Carter goes top of Christchurch council class

Last updated 05:00 29/07/2013
Tim Carter
Fairfax NZ
TIM CARTER: Top of the class

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A first-term councillor has emerged as the top performer in The Press pre-election assessment of Christchurch City councillors.

Cr Tim Carter has been awarded an A- grade for his tenacity in questioning the council's business-as-usual approach and for pushing for greater transparency and accountability.

Despite only being elected to the council in 2010 Carter has made a big impact, but he looks set to depart local body politics in October as he has indicated he is unlikely to seek re-election for personal reasons.

The three next highest performing councillors, as ranked by The Press after hundreds of hours of observation, were councillors Sue Wells, Claudia Reid and Peter Beck, all of whom earned a B+.

Wells, who heads the council's planning committee, and Reid, who heads the environment and infrastructure committee, both demonstrate a sound understanding of issues and display good leadership skills, although Wells still has some questions to answer on why she was not on top of the council's consenting crisis.

Beck has only been a councillor since February 2012 but in his short time in local government he has made a positive contribution and represented his ward well. He has chosen not to seek re-election but plans to remain actively involved in the city's rebuild.

Two of the most experienced councillors, Sally Buck and Helen Broughton, are on the bottom of the gradings list. Buck is not standing for re-election but Broughton is hoping to secure a fourth term as one of Riccarton-Wigram's two councillors.

In less than three months one of the most critical local body elections in Christchurch's history will take place.

Those who win election will be responsible for leading Christchurch's recovery. They will have to work hard and smart.

Candidate nominations for the elections opened last Friday and with most of the current crop of Christchurch city councillors seeking re-election it is time to evaluate whether they are up to the demands of another three years in office and can show the leadership that Christchurch needs.

Today The Press delivers its verdict on how they have performed. See press.co.nz for video snippets of each councillor in action.

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B

Deputy Mayor Ngaire Button (first elected 2007, represents Shirley-Papanui)

As deputy mayor Button has shown blind loyalty to the mayor, watching his back and taking on many tasks - both political and ceremonial - that he has not had time for. Despite her important role she keeps a relatively low profile. . She works hard, takes on board staff advice, brings a commonsense approach to issues, and is well-respected in the Shirley-Papanui ward, where she is very active at the grassroots level. She is a good local body politician but needs to chart her own course.

B

Cr Aaron Keown (first elected 2010, represents Shirley-Papanui)

Don't be fooled by Keown's oddball ideas and colourful way with language. This councillor might be a bit wacky but he's no dummy. He's not the hardest working councillor, but he has shown that he can handle responsibility (he proficiently served as acting chair of the environment and infrastructure committee during Cr Claudia Reid's battle with cancer) and that he is prepared to make tough decisions. His exuberance sometimes needs reining in, but he works hard for his community, has lots of ideas, and brings an interesting perspective to debates.

C

Cr Sally Buck (first elected 1998, represents Fendalton-Waimairi)

Despite her years of experience in local government Buck, who is not seeking re-election, still hasn't learnt the art of asking succinct questions or making short, direct speeches. Instead she meanders to the point. It's a troublesome trait in a local body politician because it hinders her ability to sway colleagues' thinking on important issues. She's politically astute and often shies away from making unpopular decisions. On the plus side Buck has worked hard behind the scenes and has often been the first to volunteer to sit on unpaid panels and working parties.

B

Cr Jamie Gough (first elected 2010, represents Fendalton-Waimairi)

This first-term councillor was a bit unsteady on his feet to start with but has grown in confidence and has finally found his voice. He brings a healthy degree of pragmatism to the council table and when he speaks on issues he cares about he is a forceful debater. He prefers to shy away from conflict with his council colleagues, but can dig his toes in if the occasion demands.

He sees the big picture and understands that sometimes you have to make unpopular decisions to get things done. He has a good grasp of the difference between governance and management and has reasonable financial nous. If he knuckles down and works hard, he could go places.

B

Cr Glenn Livingstone (first elected 2010, represents Burwood-Pegasus)

Livingstone has made a name for himself by fighting for the causes that have struck a chord with Christchurch residents - the lack of progress in settling insurance claims and the Government's controversial schools' shake-up. It's a strategy that has worked well for him, earning him a strong support base in the east. It's clear he has a strong social conscience but his strong political views make him somewhat of a polarising character around the council table and have, at times, hindered his ability to make things happen. He can struggle with complex issues and still has some learning to do.

