won my fight with the Greater Wellington Regional Council over its proposed increase in bus fares, as passenger numbers are declining and Wellington’s fares are already the most expensive in New Zealand. Affordable bus fares will encourage greater use of public transport, and (unlike the Living Wage) they’re a direct benefit to those on low incomes.
3) Island Bay Cycle Way: I opposed Stage One of the cycleway into the CBD, as the full cycle-way (the next three stages) have not yet been planned and there’s a real fiscal risk. Already Stage One’s costs have increased from $1.3m to $1.9m. I organised a ‘Notice of Motion’ (supported by Southern Ward councillor, Paul Eagle) asking for the full Council to make the decision, rather than the Transport and Urban Design committee (which is top-heavy with Greens). Notices of Motion are rare, and even more unusual to be organised by a first year councillor; disappointingly, two councillors switched sides so we lost the Notice.
4) Building Numbers: I campaigned for the enforcement of the existing rules requiring that all buildings show street numbers. Council officers have almost completed this work in the CBD – it’s particularly visible for anyone walking down Cuba Street!
5) Thorndon Village: Unrealistic expectations and local disagreements held back this planned upgrade for years. When chairing a meeting of residents and business owners, I made it clear it was the last chance to have any work done. The work is now almost complete.
6) Erskine College & Chapel, Island Bay: As a former head prefect, I know these buildings well so I re-ignited the campaign to save these wonderful buildings. A narrow special interest group (SECT) has been stalling the proposed strengthening and restoration, to the despair of the property owner. I’m cautiously optimistic about the likely result and hope the owner can start the strengthening work in the New Year.
7) CBD Speed Limits: Council proposed making the official speed limit 30kph and spending $250,000 on signage, when the mean speed is already 31kph. I led the successful charge to stop this money-wasting scheme.
8) Town Belt: During last year’s election campaign, I promised to protect this precious part of our city’s landscape. I voted against a proposal (led by Councillor Andy Foster and supported by the Mayor) to allow Council to sell pockets of this land and this lunacy was stopped.
9) Lane Upgrades: Inner city lanes can be a real feature, as seen in cities like Melbourne and London, so I campaigned for our lanes to be upgraded. Work will commence early next year on Mason’s Lane, Leeds, Eva and Bond streets; Cable Car Lane and Garratt Street may also be tackled.
10) CubaDupa: I campaigned for the return of the Cuba Street Carnival which brought enormous vitality to the central city. I am delighted about its successor ‘CubaDupa’, which will be held on March 28 & 29 next year. It’s being billed as “New Zealand’s biggest street party” and will offer something for all age groups.
We’re now one third of the way through the term. I am conscious of the need to ensure Council decisions have a positive cost benefit for ratepayers, and I will continue to oppose vanity projects.
I love working for our city so I’m committed to getting things done, and I welcome hearing any ideas you may have for Wellington. Please don’t hesitate to contact me.
A good succinct report.Tags: Nicola Young, Wellington City Council