Dom Post on Wade-Brown v Young v Lester

Today’s Dom Post had a series of articles on the upcoming Mayoral race – below is the editorial which gives a good overview of the campaign.

The Mayor’s incumbency would mean she will start on pole, but it remains to be seen whether or not she will front for battle this time around. The Dom highlights the relative low profiles of both Deputy Justin Lester and Councillor Nicola Young and the challenges before both of them.

With Lester facing a Living Wage day in court and Young’s Odd Couple union with the left seemingly falling apart – this campaign has a long, long way to go before we can really pick a favourite.

Wellington is the country’s most vibrant city and its politics should crackle.

 That hasn’t always happened – only 40 per cent of voters turned out last time – but next year’s mayoral contest might change that. Two skilful politicians will present Celia Wade-Brown with her most serious challenge, and they offer voters a  genuine political choice.

Wade-Brown’s achievements are modest: she has not been a do-nothing mayor, as her critics say, but she has not brought major changes either.

Under her, the council has encouraged an already thriving IT sector. It has increased arts funding, upgraded some infrastructure, and made the city more bicycle-friendly.

She did not bring light rail to the city as she originally promised, but this was beyond a mayor’s power anyway. She has important works in progress, such as the upgrade of the town hall. And her council, like previous ones, has worked hard to further quake-proof the city.

Wade-Brown’s claims to be a major reforming mayor rest on promises about the airport runway extension, a film museum, and a new convention centre. Her council made a hash of the earlier planned convention centre. Can it succeed this time? The extension of the runway could be a major boost to the economy, but we still don’t know if the project will fly.

A film museum in partnership with Sir Peter Jackson could be a huge international attraction for Wellington. But Jackson expects and routinely receives generous financial help from taxpayers for his projects. Can the city council do an affordable deal with him?  The mayor says good news is in the offing; she has said this before. So the voters must wait.

Justin Lester, the deputy mayor, is an appealing politician, well-briefed, and a skilful manager of people. He has helped make the council run. He is a liberal and supports the living wage measures, which have infuriated business. But he is also a businessman himself. The party label cuts both ways: it connects with a substantial part of the voters in this liberal town. But Lester must win many others as well. And he is not a household name.

Nicola Young is also a skilled politician able to reach out beyond her National Party background. She can appeal to the many voters exasperated by the lack of major and decisive city government. Her name resonates with older and politically aware voters; it means nothing to families in Johnsonville. She is trying hard to soften her image and extend her appeal: hence the slightly desperate – and unconvincing – “deal” with Labour councillor Paul Eagle. Hence her  desperate attempts to tell the world the deal is still on when it clearly isn’t.

A year is an aeon in politics and the two outsiders have plenty of time to make their mark.

One thing has been conspicuously lacking in our politics. Voters would welcome a mayor who is exciting and dynamic and can reflect their love of the city. Wade-Brown does not have the magnetism to do this, despite her Green persona and the charm of being a mayor on a bike. The last Wellington mayor with this kind of charisma, in fact, was Michael Fowler in the 1970s and early 1980s.

Do the two challengers have it?

 – Stuff


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