The good, the bad and the strugglers

04:36, Apr 11 2012
Bryan Pepperell
Cellar-dweller: Bryan Pepperell was given a "must do better" message.

Wild highs and lows have been hitting residents of the Southern ward, according to a panel The Wellingtonian has put together to evaluate how our city councillors are performing.

The Southern ward is served by Wellington's best-performing councillor, Paul Eagle, and its worst, Bryan Pepperell, according to our survey.

The council is halfway through its current term, so we thought a mid-term report was timely.

Paul Eagle
Impressive newcomer: Paul Eagle proved top of the pops in every section.

Our eight-person panel comprises Wellingtonians who have interests in the city's governance and have regular dealings with a range of councillors.

They represent different points on the political, economic, environmental and social spectrums, and have business, cultural and/or sports interests in the city.

First-term councillor Eagle was the top all-round performer, with our panelists rating him at 70.1 per cent.


Eagle was voted the most effective, most accessible and most responsive, and the councillor who was most informed and came up with ideas and initiatives.

He said he was very surprised and pleased to have rated highest.

"I'm stoked, wow. I've certainly put in the hard work, I've done a lot of grass roots stuff," he said.

Taking issues out into the community and asking their opinions, and just being on the pulse about what the issues were was one of the most important things he could do as a councillor, Eagle said.

"It's part of my ethos; it's about being grass roots connected."

Panelists' comments that he was still learning the ropes were fair, he said.

"There's lots of things I don't or didn't know. I'll yell out in council, and you're not allowed to do that. But I'm getting better now I know what I can do, and I can do things I think are right."

Mayor Celia Wade-Brown came in second, with panelists noting her high work ethic, and deputy mayor Ian McKinnon and Andy Foster were third and fourth.

At the other end of the beach, long- serving councillor Pepperell was voted the most ineffective on all levels. His 41.3 rating did not even merit a pass mark.

Panelists remarked that Pepperell had become a bit of a joke around the council table, with his colleagues not appearing to take him seriously.

They said he appeared to vote against everything and that it seemed as if he regarded his role as "a bit of a game".

"He gets a decent amount of money for very little return. [The Southern ward] deserve a bit better in terms of a representative of the community," one panelist said.

Pepperell said many of the panelists had not had much to do with him, and questioned if they were in a position to assess him.

He said that most of the panelists were his "political foes".

"I'm one of the two highest-attending councillors, and I chaired the [Funding and Activity Review Working Party] review, which was very intense.

"There have always been critics, ever since I got on to council. It's the people who elect me who always count.

"I'm not going to measure my performance on what happens in a newspaper article. It doesn't mean much to me."

Councillors Helene Ritchie, Iona Pannett and Ray Ahipene-Mercer made up the rest of the bottom four in terms of ratings.

Pannett was among the top three performers in our 2009 and 2010 councillor appraisals.



The panel we put together to evaluate Wellington city councillors was:

Waterfront Watch chairwoman Pauline Swann

Former Wellington Employers' Chamber of Commerce chief executive Ken Harris

Former Wellington mayor Sir Michael Fowler

Downstage Theatre director Hilary Beaton

Miramar Peninsula Trust chairman Allan Probert

Night Shelter manager Mike Leon

Former city councillor Sue Piper

Business and sports leader John Dow

We were impressed with how fair the panelists were in their assessment of councillors and the way they took the request to rate them so seriously.

Some panelists did not know every councillor well enough to pass judgement, and this was taken into account when assessing councillors' scores.

The panelists were asked the following questions of each councillor: zHow accessible are they? Are they readily available to speak to?

- How effective are they? Is their work of good quality and does it make a difference?

- Are they responsive? Do they take notice and get things done?

- How would you rate their work ethic and pro-activeness?

- Are they informed enough and do they come up with their own ideas and initiatives?




Ray Ahipene-Mercer

First elected: 2000 in the Eastern ward.

Responsibilities: Arts and Culture portfolio leader, trustee of the Museums Trust, the Joe Aspell Trust, Art Collection Group and Creative Communities.

Total salary: $94,700

Meeting attendance: 97%


Accessibility: 54.3%

Effectiveness: 50.6%

Responsiveness: 50%

Work ethic: 51.3%

Informed/ideas: 53.8%

Total: 51.9%

Ahipene-Mercer was known to all our panelists and received a relatively low score.

It was thought he had been "coasting" this term, had become less effective, and was guilty of a lot of "paper shuffling". First elected: 2001 in the Northern ward, not elected 2004, re-elected 2007.

Responsibilities: Three Waters and Waste portfolio leader, deputy chairwoman of Strategy and Policy committee, councillor appointed to the Tawa Community Board and Resource Management Act Commissioner.


Ngaire Best

Total salary: $94,700

Meeting attendance: 99 per cent


Accessibility: 64.2%

Effectiveness: 55.8%

Responsiveness: 58.3%

Work ethic: 60%

Informed/ideas: 60.8%

Total: 59.8%

Best was one of the more highly-rated councillors. Panelists thought she had picked up her performance and was usually willing to engage.

