Poll shows capital's mayor in slight lead

16:00, Oct 01 2010

Incumbent Kerry Prendergast is in the lead to clinch the Wellington mayoralty with just seven days left to vote, a Dominion Post poll reveals.

But rival Wellington city councillor Celia Wade-Brown is in pecking distance and one in four voters say they are yet to decide which candidate to vote for.

Though many pundits considered Ms Prendergast a shoo-in for Wellington's top political job in the months leading up to the local body elections, poll results suggest the race for the city's mayoral chains and $150,000-plus salary is still wide open.

A late swing by last-minute voters could yet determine the outcome and even unseat the three-term incumbent.

"What [the poll result] has done is confirmed my view that it's a two-mayor race, if you can bear that pun," Ms Wade-Brown said.

By yesterday, 25,420 eligible Wellingtonians had voted but 110,136 others were yet to cast their ballot. The deadline is midday next Saturday.


The Dominion Post readers' poll was conducted over five days and finished on Monday.

Though local government voter turnout is historically low – less than 40 per cent of Wellington voters voted in 2007 – 95 per cent of poll respondents said they intended to vote this year.

The survey has also revealed significant opposition to the council's controversial decision to spend $46 million of ratepayers' money building a 12-court indoor sports stadium at Kilbirnie.

Thirty-four per cent supported building the Cobham Court centre but 45 per cent were opposed, with 22 per cent neutral or undecided.

In the mayoral race, a third (33 per cent) of the Wellington survey respondents planned to vote for Ms Prendergast and 25 per cent for her nearest rival, Ms Wade-Brown.

The pair have locked horns over transport issues, with the mayor supporting more roads and a second Mt Victoria tunnel, while her Green rival wants better public transport and light rail.

Further adrift was Wellington businessman Jack Yan on 9 per cent support and longstanding city councillor Bryan Pepperell on 8 per cent.

Big on personality but rank outsiders, Bernard O'Shaughnessey and Al Mansell had no support, according to the poll, failing to rate a mention.

Ms Wade-Brown believed the big block of undecided voters would work in her favour and urged remaining voters to tick her name for their first, second or third preference.

"People know what Kerry's leadership has offered and if they're not quite sure they want that then they're obviously thinking about change.

"I think 25 per cent, given that the incumbent is very well known, is a very respectable start in an STV vote." Feedback from door-knocking was that she had significant support and people wanted new direction.

"There's quite a strong anti-Kerry sentiment out there. I've got a clear, positive vision for Wellington."

Ms Prendergast said the poll was unscientific and her own polling results were much higher – "I'm significantly ahead."

But she was not being complacent and recognised there was a large block of undecided voters. "There's always those undecided who will make up their minds and continue to do so right up to election day.

"It's the fourth time that I've stood for mayor. I also have a very clear vision for Wellington and I've been demonstrating and delivering on it for nine years. I'd be honoured if Wellington chose me for another three."

Electoral officer Ross Bly urged remaining voters to cast their ballot this weekend.

"If you really care about who makes the big decisions in this city, you need to do this soon. This is one of the few ways you can truly influence what goes on in Wellington."

The Futurescape mayoral poll results are based on responses from 289 Wellington city residents who intend to vote and has a margin of error of +/- 5.8 per cent. The poll is part of a broader survey of 714 Dominion Post readers.

The Dominion Post