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

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

A bit of a Mayor

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Well, it's all over already, so we may as well not bother voting this year. That is, if you believe the Dominion Post's article yesterday, which stated that Kerry Prendergast's decision to run for re-election is "likely to torpedo the city's mayoralty race even before it begins". Wouldn't it be nice if our major dailies actually tried to promote public engagement in local body democracy, rather than making it seem like a waste of time?

On the other hand, when you look at the alternatives, they do have a point. So far, the only other confirmed contenders seem to be Bryan Pepperell and Rob Goulden, who came a distant second and third respectively in the 2004 mayoral race. While I'm completely opposed to many of Prendergast's policies (particularly this one), and Pepperell is closer to me on transport policy, I have to say that the thought of either of those two in power fills me with dread. It's likely that Alick Shaw won't stand now that Kerry is, and it appears that he has as much trouble with anger management as Goulden does.

It's easy to get the impression in some quarters that Prendergast is deeply unpopular. But her powerbase is up in the northern suburbs, where building motorways and picking on the homeless are seen as good things. And until the centre-left puts forward a strong, credible candidate, Kerry's going to be pretty hard to move. Some people are keen to help find such a candidate (when is the Wellington Mayoral Idol blog going to get going?), but it seems from recent experience that to run for mayor you need at least one of three things: a pre-existing public profile, wealthy backers or a borderline mental illness.

There is one potential candidate that I can see as a contender: Georgina Beyer. She's yet to announce whether she'll run, but as some people are suggesting, if she does then she'll be real competition for the incumbent. As a Labour MP, as well as for her biography, she'll attract the "Grey Lynn" vote that's so prevalent in Wellington. She also seems to have the charisma, the well-known name and the willingness to take part in publicity stunts.

But as a local body politician, her policies on urban issues are still a bit unknown. Where does she stand on public transport, for instance? On waterfront development? From what she's told her local paper, I get the feeling that she may not have the experience and passion for urbanism that I'd like to see ("The job as mayor of Wellington is no different to the mayoralty of Carterton except there is a far greater population to reach" - I'd like to think that Wellington is qualitatively different from Carterton). Nevertheless, here's hoping that she runs and makes October's election a real race.

Update: Ray Ahipene-Mercer has now announced that he's running. This could be interesting, since he's somewhat left of centre yet not completely averse to the waterfront developments. I'll have to check out his voting record on various issues.


At 8:42 pm, January 23, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have it on good authority that, surprisingly and aside from her obvious hobby horses, Georgina Beyer is socially conservative, and that she was an confirmed supporter of the bypass and road building in general. Given that she has an existing profile and is probably the only potential candidate to date who has a realistic chance of beating Kerry P, voters wanting a change will need to take a very pragmatic approach to her and decide whether her more objectionable Kerry-esque policies are a price worth paying in order to get this change. But will she constitute a real change, or is she too risky a prospect to give our precious votes to? That will be our dilemma.

At 8:37 am, January 24, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Having Georgina as a Mayor would be a blast, because she is not afraid to tell people when they are being boring old farts, something she might spend a lot of her time saying if she had to deal with Reuben and Golden et al. Why anyone would want to repeat time in local body politics just beats me.

But you have to say, that at times she also can be a boring old fart: the subject closest to her heart is - herself.

At 10:12 am, January 24, 2007, Blogger stephen said...

Yes, she could be Wellington's Dick Hubbard. I was glad to give Banks the boot, but in return I got a snake on the grass homophobe without a programme.

At 5:47 pm, January 24, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

We have to do something!

Like twist Tom's arm a little more.


At 5:52 pm, January 24, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually, perhaps in all seriousness if Tom cannot be persuaded. What about the concept Tom of developing your own set of policies and running a virtual candidate? (perhaps in collaboration with a group if you're short of time, I'd certainly be prepared to contribute time if there was a genuine interest from the community)

Essentially this tests the waters, and gets ideas/issues out there.

At 8:04 pm, January 24, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bloody good idea. Really.

At 9:21 am, January 25, 2007, Blogger Tom said...

"What about the concept Tom of developing your own set of policies and running a virtual candidate?"

Hmm, I'll have to have a go at that. Not sure how it would work in terms of "a virtual candidate", but I could certainly draft some policies.


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