Wellington plans to ‘pay’ for projects by doubling debt

If i was a Wellington ratepayer I’d be worried by this (actually I’m worried as a Dunedin ratepayer about similar increases in spending and rates).

Stuff: Wellington City Council set to double debt to pay for big projects

Wellington’s desire for a movie museum, a pricey indoor arena, and its need for resilience, will bump the city’s debt to more than $1 billion for the first time.

Wellington City Council’s debt level is set to rise from $507 million to $1.16 billion over the next 10 years to pay for investments such as water reservoirs, earthquake strengthening the Town Hall, Let’s Get Wellington Moving, cycleway infrastructure and the arts.

Councillor Andy Foster was concerned the council was proposing to more than double the amount it borrowed and was warning ratepayers it will cost them in interest payments.

Wellington Mayor Justin Lester said he was comfortable with the proposed investments over the next decade.

Some of the budgeted investments were not only warranted but necessary, he said.

Some will certainly be necessary, but others sound like they are optional and possibly extravagant.

Council chief executive Kevin Lavery said the proposed level of debt was prudent and affordable and significantly lower than the average mortgage level for New Zealand households.

Equating it to “gthe average mortgage level” is cute, but people will be more interested in the impact on their rates, which they pay on top of their mortgage.

The council had a strong balance sheet, which meant it could borrow now and spread the costs of the major projects over the lifetime of the assets, he said.

“Simply, it means we can propose keeping rate increases to less than 4 per cent.”

Suggested ates seem to be all over the place. In February: Wellington City rates sitting at 4.5 per cent increase – mayor wants to trim more fat

Wellington Mayor Justin Lester said if the council did not make the cuts, residents would have faced a 7.1 per cent increase in 2018/19 to pay for big ticket items, such as the Town Hall restoration and Sir Peter Jackson’s movie museum.

Trimming the fat had whittled it down to 4.5 per cent but his ambition was to get it down in the 3 per cent region and keep it consistent over the next decade.

Now it is “under 4%” – and doubling debt.

“We want to keep Wellington more affordable by looking closely at what we are spending … I want to get the rates down by [saving] about $10m.”

And by adding half a billion dollars of debt.

Mayors shouldn’t presume what dead people want

Justin Lester generally seems to have started of his job as mayor of Wellington well, but he has not done well in trying to presume what Katherine Mansfield would want to happen to her body.

Mansfield died in France of tuberculosis in 1923, aged 34.

Last Friday: Wellington mayor wants to bring Katherine Mansfield’s remains home

Wellington’s mayor wants to exhume Katherine Mansfield’s remains in France so she can be laid to rest in the capital.

Justin Lester has written to the mayor of Avon, where Mansfield’s grave is.

He said Katherine Mansfield House and Garden is leading the repatriation of the author’s remains but was happy to offer his support.

“It’s about making sure Katherine Mansfield is in a place where she did want to be buried.

“She fell ill very quickly and she wasn’t living in the place where she was buried for very long. She was there for a short period of time.

“There’s no real connection to that location, whereas Wellington was her birthplace and a place she held fondly in her heart.”

Lester said it was early days and the move would need the support of French authorities and Mansfield’s family to move ahead with the process.

“There is no rush, there’s no urgency around this but I think it is a nice idea and something I’m happy to support.”

Lester (and Katherine Mansfield House and Garden) seems to be presuming what someone who has been dead for nearly a hundred years would want. And what Mansfield’s family would want. But the latter doesn’t want.

On Wednesday: Move to have Katherine Mansfield’s bones returned to NZ blocked by English relative

The eldest relative of Katherine Mansfield has blocked a move backed by Wellington Mayor Justin Lester to have the author’s remains exhumed from her burial site in France.

Englishwoman Janine Renshaw-Beauchamp – Mansfield’s great niece – is understood to have petitioned the mayor of Avon in France after moves by the Katherine Mansfield Birthplace Society in Wellington to get the celebrated author’s bones returned home.

On Thursday, birthplace society president Nicola Saker confirmed it had received a letter from Avon’s mayor rejecting the proposal.

The wishes of relatives were a consideration under French law.

Didn’t those wanting to move the remains check with relatives?

But the idea has not met with universal acclaim – English Mansfield biographer and member of the International Katherine Mansfield Society Gerri Kimber called the proposal a “crass and ill-judged venture.”

“Why on earth do the mayor of Wellington and the [birthplace society] believe they have the right to disinter a private individual’s remains? Shall we also disinter Lord Rutherford’s remains from Westminster Abbey and send them back as well?”

