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 PannettOf 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.
Jack Ruben Jo Coughlan
Robert Armstrong Ngaire Best
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.