Personal reflections on urbanism, urban life and sustainable urban design in Wellington, New Zealand.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Tracking the council

It seems there were no major upheavals this weekend (at least not regarding the council), and the incumbent mayor was returned with a large margin, to a less than rapturous reception in some quarters. The mayor is only one vote on the council, however, and shifts in the balance of power there might have more effect. So, what's the overall effect of the changes, particularly on my main hobbyhorses (transport and the waterfront)? Here's the list of past and present councillors, with new ones in bold and deposed councillors struck out:
Alick Shaw Iona Pannett
Jack Ruben Jo Coughlan
Robert Armstrong Ngaire Best
Andy Foster
Helene Ritchie
Bryan Pepperell
Celia Wade-Brown
John Morrison
Ray Ahipene-Mercer
Leonie Gill
Rob Goulden
Hayley Wain
Stephanie Cook
Ian McKinnon
Of the new ones, the one with whom I'm most familiar is Iona Pannett. She stood for the Greens, so as you would expect I'm delighted with the prospect of a stronger voice for public transport, sustainability and social housing. However, she's also involved with Waterfront Watch, so it's clear that her vision for sustainable urbanism is different from mine, which involves a high density mixed-use CBD, including the waterfront (not that going from roughly 75% to 70% open space is exactly "high density"). Perhaps she can be convinced that, as I put it earlier, "a quality public realm isn't always the same as maximising unbuilt space", and that "green" politics is not always about "green space". She has struck me as less dogmatic on this subject than Jack Ruben, so maybe if (for example) the public spaces at Kumutoto prove to be as popular and attractive as I think they will be, her policies can adapt to the idea that urban can mean sustainable.

I know next to nothing of the others. According to Ngaire Best's website, it would appear that she's been mainly concerned with local issues for the northern suburbs, and it's only by reading her responses to the Chamber of Commerce questionnaire that I've managed to get a sense of her policies on larger issues. For instance, while she does talk about "increas[ing] the quality and availability of Public Transport within the city and across the region", this seems subsidiary to building more and bigger roads, "including connections from the Churton Park Interchange through to the Hutt Valley, ... Transmission Gully and improved roads from the city to the airport and tertiary hospital". With the Ngauranga to Airport study still looming, I think we can sense her priorities there. I haven't found any statements from her regarding the waterfront or inner-city density, though I do get the impression that she promotes suburban values, so I'm not hopeful.

It's even harder to find out Jo Coughlan's policies, as she didn't appear to have a campaign website. She generally appears to be centre-right, which would suit her background and connections, and some approving comments on Kiwiblog had me very worried. Still, if her answers to the Chamber's questions are anything to go by, she may not be as far right as that might suggest: for example, she supports a differential between business and residential rates (though she doesn't say whether she'd keep the current ratio). She's heartily in favour of the waterfront developments, and I agree to some extent with her when she says "Why can't Wellington CBD and Te Aro be like Manhattan?" - though I would caution that even in Manhattan, there is a distinction in urban form between Wall Street or the Upper East Side and Greenwich Village or Chelsea. But her statement on climate change ("I am of course in favor of reducing green house gases – but we must be careful that we keep a balanced perspective on this. Given our relative clean, green status internationally, I would expect we pose little threat to the planet compared to hundreds of other cities internationally.") made me slap my forehead, and while there are the usual soothing comments about public transport, roading seems to come first.

So, how have the balances shifted? Not a lot, it would seem. On waterfront development, Pannett has in some sense replaced Ruben and Coughlan replaced Armstrong, though it's hard to tell how Best compares to Shaw on the issue. On the balance of public and private transport, there seems to be a slight shift in favour of the former, since Pannett is a stronger advocate than any of the three now ex-councillors, and the others seem vaguely similar to their predecessors. All in all, it seems fairly much like steady-as-she-goes on the waterfront, while any slight shift in favour of public transport might be less momentous than decisions made at Regional Council and Central Government levels.


At 4:58 am, October 15, 2007, Blogger Maramatanga said...

Any thoughts on which way the new regional council will lean on the roads-or-public transport spectrum? I don't know much about the new councillors.

At 10:13 am, October 15, 2007, Blogger Tom said...

I'll have to have a closer look once the results are finalised: when I last check they were still preliminary and it was quite tight.

