WCC Watch Soapbox: Justin Lester – What Wellington needs: Less talk, more action

Northern Ward incumbent Justin Lester is seeking reelection to a second term and is next up on the WCC Watch Soapbox. If organisations, readers or candidates want to contribute their own post you can submit pieces here.

What Wellington needs: Less talk, more action

When I was elected to Wellington City Council in 2010 I’d like to think I brought a fresh approach and unique insights based on my own experience in law and running a business.

It was a privilege to be elected and I have thoroughly enjoyed the role, representing my local community and helping set Wellington’s future strategy. The level of passion and commitment demonstrated by staff has been commendable and I get on with all of my colleagues well, despite occasional differences of opinion.

But I’ve also learned a few things, in particular about where Council falls down and what needs to be done to improve decision making processes and getting things done:

  • WCC has too many policies and strategies sitting idle.
  • Too many people, elected representatives and WCC employees, have been focused on policy review and creation, but not achieving milestones.
  • Too many Councillors are focused on the existing forward programme and responding to it, rather than prioritising what action is actually important in order to enhance the city.
  • While debate and democratic participation is absolutely essential, too many of our meetings are dominated by hyperbole and grandstanding. Less talk and more action is required.
  • What Wellington needs most is three years of implementation, finishing projects and tidying up loose ends.

We talk, for example, about being open for business, but you still can’t submit a building consent on-line. We have some excellent cycling proposals. But there’s currently no funding to roll them out.

So what I have been doing for the last three years then to try and improve things?

My primary aim was to knuckle down and deliver on the priorities I pledged during the 2010 election campaign.

Largely, these aimed to address the deficit of good quality infrastructure within the northern suburbs, relative to other parts of the city, but naturally also working toward and supporting city-wide projects where a need was clearly demonstrated:

  • Contributing $800,000 to the construction of Churton Park’s Amesbury Community Hall.
  • Funding and commencing Keith Spry Pool’s $7m redevelopment.
  • Transforming Newland’s McMillan Court shopping centre.
  • Ensuring funding remained prioritised for Churton Park’s new community centre and the project was completed.
  • Ensuring two artificial turfs were located in the northern suburbs.
  • Adding $500,000 to cycling funding or the next financial year.
  • Helping lead the progress toward a living wage for all council employees.
  • Improving the Council staff culture via an executive management restructure, resulting in the appointment of the new CEO this year.
  • Calling for a review and ultimately a change in the Walkwise programme, which ultimately resulted in the much improved ‘City Host’ initiative (I’d like to see a similar overhaul of ‘Parkwise’ over the next three years).

Over the next three years I want to see an enhanced level of investment across the city to give Wellington the shot in the arm it needs.

Let’s take the policies we have, prioritise their implementation and get on with delivering them.  We need more people coming here to invest, work, live and spend. To help encourage this I’ll be focusing on the following:

  • Ensuring an internationally significant Film Museum is built in Wellington that will transform Wellington as a tourism destination.
  • The tourism and economic development is unparalleled and it almost goes without saying that the economic benefit would be similar to having WoW on for 12 months of the year.
  • Proposing a 2 year moratorium on development contributions for new commercial and residential building projects to help reinvigorate the moribund construction sector.
  • Creating a city cycling network by doubling our investment in cycling. We have lots of excellent cycling initiatives proposed, I want to see them put in place. Based on crash statistics Wellington is currently ranked the most dangerous NZ town or city to cycle in so the need is clearly demonstrated.
  • Enhancing our waterfront offering further by continuing on the excellent diving platform and creating more thrill-seeking and recreation opportunities. This could include a new children’s playground that. Encouraging more people into the water with flying foxes, slack lines across the water and water-based activities.
  • Promoting a city-wide competition to create a new signature event for the Wellington calendar. The selection process could mirror that undertaken for the Wellington (.. Away) sign designed the replace the ‘Wellywood’ proposal. Wellington has plenty of smart minds, use them and involve them.

If I’m elected that’s how I hope to be measured in three years time – on the degree of success I’ve had in implementing the above, and not just talking about it.



One response to “WCC Watch Soapbox: Justin Lester – What Wellington needs: Less talk, more action

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