Wellingtonian Editorial: Wade-Brown for mayor again?

Last updated 15:12 14/12/2012

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OPINION: There was some interesting news from Auckland this week, and Wellingtonians should take notice.

The next local body elections are only 10 months away and Aucklanders, it seems, are happy with Len Brown as their super-city mayor, to judge by recent surveys.

When Auckland introduced its super-city model in 2010, there were several contenders for the mayoralty, and Brown warded off a strong challenge from John Banks for the top job and the $240,000 pay packet.

In the Wellington city local body elections in 2010, Southern ward councillor Celia Wade-Brown waged a successful campaign against long- serving mayor Kerry Prendergast and beat her in a knife-edge vote.

Next year's Wellington elections are looming as a mirror image of the Auckland situation in that no strong challenger to Wade-Brown's mayoralty has emerged.

That's not to say Wade- Brown's tenure has been one long triumph.

Indeed, it's difficult to name many major initiatives that have been enacted during her mayoralty, certainly any that she was behind.

She stood on a platform of light rail, and except for a bit of general discussion, there's been nothing at all to report in that area.

In fact, the initiative that has had a really decent airing over the past two years has been the planned extension of the motorway around the Basin Reserve. It's doubtful if Wade-Brown's Green supporters are at all happy with the solution: a flyover to be built right alongside the Basin.

Wade-Brown has become a champion at gaining publicity. Whether it's for dressing up and strutting the catwalk at the Frock On event, training for her planned paddle across Cook Strait, being snapped at the premiere of The Hobbit or attending a myriad of functions around the city, she is forever in the newspapers.

She hasn't quite reached the level yet of former mayor Mark Blumsky, who was an absolute champion at getting his photo in the papers, often for bizarre reasons, but she's getting there.

Perhaps Wellingtonians are happy with what's happening.

They may like having a mayor of generally upbeat demeanour who is an expert at getting out and about, and are not too worried about the lack of tangible progress around the city.

Wade-Brown certainly has her critics, but it's telling that they have not been able to marshal themselves and put forward a strong challenger to her mayoralty.

It may be, of course, that some people are keeping their powder dry, waiting to see what happens with the proposed Wellington super-city structure.

The scene is changing rapidly.

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Earlier this year Wade- Brown was pushing a "no- change" policy and there seemed no great will for any sort of formal merger with neighbouring councils.

That's not the case now. Most people accept change is coming and are merely waiting to see what form it takes.

Maybe that's why no major challenger to Wade-Brown has emerged.

It's too late for a super-city model to be put in place for next year's local body elections, but the scene has clearly changed.

Perhaps few of the big hitters can be bothered chasing the Wellington mayoralty.

They'll be eyeing a bigger prize: a place on the super-city council.

- The Wellingtonian

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