At 10:19 am, October 15, 2007, Anonymous Michael said...

Ngaire was, unfortunately, the second-best of a bad bunch. Tane Woodley would've been better, but the least worst candidates won otherwise. It was a very difficult slate to rank.

At 11:02 am, October 15, 2007, Blogger Erentz said...

Wow that isn't much of a difference really!

Glad Iona is on, but a shame some of the other good candidates didn't make it. It surprises me that people are that happy with the current crop. Especially when I never hear anyone say a good word about Kerry, she gets in, I'm obviously in the wrong circles.

From my memory of looking at what the people in Khandallah and around had to pick from, they didn't have much choice at all.

At 11:15 am, October 15, 2007, Anonymous Kerryn said...

I think Kerry significantly benefits from the un-informed person who nonetheless decides to vote. I mean the kind of people who feature in the vox-pops of local papers and express little interest or knowledge of local politics, despite/because of their ignorance believe the current crop do a good enough job and thus deserve their vote.
The other problem is that the anti-Kerry vote was split a number of ways. Ray Mercer and Bryan Pepperell together got 1000-odd less votes than Kerry, and if those given to Jack Ruben and Helene Ritchie (let alone the rest) are added the total then the anti-Kerry vote streaks ahead. This is pretty elementary stuff and hardly surprising which makes it all the more frustrating. With Mark Blumsky expressing interest in having another go next time I think someone needs to get potential opposing candidates who cannibalise one another's votes together and do some serious negotiating. I reckon if either Ray or Bryan stood then she may have been defeated. Take out Jack and Helen and this outcome would have been assured.

At 11:31 am, October 15, 2007, Blogger Tom said...

"Especially when I never hear anyone say a good word about Kerry, she gets in, I'm obviously in the wrong circles."

Exactly: there's a lot of talk about how unpopular Kerry is, but that's just in certain political, demographic and geographic pockets. She's obviously got a lot of clout in the northern suburbs, and in fact the direction the previous council had taken over roading, parking, social housing etc was probably not conservative enough for some of her core constituents. I see those attitudes coming through quite consistently with a lot of the northern ward candidates.

There are also two advantages to incumbency: name recognition, of course, but also familiarity with the job. At the Arch Centre forum, she at least knew what she was talking about, while even some of the other sitting councillors seemed like they hadn't read up on subject which they themselves were promoting as big campaign issues. An example was Helene Ritchie's answer to whether she thought that Auckland's Urban Design Panel might be a good idea, she huffed about "how could anyone think that Auckland was a good model, given the mess that they've made", seemingly unaware that the panel was only set up a few years ago with the express purpose of fixing that mess. Many of the non-councillors that were running seemed to have no clue whatsoever about current policies and processes, so Kerry managed to impress some people with her command of the issues.

At 11:51 am, October 15, 2007, Anonymous MikeF said...

Well, in 2007, there was Kerry or there was Not Kerry. Those kinds of elections usually benefit the incumbent. Also:
1. Nobody targeted the Southern, Lambton and Eastern wards
1a. Nobody campaigned on a platform worth a inch of poo - like "Your rubbish bags cost too much" or "wouldn't you like a community board", or "how about that half billion dollar debt, funny about that, yeah?"
and then,
2. Nobody voted

At 12:53 pm, October 15, 2007, Blogger stephen said...

our relative clean, green status internationally

I tell you what, I'm sick to the back teeth with the ignorati regurgitating the marketing hype on this that they've swallowed hook, line and sinker.

It's a tourism slogan, people, it's nowhere near being true.

At 2:05 pm, October 15, 2007, Anonymous Julian said...

I wish the regional council and/or Transit (both organisations seem to think the other is doing it) would publish the Ngauranga-Airport Transport thingy, it's a few months late now. Maybe it's horrendously expensive and therefore best left until after the election... I can't wait.

At 7:28 pm, October 16, 2007, Blogger Richard said...

Hopefully the departure of Ruben and Shaw will make the Council a little less dysfunctional - maybe we'll have less yelling and more talking.

With regard to Iona, I was put off her at the last election when she handed me a pamphlet that wanted 'less unnessesary transport infrastructure and light rail to the hospital'. That seemed somewhat contradictory to me and just a little too much like two legs good (train), four legs bad (car).


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