B+

Cr Peter Beck (first elected 2012, represents Burwood-Pegasus)

The cut and thrust of politics have not proven to be Beck's cup of tea and he has made the choice not to seek re-election. It's a pity because in his brief time on the council (he was only elected in February 2012) Beck has made a positive contribution and represented his ward well. He connects with people, works hard, grasps the issues and is respected by council staff and his fellow councillors.

C+

Cr Jimmy Chen (first elected 2010, represents Riccarton-Wigram)

There is no doubt that Chen has worked hard during his first term as a councillor and if we were awarding a grade for effort alone he would get an A+. He always turns up to meetings having done his prep and he advocates passionately for the communities he represents. His heart is in the right place but the biggest problem for Chen is that English is his second language and he often struggles to articulate his points clearly and precisely - a skill that is critical if you want to carve a name for yourself in the local body scene.

C

Cr Helen Broughton (first elected 2001, represents Riccarton-Wigram)

After 12 years on the council you would expect Broughton to be one of the masters of the council debating chamber, but she is not. Despite her best efforts she still manages to display confusion over simple council procedures. She is risk-averse and seems to require more information than other councillors when making decisions - particularly controversial ones. She chairs the council's corporate and financial committee but often gets muddled by complex financial issues. She's not one to make decisions quickly, often calling for more reports and more time for deliberation. On the plus side she tries hard, is well-intentioned, and is a strong advocate for the Riccarton-Wigram ward.

B

Cr Yani Johanson (first elected 2001, represents Hagley-Ferrymead)

His endless questioning of policy and procedure gets tiring but Johanson is a smart operator who does his homework and always comes to meetings prepared. He carries a big workload as chair of the community, recreation and culture committee and is one of the better debaters around the council table, speaking forcefully on issues, even when he is the lone voice of dissent (which is often). Johanson's biggest problem is he always hones in on the negatives and has a tendency to get distracted by the minutiae of council projects and schemes, which can delay their progress. The obvious tensions between him, the mayor and senior council staff also hamper his ability to get things done. He is very capable but he needs to learn to focus on the big picture and establish better working relationships.

A-

Cr Tim Carter (first elected 2010, represents Hagley-Ferrymead)

This high-profile first-term councillor has carved a name for himself by repeatedly attacking the leadership of Bob Parker and Tony Marryatt and raising questions about the adequacy of the council's pre-quake insurance cover. On these two issues he's been like a dog with a bone, seldom missing an opportunity to gnaw away. Carter's got an astute mind, brings good skills to the council table and is not afraid of asking the tough questions, particularly as they relate to council's management. Unfortunately his family's property development interests mean he is often conflicted when it comes to the discussion of planning issues - a critical component of the counci's post-quake workload. Carter has the skills and the aptitude to be a good local body politician; the nagging question is does he have the desire and the ongoing commitment?

B+

Cr Claudia Reid (first elected 2007, represents Banks Peninsula)

A battle with cancer kept Reid away from the council table for much of the latter half of 2012, but she is an intelligent and eloquent councillor who knows the merit of only speaking if you have something worthwhile to say. She works hard, covering a lot of ground as Banks Peninsula's sole councillor, and runs her environment and infrastructure committee efficiently. She tries hard to do what is right for the city.

B-

Cr Barry Corbett (first elected 1998, represents Spreydon-Heathcote)

Corbett isn't standing for re-election having decided that 15 years in the job is enough. The Press has been critical of his performance in the past but ironically since announcing his retirement we've seen more of the Corbett of old - he's been more vocal, more eloquent, and arguably more effective. He's not the hardest working councillor but he is a strong advocate for his ward. He takes a considered approach to decision-making and doesn't shy away from the tough calls.

B+

Cr Sue Wells (first elected 1998, represents Spreydon-Heathcote)

As a former broadcaster Wells has the communication skills and the smarts to be an outstanding councillor and when she brings her A-game to the table she is a force to be reckoned with. No other councillor can match her knowledge and understanding of planning rules and she plays a critical role in terms of navigating the council through the complicated regulatory maze that governs its activities. She chairs her planning committee adeptly and has the respect of council staff but she has questions to answer about why she was not on top of the council's consenting problems. The lingering questions cost Wells a grade.

- The Press

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