How long is too long at the Council table?

We’ve made a number of references recently to the length of service by some of the Councillors, in particular Helene Ritchie’s rather drawn-out career. So I thought it would be good to give an actual breakdown of how long our current team of Councillors have hung around served.

Starting with the North where Ritchie’s occupation first began in 1977.

Northern Ward

Justin Lester – 3 years
Ngaire Best – 9 years (not standing in 2013)
Helene Ritchie – 27 years

Onslow Western

(Who is)Jo Coughlan – 6 years
John Morrison – 15 years
Andy Foster – 21 years

Lambton

Iona (Ra Ra Rasputin) Pannett – 6 years
Sir Ian McKinnon CNZM QSO JP WKRP in Cincinnatti – 9 years (probably not standing in 2013)
Stephanie Cook – 18 years (not standing in 2013)

Eastern

Simon “Swampy” Marsh – 3 years
Ray Ahipene-Mercer (nee Mercer) – 13 years
Leonie (Hallmark) Gill – 15 years

Southern

Paul Eagle – 3 years
Bryan Pepperell – 17 years

Mayor

Celia Wade-Brown – 16 years

I bolded the three longest serving Councillors who are, as far as we know, standing this year – Ritchie, Foster and Pepperell. But actually there is another group of three only just behind them, Wade-Bicycle, Morrison and Gill, two of whom are arguably the front runners for Mayor (sorry, not you Leonie, back to your Christmas cards). Ray Ahipene Mercer is the other to crack a decade on Council.

While it is good to have a balance of experience and fresh blood, I think it is worth noting that the Councillors regarded as the higher performers are all in the single digits (except maybe Morrison with his sports work). Paul Eagle, Simon Marsh and Justin Lester are all well regarded and seem to be generally viewed as having done a good job, I’d say they’ve probably been the stand outs this term – and all three are in their first terms.

In Lambton there looks to be renewal happening with the likelihood of McKinnon leaving and the North will get one new face at least. Ironically it is Coughlan, the freshest face in Onslow Western who is rumored to be thinking of not standing in the Ward, while the other two hang on.

But the two longest serving Councillors from the North and Onslow Western respectively, are probably also the biggest hand-brakes on progress. Over time they have become nay-sayers and anti almost anything so that they can keep their profile and keep getting re-elected. Well I think surely time is up on this game and its time for fresh blood in Onslow Western and Northern. But of course that means a need for credible alternatives – so the question is, who will put up their hand?

Picture 4

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2 responses to “How long is too long at the Council table?

  1. City councillors should be subject to term limits – a principle dating back to the earliest days of democracy – the Ancient Greeks and Romans. Councillors have little to offer after – say – four terms (12 years), but are kept in office by name recognition. Some may argue that experience counts, yet the US President can only serve for two terms (eight years). Term limits don’t require Parliamentary legislation; they could be introduced through a local by-law. Wellington needs revitalising, and that won’t be achieved by time-serving councillors who’ve run out of ideas and energy. ‘Perpetuity in office’ contributes nothing to the vibrancy of our city.

  2. That could be good solution. But can you imagine any of the “entrenched” members of council voting to approving such a by-law? Turkeys and Christmas come to mind quickly. It would make for a great binding referendum question if run alongside the local body election and could possibly help drive up turnout.

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