Editorial: Leadership not totally absent


Mayor Celia Wade-Brown has not had a stellar two years at the helm of Wellington City Council.

Though she is over the shock of winning the mayoralty by a whisker, she cannot yet point to genuine victories within the council chamber – or outside.

This region's biggest local body is marking time. Leadership is absent without leave. Given events elsewhere – notably in a streamlined Auckland, a Christchurch ruled by Earthquake Recovery Authority fiat, and Parliament – rewriting local body law – the city, as well as the region, is being left in the dust.

Yet too many patch-protecting mayors and councillors cling stubbornly to the status quo when the status quo will no longer do. Fortunately, Greater Wellington regional council and Porirua City Council are made of sterner stuff, displaying the leadership intelligent Wellingtonians crave.

Despite wilful obduracy by many in local government, both councils have opted to set up an independent panel to report by October on local body reform in greater Wellington. Wellington City, Upper Hutt, Lower Hutt and Kapiti councils have refused to participate. They might live to regret that, given the law changes proposed.

The enthusiastic and catholic membership of the regional council-Porirua inquiry has gravitas and experience hardwired into it.

The inclusion of Sir Geoffrey Palmer and former Labour councillor Sue Driver dares the Left to cavil at their findings. The involvement of Government-aligned Sir Wira Gardiner and professional director Bryan Jackson will comfort the Right.

These four owe allegiance to no-one and nothing bar determining what they believe is the best possible governance structure for greater Wellington, in principle and in practice.

Toward that, panelists have been asked to consider, for example, how to better involve and engage communities in decision-making – take Miramar leaders' wishes for the suburb's shopping centre; whether a region-wide district plan would help business and housing; a shift in demography; and if a single rating body is preferable to nine.

The timeframe for the review is tight but the Government says it wants its new law in place so the Local Government Commission can consider any proposals for reform in time for the 2013 local elections. That new legislation would make it easier for communities to demand a review of its local body structures.

It would be a wasted opportunity were the report the panel delivers to be dismissed by small-minded parochialists who cannot see beyond their council boundary. Should that happen, however, Sir Geoffrey might be forced to concede that the cynics are right: negotiating a truce between Israel and Turkey was almost as hard as making most Wellington local body politicians look at what is best for those who pay their salaries – the diminishing number of people and businesses who call the capital home.

In praise of ... controversy

As a sporting manouevre the "ladies lineout" is dividing netball opinion on both sides of the Tasman.

Some admire the athleticism of spring-heeled Mystics defender Anna Harrison who, with a boost from team-mate Jess Moulds, successfully blocked several shots from the Vixens' Karyn Howard in Melbourne last weekend.

Others view it as the unsporting exploitation of a loophole in netball's rules.

However, as a means of putting netball on the front page, the lift cannot be bettered. In publicity terms, it is the equivalent of the 1981 underarm incident at the Melbourne Cricket Ground or Andy Haden's infamous dive from a lineout during an All Black Wales rugby test at Cardiff Arms Park in 1978.

Punters who don't know the difference between contact and obstruction and couldn't tell a centre pass from a throw in all have an opinion.

What's the bet audiences are up for the next round of matches in the ANZ transTasman championship beginning tomorrow?

Everyone wants to see if Harrison can do it against a forewarned attack and if others sides attempt a feat requiring a combination of extraordinary athleticism and timing.

Netball's administrators should leave the rules as they are – at least until Australia's netballers perfect the manoeuvre.

The Dominion Post