Some in Wellington are saying that Andy Foster only won because of the backing of Peter Jackson. Now while it is true Jackson’s backing helped Foster, it overlooks that Lester had gone from a position of strength to weakness.
In 2017, Lester’s first year of office, he had a net favourability of +28% (Curia polls once a year on major city mayors). He was a popular new Mayor. In 2018 it had declined to +12% and in 2019 had gone negative to -11%. So in two years his net favourability declined a massive 39%.
What matters isn’t so much the level, but the trend. Lester was more popular than Goff but had an equally bad trend.
This is why Foster was able to win. Lester failed to deliver on major projects and with the transport package looked more like the Government’s representative to Wellington rather than Wellington’s representative to the Government. He blew it.
Jackson’s backing of Foster provided a clear and acceptable alternative to Lester, which is why Lester lost.
Auckland had a similar issue, but a different outcome. Goff in 2017 had a net favourability of +13% – quite respectable. But then as his Council rebelled against his divisive management style his net favourability fell to -27% in 2018 and slightly lower to -29% in 2019. A massive 42% decline in two years.
Goff won re-election not because he is at all popular, but because Tamihere was not seen as a better alternative. A different candidate could very well have won. Goff is very lucky.
So both cities had unpopular Mayors. The difference in Wellington is Foster was seen as a safe alternative.