Who's Wellington's next mayor?
A year out from the next local body election, it's already a hot political talking point: who will face off in the race to be Wellington's mayor?
Incumbent Celia Wade-Brown is definitely standing again, and the names doing the rounds of those likely to oppose her include Fran Wilde, Annette King, and councillors Paul Eagle, Jo Coughlan and Justin Lester.
Whoever wins the mayoral chains in the election on October 12 next year will take on one of New Zealand's most challenging mayoralties.
Wellington's economy is under pressure from a sinking lid on the public sector, and rising bills for strengthening earthquake-prone buildings. That comes as debate rages over whether the region needs to look at amalgamations to strengthen its position on the national stage in the face of competition from the Auckland super-city and recovering Christchurch.
Greater Wellington regional council chairwoman and former mayor Fran Wilde has led calls for local government reform and said she was constantly being asked whether she would take another tilt at the mayoralty.
She wouldn't rule it out but, if there was no movement toward reform, she was "unlikely" to run.
"It really depends on what the structure is . . . Going back to being mayor of Wellington City is probably not, at this stage, what I would do."
Ms Wade-Brown was "absolutely" vying for another term. She still wanted light rail in the capital and wanted to keep telling the "Wellington story" internationally, she said.
"Many people have been very supportive of the change in attitude I've brought, my accessibility to many different communities, my vision for a smart green city and have asked me to stand again."
The person most widely tipped to stand against her is Ms King, the Rongotai MP, whose name has been circulating since she stepped down as Labour's deputy leader last year.
She continues to avoid confirming whether she will stand, simply saying yesterday there was "nothing to report".
But city councillor and Labour Party member Paul Eagle said he now suspected she might continue in the Rongotai seat as she had a "renewed vigour" for the role.
If she does not run, Mr Eagle's name had been mooted as the next Labour option, but he scotched that idea, saying he had wider political ambitions.
Last election's third-place-getter, businessman Jack Yan, appears to be the most likely to stand. He was "considering it" and his team was eager for him to stand again, he said.
Mr Eagle said he understood people on the Right were looking for a candidate. "They are on the search, and that is where I have heard Jo Coughlan mentioned."
Ms Coughlan, the council's economic portfolio leader, avoided answering the question when asked if she was planning to stand.
First-term councillor Justin Lester is also said to be under consideration as a possible Right-leaning candidate, but his response to questions was "not at this stage", because he had "longer-term ambitions".
However, he did not rule the idea out. "A couple of people have mentioned it but, again, it's not something I'd thought abut myself . . .
"I think it would come as a bit of a surprise to my wife, but then again, it was a surprise when I wanted to stand for council, and she supported me in that."
Councillor Bryan Pepperell, who stood in the last election, said he had not considered standing again. "I'm undecided about what my plans will be at this stage."
Kerry Prendergast, who lost to Ms Wade-Brown in the last election after three terms as mayor, was quite definite that she would not be standing again.
But she had been approached by potential candidates "not just from the Right" for advice, especially as local body reform before the election became more unlikely.
"There are some very interesting candidates but, as I say, it's a long time between now and next year."
The Dominion Post