Saturday, May 25, 2024

Peter Dunne: Wellington City Council in crisis

As the city of Tauranga prepares to elect a new Mayor and Council after three and a half years being run by government-appointed Commissioners, the case for replacing the Wellington City Council with Commissioners strengthens.

The Wellington City Council has been dysfunctional for years, long before the current Mayor took office. However, the situation has worsened significantly during her tenure to the extent it is now almost impossible to see the current crop of Councillors being able to resolve the massive issues confronting the capital city.

The shocking state of Wellington’s water supply, with about 40% of the city’s water being wasted through leaking pipes, has led to derisory headlines around the country. Savage restrictions imposed on residents to conserve water over the summer period have only just been lifted this week, but the Council-controlled company, Wellington Water, which supposedly runs the system, is giving no guarantees things will be any better next summer. And the Council seems powerless to do anything about it.

Central Wellington is a maze of traffic cones as many inner-city streets are realigned to remove parking to allow for cycleways and bus lanes. This completely overlooks the reality that Wellington’s topography means most of the city’s streets are already narrower than elsewhere. Making them narrower still is neither practical, nor safe for either cyclists or motorists. But that inconvenient reality seems to matter little to the Council with its avowedly anti-car and pro-cycling and public transport approach.

Even that is coming to grief. Large double decker buses rumble frequently empty through suburban streets. Commuter bus-stops are being removed in other parts of the city. The city’s much-maligned bus system, last reviewed in 2014, is simply not working and needs to be overhauled. Gridlock continues to choke access to the eastern suburbs and the airport because the Council cannot agree how to resolve it. Central government’s plan for a second road tunnel through Mount Victoria aroused little Council enthusiasm.

When the pandemic struck, and the public servants went home to work, many seemingly yet to return, Wellington’s already struggling CBD became a ghost town, leading to the closure of long-standing, well-regarded city businesses. The subsequent economic downturn, and more latterly the loss of around 4,500 public service jobs because of government funding cuts, are making the situation worse. Wellington faces severe long-term retrenchment in jobs and population.

But the Council clings to the increasingly absurd notion that the city’s population will increase by around 80,000 people over the next thirty years, with absolutely no indication of where the jobs will be for this additional population to fill. The Council’s new housing intensification strategy, based on non-consented approval of up to six storey high Stalinist style apartment blocks, in the inner city and alongside designated commuter routes to house this mythical population increase simply compounds the sense of unreality. Even more bizarrely, the Minister of Housing, who had previously appealed as a person of sound judgment and commonsense, has approved this nonsense.

The appalling way the Wellington City Council does things was highlighted this week at a Council meeting discussing the city’s long-term plan. A local community leader – allocated a mere five minutes to make his submission on an issue of concern to his community – had the temerity to complain that the Mayor had been working on her phone the entire time he was making his submission. In response, the Councillor chairing the meeting, rebuked him for criticising the Mayor, terminated his presentation, and adjourned the meeting until he left.

Not even the worst of student politicians, which the current ruling clique on the Council seem so reminiscent of, would behave in such an overbearing and childish way. Their pointless and petty behaviour, coupled with an arrogant and smug sense of their own authority, inspires no confidence at all in their ability to prudently manage a Council operating budget of nearly $820 million a year, and an annual capital budget of $566 million. And the Mayor’s seeming indifference to what is happening, simply adds insult to injury.

Increasingly, it seems wishful thinking to believe that the current Council and its leadership will ever be capable of waking up to reality and abandoning their personal hobbyhorses in the interests of making Wellington a functional capital city once more. Worse for the long term, the current shambles means there is no incentive for capable people to put their names forward for election to the Council in the future, so the downward spiral looks set to continue at ratepayers’ expense.

It is going to become more and more difficult for the Minister of Local Government to stand by and watch this train wreck steadily worsen. Ratepayers already face a 16.4% increase in rates this year, with no clear indication of any improvements in service delivery. Sooner or later the government will have to step in and appoint high-powered Commissioners to sort out the sad mess the capital city has become. For Wellington’s beleaguered residents, that day cannot come quickly enough.

Peter Dunne, a retired Member of Parliament and Cabinet Minister, who represented Labour and United Future for over 30 years, blogs here: - Where this article was sourced.


Anonymous said...

Lol, wellington. It's a bit of a joke. Not only is it run by incompetent lefties, the weather is terrible. This is why I actually left wellington. Yep, true. Do I miss wellington? Not at all.

Robert Arthur said...

The comment about downward spiral is very apt. Any person of real ability who might chance to win the trivial minded voters, is daunted by the fact that much of the total problems will devolve onto them. So the field is left to nobodies and pro maori driven by the maori takeoever movement.

Anna Mouse said...

WCC needs to have the administrator sent in and devolved. It is so, so dysfunctional it is on life support....time to pull the plug.

Anonymous said...

Truly it is said, we get the Govt we deserve.

Anonymous said...

Peters comments are 100% on the button. Try as they may, Māori are not competent administrators. However a Māori wahine as mayor of New Zealand’s capital city is more important than the mess she leaves. Yeah right!
Removing her from office will be touted as pakeha getting rid of maori. Te Pati Māori will do the usual sabre rattling. The Waitangi Tribunal will dream up some fictitious reason why they have jurisdiction. All mumbo jumbo with the intention of destabilising the Government.

Anonymous said...

I heard the Mayor had a ceremony for a street name change the other day, promising to do more of the same.

How much did this cost? And where is the backlash from the residents?

By all accounts it appears they still support and defend ideology over reality even when their businesses are collapsing around them. Moronic would be an understatement when it comes to describing woke Wellingtonians.