Kimber called the proposal ignominious and urged New Zealanders to reject it as Renshaw-Beauchamp had.

Victoria University Mansfield scholar Lydia Wevers echoed Kimber’s sentiments.

“It’s a mad and idiotic suggestion that goes against everything she wrote about herself.”

And this also sums it up: Martin Doyle Cartoon: Put away your spades


60 Wellington buildings shut

RNZ reports that 60 Wellington buildings are shut following the earthquakes, with a 10 storey building in Molesworth Street condemned and to be demolished.

A large office block in central Wellington will be demolished as a result of damage sustained in Monday morning’s earthquake, but it is not yet known when that might take place.

The 10-storey building – at 61 Molesworth Street – was cordoned off yesterday after engineers doing post-quake checks discovered a major structural beam had fractured “like a bone”.

Civil Defence said the unoccupied office building  had severe structural damage and was at risk of collapse.

Wellington officials appear to be trying to play down the effects but both he amount of damage and the indications of risks if a large earthquake struck much closer to Wellington can’t be ignored.

Wellington Mayor Justin Lester estimated about 60 buildings in Wellington were now closed as a result of the earthquake.

Lester said the Molesworth Street building would need to be ‘deconstructed’ – that may be a technical term but it sounds like an attempt to make it sound not as bad.

But Wellington City Council building compliance and consent manager Mike Scott said the city had held up “extremely well”, given the size of the shake.

It was a very large earthquake, but it was centred some distance from Wellington, and was smaller than the largest recorded earthquake in New Zealand, in 1855 centred in the nearby Wairarapapa.

If I lived or worked in Wellington I’d be a bit concerned, but plenty of reassurances are being given.

Stuff: More buildings closed, as Wellington’s mayor declares CBD safe for the public

Wellington has returned to work almost as normal within three days of Monday’s earthquake – but questions are being asked as to whether we’ve rushed back too soon.

More buildings were closed on Wednesday as engineers continued their inspections around the city, leaving about 60 offices and apartment blocks shut.

None of those buildings were on the Wellington City Council’s recently published earthquake-prone list, leading one industry leader to suggest standards may need to be reviewed.

A Wellington City Council list of 663 earthquake-prone buildings, published on November 3, did not feature any of the damaged buildings.

There should be some serious reviews after this event.

Wellington Mayor Justin Lester said there were no public safety concerns. “I can assure people the CBD is safe in all public aspects, and remind them to stay away from cordoned-off areas.”

Institution of Professional Engineers NZ (IPENZ) chief executive Susan Freeman-Greene said every earthquake provided a lot of new information about how buildings performed.

“Engineers and others across the industry will need to work with councils and the Government to understand what this new information means for standards,” she said.


* Statistics House (1 Harbour View Rd) – not listed as quake-prone
* NEC House (40 Taranaki St) – not listed
* Ministry of Defence HQ (2-12 Aitken St) – not listed
* Former Deloitte building (61 Molesworth St) – not listed
* BNZ building (60 Waterloo Quay) – not listed
* Tennyson apartment building (25 Tennyson St)  – not listed. But No 26 next door is listed, with an expiry date of 2024 to complete strengthening work
* Katherine Mansfield House (25 Tinakori Rd) – not listed
* Malvina Major retirement village (134 Burma Rd) – not listed




Lester’s ‘little people’ or ‘Little people’

Ex Labour Party member Phil Quin (and others) have highlighted a comment by Welington candidate Justin Lester.

What Justin Lester’s “Little People” Tells us About Modern Labour

I was listening to the Newstalk ZB mayoral candidates debate this morning, and one exchange stood out. When asked about the Living Wage, Labour’s candidate Justin Lester said he supported it because he wants to support “the little people”.

Excuse me?

Who on earth does he have in mind?

Moderator Tim Fookes asked him to clarify.

Cleaners and security staff, Lester explained.

So, cleaners and security guards, as long as you know you are the little people and people like Justin Lester are here to save you, you have nothing to worry about. What condescending, messianic bullshit. 

I could write 100,000 words on why Labour is failing — in fact, I probably have –– without getting close to encapsulating Labour’s problem as well as this off-the-cuff truth bomb from Justin Lester.

What is not clear from the audio is whether Lester meant ‘little people’ or ‘Little people’.

Lester: …yet the little people only earning fifteen dollars, they don’t deserve an income…

Fookes: Who are the little people if you want to describe that Justin?

Lester: Ah, we’re talking about the cleaners, they security staff, the people who have the hardest jobs in our council…

So “we’re talking about”the “little people”or the “Little people”


Labour versus Leggett ctd.