One said she was very good at "crossing the political divide that's currently in council".


Stephanie Cook

First elected: 1995 in the Eastern ward, now represents Lambton.

Responsibilities: Social portfolio leader, chairwoman of the grants committee, Accessibility Advisory Group (alternate), trustee of the Joe Aspell Trust.

Total salary: $84,585

Meeting attendance: 95%


Accessibility: 55%

Effectiveness: 56.3%

Responsiveness: 51.9%

Work ethic: 55%

Informed/ideas: 55%

Total: 54.6%

Our panelists had mixed views on Cook. Some found her highly effective and responsive, others felt she needed to put in more effort. Many agreed she was not as visible as other councillors. First elected: 2007 Onslow- Western ward.


Jo Coughlan

Responsibilities: Economy portfolio leader, Safe and Sustainable Transport Reference Group (alternate), board member of Positively Wellington Tourism, Funding and Activity Review Working Party member.

Total salary: $94,700

Meeting attendance: 90 per cent


Accessibility: 55%

Effectiveness: 54.3%

Responsiveness: 48.6%

Work ethic: 58.6%

Informed/ideas: 54.3%

Total: 54.1%

Coughlan's work ethic was praised by most panelists, and a few said she was very motivated. However, it was noted she was not very involved with the community and often did not attend meetings. It was also said she viewed her economy portfolio as something only to do with business.


Paul Eagle

First elected: 2010 in the Southern ward.

Responsibilities: Community Engagement portfolio leader, on the board of Wellington Venues Ltd, Funding and Activity Review Working Party member, Wellington Multicultural Council liaison.

Total salary: $94,700

Meeting attendance: 97%


Accessibility: 74.3%

Effectiveness: 64.3%

Responsiveness: 68.6%

Work ethic: 75.8%

Informed/ideas: 72.1%

Total: 70.9%

As a first-term councillor, Eagle soared. Only one panelist didn't know him, and the overall feeling was that he was doing a great job in the Southern ward.

Though he was "still learning the ropes", our panelists found him to be very accessible and involved with his constituents.


Andy Foster

First elected: 1992 for the Western ward, now councillor for Onslow- Western.

Responsibilities: Transport portfolio leader, chairman of Strategy and Policy committee, District Plan Review and Taxi Working Party, Wastewater Treatment Plant and Landfill Joint Committee (alternate), Greater Wellington Regional Council Regional Transport (alternate), Funding and Activity Review Working Party member, director of Capacity.

Total salary: $104,650

Meeting attendance: 87%


Accessibility: 72.5%

Effectiveness: 58.8%

Responsiveness: 60%

Work ethic: 66.3%

Informed/ideas: 60%

Total: 63.5%

Most panelists thought Foster was doing a good job, although there was some feeling that he could be a little more effective. One panelist believed that Foster has a hard time, with a "donkey of a portfolio" [Transport].

Most panelists found Foster pleasant to deal with and rated his efforts about middle of the road. There was praise for the way he always followed up on things when he said he would.


Leonie Gill

First elected: 1998 in the Eastern ward.

Responsibilities: Chairwoman of Regulatory Processes committee and Pacific Advisory Group member.

Total salary: $84,585

Meeting attendance: 100%


Accessibility: 60%

Effectiveness: 53.3%

Responsiveness: 53.3%

Work ethic: 55%

Informed/ideas: 50%

Total: 54.3%

The panel was mostly in agreement that Gill was accessible and happy to help. Her hard work within the community, especially in the Eastern ward, was praised. It was felt, though, that she could be more informed and come up with more of her own ideas and initiatives.


Justin Lester

First elected: 2010 in the Northern ward.

Responsibilities: Community facilities portfolio leader, Basin Reserve Trust (alternate), Environmental Reference Group (alternate), councillor appointed to the Tawa Community Board and councillor elected to the Wellington Waterfront Ltd board.

Total salary: $94,700

Meeting attendance: 99%


Accessibility: 55.7%

Effectiveness: 50%

Responsiveness: 55.7%

Work ethic: 58.6%

Informed/ideas: 55.7%

Total: 55.1%

Most of our panel was impressed with Lester as a first- term councillor. Any lack of effectiveness was attributed to him still learning the ropes. A couple of panelists believed he was too focused on his own business interests.


Ian McKinnon

First elected: 2004 in the Lambton ward.

Responsibilities: Deputy mayor, Governance portfolio leader, chairman of Audit and Risk Management subcommittee, Wellington Regional Council Regional Transport (alternate), Pacific Advisory Group (alternate), Liaison with Wellington Multicultural Council (alternate) and councillor elected to the Wellington Airport Ltd board.