How any of them can vote left, especially the Greens - which they did in overwhelming numbers - defies logic.

They are clearly masters of self-sabotage.

Ken S said...

In these uncertain and troubled times I think it is great that Local Government in Wellington gives us the oppurtunity to point and laugh.

LNF said...

Apart from a few elected Councilors they are incompetent dreamers. Some even voted for a terrible venture and then spoke against it
But the other problem is that the operational side is equally incompetent. Any time you might think that someone has ability - just think water, parking removal, destruction of the golden mile, then if there are any doubts - READINGS

Anonymous said...

WCC reminds me of a chimps tea party at the zoo. Total and utter mess, lots of noise and bad behaviour. The daft bit is the people of Wellington voted for it. Therefore, let the tea party rumble on, don’t put in a commissioner to sort out the mess, pick better people for Council. Let the people of Wellington learn the lessons of picking idiots for important roles.

Anonymous said...

Let it roll and eat itself. The outcome needs to fall on the fools who did it.
If the rates need to go up 100% then let them, no bailout. End of story.

Allan said...

"But the Council clings to the increasingly absurd notion that the city’s population will increase by around 80,000 people over the next thirty years, with absolutely no indication of where the jobs will be for this additional population to fill".
This assumes that this council wants another 80,000 wage earning people to invade the city, why would they want that. People who pay tax and rates might ask awkward questions about where the money goes, much better to fill it with compliant beneficiaries'
Accountability, kryptonite to socialism.

Anonymous said...

Just a few additional points: 

1) Neither the topography nor its weather make Wellington a viable city for mass bike commuting, but the idiots in charge still seem hell-bent on crucifying (at the altar of woke AGW), what is left of its arterial-road small businesses and making deliveries and accessing things like the hospital that much more difficult.

2) I also suspect Peter's comment was written before today's announcement of a $51million 'hole' in Wellington Water's budget, which will only intensify the increased Rates and cost of living crisis issues throughout the region.

3) As for the jobs for the fictional population growth, haven't they realised there's been a change in Government and profligate public service increases are over?. That said, maybe all new arrivals will be given a shovel and some wrenches and each will be charged with maintaining their adjacent street water and sewerage networks? One can only hope that they will all benefit from the daily broadcast "call for prayer" that the Mayor has asked to be investigated. 

4) And on the issue of incompetence, Wellington are not alone - for it's mirrored in nearby Lower Hutt, with up to six-storey 'as of right' development permitted more or less across the majority of its ALLUIVAL based valley floor, all with no mandatory off-street parking requirements. But not to be outdone by Wellington with its Epuni Street name change, Lower Hutt is also contemplating matching that - with perhaps changing the name of a school, a care/training facility, a couple of railway station, and two entire suburbs (Epuni & Petone).  There's nothing like spending ratepayers' money in a cost of living crisis, as long as local mana whenua are consulted and are happy a 'reputed' historical spelling error is corrected.  

But, yes, those ratepayers are surrounded by those incompetents they themselves elected. Just like the gross financial ineptitude of the last Government, maybe those ratepayers now deserve their plight, and maybe, just maybe next time, they will be a little more circumspect about who they give their vote to?  But I'm not convinced.

Anonymous said...

We are Australians residing in Wellington the last 14 years, our children grew up here and both myself and my husband are professionals. Sadly, we are moving back to Australia permanently in five months time. Watching the train wreck that has become Wellington was too much to bear; the city we fell in love with has become a mess. It sounds harsh but the lefties get what they vote for. We certainly didn’t vote for the Greens or Labour; mortified seeing the city represented by incompetent leaders wasting our money. There are many families doing the same, leaving Wellington because they can’t take it anymore.

Anonymous said...

Cannot help thinking that we need some of that medicine in Northland with a Council that appears to be focused upon all the ideological nonsense and latterly a statement way outside their remit calling for a ceasefire which does not represent the views of the whole populace:
An announcement appears on the FNDC latest news webpages under the heading: "FNDC councillors back Gaza ceasefire, Māori wards" Published date 24 May 2024. The call for an immediate ceasefire is well outside it balliwick. They also oppose the Coalition Government’s bid to disestablish Māori wards "FNDC has already resolved not to disestablish its Māori ward, and it estimates that a binding poll alongside the local elections could cost up to $10,000." Well, they have wasted far more money than that on making Kerikeri a "bi-lingual" town - where was the mandate for that? The Council has also imposed an unpronouncable and unnecessary new Maori name upon itself. Please can we also have commissioners come in and put FNDC back on track as part of a job lot with fixing the Wellington Council debacle?

Lou B said...

I have just read Peter Dunne's excellent blog which describes the mess that is Wellington perfectly. The many comments that follow also sum up so much that is the problem. I'm a born and bred Wellingtonian and have always praised and promoted Wellington as a vibrant and wonderful place to live. I find my enthusiasm waning under the force of crazy city projects like bike lanes and the removal of parking (all in the name of planet-saving) and the disregard of neighbourhood character with the free-for-all building plans.(Orange cones I support if it means water is fixed.)
Once we could all put our hands on our hearts and avow "Absolutely, Positively, Wellington!) and take delight in it. Let's get rid of the Councillors who are people risen to their level of incompetency and put in an able Commissioner. PLEASE. Lou B.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Peter Dunne’s analysis and his call for a Commissioner to take over the current inadequate leadership in our Council. I do not support the criticism based in some of the comments on race or gender. I just think we have incompetent leadership and the city is no longer the vibrant place it once was and should/could still be. E R