In a democracy the handover of power can be fast and brutal. Leaders from totalitarian states have often been surprised at how someone so powerful one minute, is completely gone the second without a bloody revolution. And so it is at Wellington City Council.
Mayor Celia Wade-Brown is officially in charge. Now it’s time to start delivering on the hopes and aspirations of the electorate, while balancing what is achieveable against the enormous debt burden her precedessor has left. This situation is almost is akin to the Labour’s BNZ debacle for the incoming National Government in 1990, or Muldoon’s currency crisis in 1984, and could require some radical surgery. Good luck Celia.
A tense hug, brief speech and a bunch of flowers heralded a change of mayor for Wellington.
Outgoing mayor Kerry Prendergast and her replacement, Celia Wade-Brown, hugged briefly during the powhiri, before Ms Prendergast officially handed over the chains of office at the city council’s inaugural ceremony last night.
In a surprise move, Ms Prendergast – who has not spoken publicly since her narrow defeat in this month’s election – spoke to the crowd. She had thoroughly enjoyed her nine years as mayor, and the six years before that as deputy mayor, she said.
“It is the best job in New Zealand, and I have absolutely loved it … I love knowing I have given it my best, and it has been an honour and a pleasure.”
Before handing over the chains – which her daughter had suggested she call the “ball and chain” – she congratulated Ms Wade-Brown.
“I’m confident you will discharge your new office well and faithfully.”
Ms Wade-Brown then gave Ms Prendergast a bunch of flowers before the elected councillors were sworn in.
In her speech, Ms Wade-Brown commented on the single transferable vote system that clinched her election.
Ms Prendergast previously said STV lost her the election, because she received more first-preference votes.
But Ms Wade-Brown said the result reflected the desires of Wellington “in all its complexity, in a way that first past the post [voting] cannot”.
She promised to act in a unifying way for all of Wellington, including those who supported other candidates, and the majority who did not vote.