A guest post from Southern Ward Cr Fleur Fitzsimons:
Much has been made by some commentators about the so-called “left-wing bloc” on the Wellington City Council and how this has supposedly added to the woes of the City.
Likewise, the presence of party-backed candidates has come under harsh scrutiny.
The most troubling aspect of this narrative is that the women who comprise this group are supposedly galvanised by grief over Justin Lester’s defeat at the last election, directing our collective ire ever since at Andy Foster. Come to think of it, that makes us sound less like a bloc than a coven!
The notion of a Justin Lester memorial committee, apart from being transparently sexist, completely misrepresents the integrity and experience we bring to the table.
The partisan divide at the Council has been overplayed to begin with.
In truth, there are friendships and alliances across the political spectrum. If someone looked into the voting records, they would find Councillors from a wide array of political starting-points supporting decisions made on behalf of the city.
While it was members of the “left bloc” who first called for an inquiry into the state of Wellington’s water infrastructure, as we saw burst pipes and trucks full of poo driving around our South Coast, this was a move that was supported by the Mayor and all but three Councillors.
The Council is unified behind the need for a focus on water infrastructure and “lefties” strongly support Sean Rush who is leading this work.
The request for work on a zero rate increase and better rates deferral schemes in 2020 was also supported from by a wide range of Councillors in the immediate aftermath of Covid 19.
The group of Councillors who resisted attempts to remove parking charges entirely during 2020 was also a diverse group that included Sean Rush and Jenny Condie. (The initial proposal was to borrow for a predicted $10 million loss in revenue but the group of Councillors restored the charges and channelled $1.5 million of the revenue gained into supporting community groups dealing with the human toll of Covid in Wellington).
Even attempts to privatise part of the Library Building last week and cut the book-buying budget drew supporters from across the political spectrum as did the ultimate decision not to go ahead, this was seconded by independent Councillor Nicola Young.
In fact, I can only think of one decision where there was a fairly obvious partisan split, that was the recent decision to remove a $76 million loan to the airport. While that decision fell along broadly left versus right lines, many on the left, including me, asked for further information before considering such a significant move from the Council.
I am a Labour City Councillor, I have now been elected twice on that basis.
Wellingtonians have been electing those standing under the Labour banner since 1919 when Peter Fraser and a group of Labour Councillors were elected to the Council. That is over a hundred years of Labour standing candidates and winning the support of residents.
I appreciate that not everyone supports this approach but it is part of the political tradition in Wellington and has been consistently endorsed by residents in elections – that is democracy.
The truth is that strict Party line voting rarely, if ever, happens at Council. When it does, it arises from sincerely held values we were elected to uphold, not out of deference to some sinister view of a Party machine or some homage to a former patriarch.