OPINION: The people have spoken. Celia Wade-Brown has been elected mayor of Wellington for a second term, if not with a roar, then with slightly more than a murmur.
Her provisional majority of 2284 over Centre Right rival John Morrison is 13 times the paper-thin majority she enjoyed over Kerry Prendergast three years ago.
The icing atop her organic, fair-trade cake is surely the election of two more Green candidates – Sarah Free and David Lee – to the council. Ms Wade-Brown will have more friends around the council table second time around.
The question is what will she do with them. The bicycle-riding mayor’s first term in office will be remembered for her unfailing civility and her advocacy of light rail.
But it will also be remembered for dithering over the Basin Reserve flyover, injudicious comments about the council’s hands ‘‘not [being] on the steering wheel’’ and a lack of action of almost any sort.
The Wellington Ms Wade Brown inherited from Ms Prendergast was very different from the Wellington Ms Prendergast inherited from her predecessor Mark Blumsky.
The Wellington Ms Wade-Brown inherits from herself is almost identical to the Wellington she took over three years ago. Her first term was more notable for the things she didn’t do than the things she did.
Wellington cannot afford another three years of stasis. The city needs to keep constantly reinventing itself to keep pace with Auckland and the Australian cities with which it is competing for capital and talent.
It needs a mayor who is confident, assured and decisive.
Much though it may pain Ms Wade Brown, she needs to accept that the Basin Reserve flyover is a done deal and turn her gaze to areas where she can make a difference.
Light rail will not happen during her mayoralty. Nor, in all likelihood, will it occur during her lifetime. The city does not have the population to justify the cost.
However, the city can be made more people and business friendly, traffic flows can be improved, events can be staged and central government can be persuaded that its worth its while to re-engage with the capital.
It is not enough for the mayor to have her heart is in the right place. She must champion the city and the wider region.
Elsewhere in that region Ray Wallace and Wayne Guppy have been re-elected mayors of Hutt City and Upper Hutt respectively and Nick Leggett has been elected mayor of Porirua for the second time with the city’s largest ever majority – a reward for a young go-getter who knows his city and his mind.
However, Kapiti’s Jenny Rowan has paid the price for failing to communicate the rationale behind water metering and shoreline hazard zones that have reduced the value of coastal property.
In Masterton another sitting mayor, Garry Daniell, was also ousted.
Given the likelihood of amalgamation, his replacement, Lyn Patterson, and all those elected throughout the region probably have just three more years to make a difference. Hopefully they will make the most of it.
- The Dominion Post