Total salary: $137,700

Meeting attendance: 97%


Accessibility: 65.6%

Effectiveness: 61.4%

Responsiveness: 57.5%

Work ethic: 70%

Informed/ideas: 66.3%

Total: 64.2%

All our panelists agreed McKinnon worked hard and was well informed about council goings-on. He was accessible, but did not always get things done. One panelist said McKinnon was too reactive, and another that he could be perceived as a little "bob each way".


Simon Marsh

First elected: 2010 in the Eastern ward.

Responsibilities: Wellington Zoo Ltd trustee, councillor elected to Youth Council.

Total salary: $80,430

Meeting attendance: 99%


Accessibility: 60%

Effectiveness: 43.3%

Responsiveness: 54.3%

Work ethic: 49.2%

Informed/ideas: 52.9%

Total: 52%

Another first-term councillor, Marsh was rated about average.

Panelists said he was affable and friendly in nature, although a little ineffective, possibly because he was new to the job.


John Morrison

First elected: 1998 in the Onslow ward, now councillor for Onslow- Western.

Responsibilities: Sports and Events portfolio leader, Taxi Working Party (alternate), trustee of the Joe Aspell Trust and Westpac Stadium, member of the Basin Reserve Trust.

Total salary: $97,700

Meeting attendance: 92%


Accessibility: 51.9%

Effectiveness: 60%

Responsiveness: 50%

Work ethic: 48.8%

Informed/ideas: 50%

Total: 52.1%

Morrison received mixed reviews. Some panelists found him to be very effective and said he had done a lot of good work in his portfolio.

One said his work in the sports and events area set the standard for other councillors. Another commented that he could be considered the "Boy's Own president" and there were comments that his attitude did not win him a lot of friends.


Iona Pannett

First elected: 2007 in the Lambton ward.

Responsibilities: Built Environment portfolio leader, Youth Council (alternate), Funding and Activity Review Working Party member, councillor elected to Accessibility Advisory Group, NZ Historic Places Trusts trustee.

Total salary: $79,700

Meeting attendance: 99%


Accessibility: 50 per cent

Effectiveness: 45.8%

Responsiveness: 46.7%

Work ethic: 55.8%

Informed/ideas: 60%

Total: 51.7%

Pannett received rave reviews in both our surveys during her first term, but has since slipped in our panelists' estimations. Most said her performance had dropped significantly. Some suggested her priorities appeared to have changed now that she had two small children at home.


Bryan Pepperell

First elected: 1996 in the Southern ward.

Responsibilities: Walking, Cycling, Motorcycling and Safety portfolio leader, Funding and Activity Review Working Party (chairman), Safe and Sustainable Transport Reference Group member.

Total salary: $79,700

Attendance: 100%


Accessibility: 42.9 per cent%

Effectiveness: 37.1 per cent%

Responsiveness: 42.9%

Work ethic: 47.1%

Informed/ideas: 36.4%

Total: 41.3%

Pepperell was unanimously voted as the poorest performing councillor.

He voted against virtually everything, which panelists said made him lose credibility, and appeared to have little idea about what was going on. He could also come across as somewhat pompous.


Helene Ritchie

First elected: 1977 in the Northern ward. Stood down in 1989, elected again in 1998.

Responsibilities: Natural Environment portfolio leader, member of Environmental Reference Group, Wellington Regional Council Pest Management Strategy Subcommittee.

Total salary: $79,700

Meeting attendance: 99%


Accessibility: 58.8%

Effectiveness: 41.3%

Responsiveness: 47.5%

Work ethic: 58.6%

Informed/ideas: 45%

Total: 50%

Ritchie was the second-lowest performer in our survey.

Although she had been highly effective at times during her long council career, panelists felt she was not as impressive as in her earlier terms.

Some found her to be quite negative, and one said she was very good at criticising ideas, but was not very imaginative in coming up with her own.


Celia Wade-Brown

First elected: 1994 in the Southern ward. Elected mayor in 2010.

Responsibilities: Mayor, portfolio leader of Climate Change, Information and Communications Technology, Finance, Emergency Management, ex-officio of all committees and subcommittees, trustee of the Joe Aspell Trust, Nikau Foundation, International Arts Festival Trust, TG McCarthy Trust and on the boards of Greater Wellington Regional Council, Wellington Regional Strategy, Wellington Regional Council Regional Transport.

Total salary: $159,600

Meeting attendance: 73%


Accessibility: 74.4%

Effectiveness: 55%

Responsiveness: 66.3%

Work ethic: 78.8%

Informed/ideas: 66.3%

Total: 68.1%

Wellington mayor Wade-Brown received high praise for her work ethic and accessibility. However, there was criticism of her for not following through with ideas and it was said she had had great highs and lows.

Panelists also noted she did not enter into deals with councillors, which at times made her ineffective.

Some panelists felt that she had not provided strong leadership, but a couple remarked that she would be an excellent ward councillor.

Her meeting attendance is relatively low because of conflicting duties as mayor, and she is an ex- officio member of every council committee.

The Wellingtonian