Call for Support: Has the Time Come for a Wellington Ratepayer Activist Group?

Over the years I’ve had various Wellingtonians approach me about setting up, or getting Jordan and the Taxpayers’ Union to set up, a dedicated Wellington ratepayer pressure group to fight for more fiscal prudence and better governance in our city.  Jordan and I have always turned away the efforts as nine times out of ten, they are usually some sort of attempt of a council ‘ticket’ rather than an independent watch-dog type organisation.

Wellington has been in a funk before. In the 1970s and 80s it was arguably the least ‘cool’ city in New Zealand.  As Mark Blumsky used to quip, for him success was avoiding people’s heart sinking when they found out their Ansett “Mystery Weekend” was to Wellington.  And, to be fair, it was turned around.  A string of good mayors and Council leadership (think Fran Wilde, Kerry Prendergast, and Mark Blumsky) were able to develop what became branded as “Absolutely Positively Wellington”, “the coolest little capital”, and “the middle of middle earth” successively, by driving through sensible projects like the Cake Tin, a remodelled waterfront leveraging off the building of Te Papa, as well as attracting events that added to the culture and liveability of the city.

But we are back in the funk. Instead of leading, our City Council is squabbling, failing to deliver basic public services and infrastructure, and financially mismanaging itself. Our near-bankrupt Council can’t even keep the water flowing, and nearly half our water is lost to unattended leaks as residents of our capital city were asked to stockpile emergency rations over the summer.

A ‘right wing’ group or ticket isn’t necessary – just a return to sensible civic leadership and a half decent Council which is willing to make the tough calls we need to get Wellington’s financial health, transport, and cultural mojo back.

I was involved on the periphery of the formation of the Auckland Ratepayers’ Alliance (when I was on the board of the Taxpayers’ Union, we gave Jordan a leave of absence to set it up). Although the Auckland Ratepayers’ Alliance spun out of the Taxpayers’ Union it has never been particularly ideological and attracts considerable support even from Auckland’s most Labour-aligned suburbs.  It just goes to show that wanting to see increased transparency, less waste, and better quality governance at Wellington’s town hall isn’t an issue of left or right.

So, as a Wellington ratepayer, I’m putting the call out there for expressions of interest to help to set up a Wellington ratepayer group to:

1) Unite Wellingtonians against unaffordable double digit rate hikes year after year due to massive projects like the $330 million town hall redevelopment (costing over $4,000 per household).

2) Fight back against the hundreds of millions of dollars wasted on pet projects such as corporate welfare for Reading Cinemas whilst basic infrastructure like roads and water pipes are left to crumble and rot.

3) Force back the curtains on our local democracy by giving ratepayers the tools you need to easily submit your views on the Council’s often cloak-and-dagger public consultations.

4) Hold Councillors to account for the decisions they vote for, so residents can make        informed choices at the ballot box in 2025.

I’m asking for expressions of financial support (to cover the set-up and the first few months of operating) and for volunteers.  After crunching the numbers, we think it’ll need $56,000 to properly get it off the ground (that includes initial invites for ratepayers to join-up) and are looking for that sort of level of support before we commit to taking on the challenge. None of that goes to me – I am a volunteer in this, because this is my home, and I want a better city.

If this is something you would be interested in, please drop me a line on or pledge an amount on the webpage (

This is an all or nothing project. If not enough Wellingtonians are motivated to help right the ship and we don’t raise enough money to get this off the ground, then there is no point in starting a half-hearted project that is unlikely to be effective.  On the other hand, if successful, it could make a huge difference to smarten up the Council, and our City. And that would be good for more than just our rates bills!

Click here if you’d be willing to chip in to start the fight back

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