Karl du Fresne writes:
I spent a couple of hours wandering the streets of downtown Wellington this week. What a dismal experience.
Actually, it was worse than dismal. It was profoundly depressing. The city where I spent most of my working life looks as if it has lost the will to live. …
Lambton Quay on Tuesday was like a ghost town, Willis St only marginally better. Cuba Street, which once had an appealing raffishness, now looks just plain grotty. The CBD as a whole looks and feels tired and moribund.
Everywhere you look, businesses are closed or empty – a state of affairs documented in last Saturday’s Dominion Post. Beggars are ubiquitous, sometimes obtrusively so, and Cuba Mall is owned by derelicts.
This isn’t just about covid. Wellington is no longer a safe city in the central city.
All of this brings us to the matter of the city’s leadership, or lack thereof. From 1992 till 2010, Wellington had a succession of mayors – Fran Wilde, Mark Blumsky and Kerry Prendergast – who were energetic, capable and ambitious for their city. That was the Absolutely Positively era.
The rot set in under Celia Wade-Brown and since then, things have gone from bad to worse. Wellington in 2022 is cursed with the worst possible combination: a weak, ineffectual mayor and a council of fractious activists, several of whom treat their office as a licence to pursue ideological agendas.
There is no doubt we need change at the Council, big change. It is not a bad thing that different parts of the city elect Councillors with different views. But what is bad, is when you get Councillors who can’t compromise or work with people they don’t always agree with. And the Council needs leadership which can unite.
What the people of Wellington must do is elect a mayor and council who reflect the priorities and aspirations of the city at large rather than those of a vociferous minority.
That won’t be easy, because Wellington is home to New Zealand’s greatest concentration of woke zealots. They are well organised, ferociously committed and have the support of a broadly sympathetic media, many of whose journalists are of a similar ideological persuasion.
The Left has made an early start. Tory Whanau declared herself a candidate for the mayoralty in November and has been energetically promoting herself at every opportunity. Whanau has no local government experience, but the fact that she’s a former chief of staff for the Green Party provides a clear pointer to the type of mayor she would be. It will also ensure the support of the impressionable young and the idealistic New Left from the inner suburbs.
She certainly doesn’t lack self-assurance, judging by a lavish photo spread in Capital magazine (what was that I said about sympathetic media?). But Whanau as mayor would be a disaster – a guarantee that the city would continue on its present wayward course, albeit even faster.
The Council is already proposing a 16% increase in rates. Whanau as Mayor would probably see that grow to 25% or more.