Current Porirua mayor Nick Leggett resigned from the Labour Party earlier this year so he could stand for the Wellington mayoralty against Labour’s anointed candidate Justin Lester.

Leggett’s candidacy seems to be really bugging Labour. Recently Andrew Little attacked him and banned a Labour MP from attending an event Leggett went to. See Little trying to forbid MPs associating.

And the Labour campaign against Leggett seems to be continuing online.

Mike Smith seems to only post at The Standard when there is important business to attend to.

On Tuesday Smith posted Leggett in Parkin’s pocket?

Former Councillor Chris Parkin interviewed in Wellington’s DomPost shared his ambitions – investing in property in central Wellington, and getting Porirua mayor Nick Leggett elected in Wellington, of all places. Word has it that large billboards for Leggett around the town have been funded by Parkin. The last thing Wellington needs is a mayor who’s in a property investor’s pocket.

And yesterday Smith attacked again: Leggett in Gollins’ pocket too!!!

It gets worse – another property developer is rattling the tin for Porirua carpetbagger Nick Leggett for Wellington’s mayoralty. 

It seems Andrew Little might have been right to warn Stuart Nash MP off association with Leggett’s campaign.

Yes, this is worse – for Labour. It’s a sign that they are worried about Lester’s chances and worried that Leggett is taking votes off their candidate.

‘CC’ asks (currently unanswered): “This is getting pretty close to dirty politics isn’t it?”

Labour certainly seem to be filthy about Leggett.

And Smith is twisting what actually happened – the event Nash was warned off was in Auckland and had no connection to the campaign in Wellington.

I wonder if this has something to do with it:

Claire Robinson ‏@Spinprofessor
Little bird told me polling showing Wgtn mayoral rice tight tween Justin, Nick and Jo, but Jo getting more 2nd votes than others

It seems that politics hath no fury like a Labour Party challenged by one of their own.



Watkins on Little versus Leggett

Tracey Watkins in Stuff on how party politics appears to be taking over local body elections, and how it could backfire.

The current mayor of Christchurch, Leanne Dalziel, is a former Labour MP and Minister.

Phil Goff is touted as the front runner for mayor of Auckland.

And Labour are promoting a candidate for the Wellington mayoralty, Justin Lester.

Ankle tap or leg up? Why Andrew Little’s assault on Leggett might backfire

As if national politics wasn’t brutal enough, Andrew Little has turned the Wellington mayoral campaign even uglier by verbally attacking a high profile candidate.

Little has drawn a new battle line in the mayoral campaign by claiming one of the front runners, Nick Leggett, is a “right wing” candidate, backed by right wing funding. He also claimed Leggett’s campaign manager was a “leading identity” in the ACT party, which Leggett rejects, as he does the “right wing” label.

None of this would be particularly extraordinary except Leggett is the long time Porirua mayor and a former Labour Party member who only resigned the party when he entered the mayoralty campaign in opposition to its official candidate, Justin Lester.

Little’s assault on Leggett as a right winger is revealing on two counts; it tells us the extent to which party politics is taking over local body elections.

And it is an insight into the resurgence of Labour’s age old battle between the left and right factions of the party.

There are also signs that Little is prepared to try and control what Labour MPs do, depending on who they are – see Little trying to forbid MPs associating.

If Little’s intention in taking on Leggett was to give Lester a leg up it could just as likely backfire. It exposes the extent to which national politics has crept into local body elections, something that may not sit well with all voters.

It also rips the scab open on Labour’s left right divide. And given the party’s brutal history on that front – think back to the Lange, Douglas years – he might regret going there.

There’s a risk of backfire both in the Wellington mayoralty and in national politics for Labour. Looking as split as UK Labour may not work out well for a party trying to rebuild.


The Nation – Wellington mayoral debate

The Nation this morning is having a debate between the candidates standing for the Wellington mayoralty.

Tomorrow, the fight for the future of Wellington. We talk to the mayoral contenders

, Helene Ritchie and Andy Foster

Absent from that list is Celia Wade-Brown who announced yesterday that she wouldn’t be standing for re-election. I wonder if her decision was prompted by the debate as she would have been lined up for that.

Candidates are:

Labour mis-using taxpayer money?

First a word of caution. This apparent bust comes from the Taxpayers’ Union, who say they are funded and run independently but those involved in running it have close links to National.

They have put out a media release today claiming that Labour appear to be running the campaign for Labour mayoral candidate in Wellington out of their Parliamentary offices. Non-parliamentary activities and electioneering are forbidden uses of parliamentary funded resources.

The Taxpayer’s Union say they have been leaked this email:


That suggests that “we” from the Labour’s Party Whips office have produced a campaign video for “our Labour candidate for the Wellington Mayoralty”. It is a least a bad look, and it may breach Parliaments rules.

Labour were warned about misuse of Parliamentary resources earlier this year. The Taxpayers’ Union was also involved there. From Speaker’s Warning To Labour Over Parliamentary Funds:

Some weeks ago Labour sent an email in the name of Paul Chalmers, the Project Manager at Labour House, to Labour’s Auckland supporters detailing how Andrew Little had opened a Auckland office that will be “the centre of the Labour and progressive movement in Auckland and the place to co-ordinate the local government and General Election campaigns.”

The email also called on “like-minded partners” to share office space and other facility resources.

It appears that Andrew Little and his MPs are pooling together taxpayer resources to open a campaign office in central Auckland for the Party and Phil Goff’s campaign for the Auckland mayoralty. Use of taxpayer resources in this way is clearly against the rules.

The Speaker has confirmed that the Parliamentary Service will be monitoring Mr Little’s spending and has written to him setting out the rules for taxpayer funded out-of-Parliament offices.

The letter from the Speaker to Labour begins:


And concludes:


That is a very clear warning to Andrew Little. Labour should be well aware of these rules anyway.

MPs campaigning for local body office while paid for by taxpayers is suspect, although it has both potential benefits and disadvantages.

Not surprisingly David Farrar has also posted on this, fairly carefully, at Kiwiblog: Lester’s campaign being run from Parliament?  Farrar is heavily involved with the Taxpayers’ Union.

But regardless of the source this does look quite dodgy from Labour, especially after already being warned by the Speaker.

Given there past actions I presume the Taxpayers’ Union will advise the Speaker about this, but don’t expect significant repercussions – that’s why parties keep flouting Parliamentary rules, because they think they can keep getting away with it.

But this is not just flouting Parliamentary rules. It is flouting democracy, giving some candidates an unfair advantage over others.

Now I don’t know if this refers to the same Lester campaign video:

Wellington mayoral candidates get creative and cringeworthy with online campaign videos

Wellington’s mayoral candidates have taken to social media, releasing online campaign videos to sell their message to voters.

Labour candidate and current deputy mayor Justin Lester takes an active approach attending various community events and has citizens endorse him. Robinson says Justin ticks nearly every box with his video.

“He shows that he is embedded in communities, in a variety of communities and people trust him and people endorse him. While people are talking about him he’s actively engaged in a whole variety of environments.

“You can’t fault this video I would have to say in my 17 years of campaign video watching this is the best campaign video any NZ candidate has ever produced.”

Claire Robinson believes anybody running in an election should follow the lead of Wellington’s candidates and campaigns will continue to evolve with technology.

I don’t know what Robinson would think if Parliamentary resources were used to make the video.

Labour for Lester for Wellington

Justin Lester has launched his campaign for Mayor of Wellington.He is clearly backed by Andrew Little and is running as a Labour party candidate.

He announced some policy policies:

“Firstly, as Mayor I’m going to offer a $5000 rates rebate to anyone who wants to build their first home here.

That’s a significant rates rebate, funded by other ratepayers.

If we act quickly, we could end up like Auckland where people are locked out of the market entirely.

That sounds like a mistake.

“Secondly, I’ll make swimming free for kids under 5 at council pools. This is about making sure all our families have access to council facilities, no matter how much money they make. The cost is a paltry $55,000 per annum, there’s no reason why this can’t happen soon.

More free stuff for some funded by others.

“I’ll also deliver an upgrade for our airport, more affordable public transport and deliver projects like a film museum to add millions to our local economy.

Using ratepayers money presumably.

Waiving fees for outdoor dining will help remove obstacles to CBD vibrancy and business success.

More on his website.

It’s interesting to see who is promoting his mayoral bid.

‘Notices and Features’ posted a Justin Lester launches campaign for Wellington Mayor promo at The Standard.

Current Deputy Mayor of Wellington Justin Lester launched his campaign for the mayoralty yesterday, running on a Labour ticket.

There’s nothing in the video that follows that links Lester’s campaign to Labour until the final screen:


His website headline:

Sign up to help elect Justin Lester, Labour’s candidate for Wellington Mayor.

Clearly a Labour local body candidate. Also:


Labour leader Andrew Little has also given his stamp of approval:


So while Labour MP Phil Goff is running for the mayoralty in Auckland as an independent candidate – even though Labour set up a support office for local candidates – Lester is sort of openly campaigning as a Labour Party candidate.