Here's how the Wellington City Council candidates say they would have voted on some key issues facing the city
I recently published an analysis of how the current Wellington City councillors voted on some key issues. In this Part II let's look at the results of a survey of the new candidates where they were asked how they would have voted on exactly the same motions. Tools such as Policy Local are helpful but asking candidates for their policy positions allows them to play safe and take a middle-of-the-road approach that hides their true beliefs. However, asking them how they would have voted on actual motions that the current council voted on leaves no place to hide and is also a pretty handy test of their ability to read and understand council papers in a short space of time, just as they will be expected to do if they are elected.
The two meetings chosen are the final approval of the 2021-31 Long Term Plan at the Annual Plan/Long-term Plan Committee on 27 May 2021 and the final approval of the Proposed District Plan for Public Notification at the Pūroro Āmua Planning & Environment Committee on 23 June 2022. Both meetings have enough juicy voting to sort the conservatives from the progressives, the NIMBYs from the YIMBYs and the climate heroes from the climate zeroes. In this spreadsheet I've collated the votes from those two meetings that weren't purely procedural or unanimous so that you can do your own analysis and come to your own conclusions if you wish (I've ignored the unanimous votes because they don't really reveal the differences between councillors and candidates). Make sure you read the notes first though! In both cases I've only recorded the voting on the substantive motion (after amendments) and not the voting on the amendments. This is only after checking that the voting on the substantive motion was in line with any amendments made, which it almost always was.
15 out of 47 new candidates actually completed a survey asking them how they would have voted, a completion rate of 32%. A further 7 candidates replied but declined to complete the survey, mostly because they said they were too busy. The remaining 25 candidates didn't bother to reply at all. The candidates who completed the survey were overwhelmingly the progressive candidates. Read into that what you like but it seems that it's the progressive candidates who are a) prepared to do the mahi and b) happy to demonstrate what their policy statements will mean in reality.
Long Term Plan
The final approval of the Long Term Plan in May 2021 came at the end of a long process that had been variously described as a shambles and a dog's breakfast. The motions covered a wide variety of areas including:
Of the 15 candidates who completed the survey by far the most reactionary and conservative was Chris Dudfield (standing for Mayor and Paekawakawa/Southern) who took the Nicola Young approach of voting against virtually everything including cycleways, the Pōneke Promise to reduce sexual violence and alcohol harm, funding for youth hubs/better youth engagement, footpath upgrades, upgrading Khandallah Summer Pool and town centre upgrades for Berhampore and Island Bay. Let's be clear - this isn't 'common sense spending' or getting 'back to basics', it's running the city into the ground. It's compounding an already chronic under-investment in infrastructure and social cohesion in a lazy attempt to win votes with exactly the same brand of short-sighted fiscal conservatism that got us into this mess in the first place. Aaron Gilmore and Rob Goulden (both standing for Motukairangi/Eastern) both voted against increased spending on cycleways. Aaron Gilmore also voted against increased spending for the arts and Rob Goulden voted against upgrading Frank Kitts Park. The progressive candidates all voted for all of the above initiatives.
Key vote: Cycleways
Cycleways are definitely a hot topic in Wellington and create a clear distinction between progressive and conservative so this is the key vote on the Long Term Plan in the candidates survey for me. Option 4 was to significantly increase funding and deliver a city-wide bike network (covering 150km of Wellington's 700km of roads, approx. 20%). Cycleways was the only Long Term Plan item that the council consulted on where the public's preference (Option 4, to spend more) was not the council's, and where councillors actually voted against council officers' recommendation (Option 3, spend less) via an amendment.
Agree to adopt Option 4 rather than Option 3 for the delivery of future cycling infrastructure
For: Ben McNulty, Tory Whanau, James Sullivan, Matthew Reweti, Lachlan Patterson, Nīkau Wi Neera, Luana Scowcroft, Jonathan Coppard, Bob Mason, Jonathan Markwick, Nureddin Mohamed Abdurahman, Afnan AL-Rubayee
Against: Chris Dudfield, Aaron Gilmore, Rob Goulden
The 12 progressive candidates you can trust with your vote. On the 2 key votes in the survey they voted FOR building a city-wide bike network and AGAINST reducing walking catchments in the District Plan
Approving the District Plan for public notification on 23 June 2022 also came at the end of a long process of public consultation called Planning for Growth, which resulted in a new Spatial Plan and draft District Plan for Wellington. Hopes were high that the new Spatial Plan and District Plan would enable a lot more homes to be built in Wellington so that's why this meeting caused controversy by walking back much of that progress in what The Dominion Post described as "a devastating u-turn". The voting here is really on a single issue: housing and densification.
Key vote: Walking catchments
This vote reduced walking catchments (the boundaries within which six-storey buildings can be built) from 15 minutes’ walking distance of areas around the central city to just 10 minutes, meaning there will be less land available for enabling more homes via greater density. The reduction means Wellington has taken a more conservative approach than other councils, where 15 minutes is standard. If you have hopes of ever buying a home in Wellington, or you want your children or grandchildren to be able to, voting for this makes it harder.
Agree that the walking catchments recommended by officers, in respect of the spatial plan, to be reinstated as follows:
For: Chris Dudfield, Aaron Gilmore, Rob Goulden
Against: Ben McNulty, Tory Whanau, James Sullivan, Matthew Reweti, Lachlan Patterson, Nīkau Wi Neera, Luana Scowcroft, Jonathan Coppard, Bob Mason, Jonathan Markwick, Nureddin Mohamed Abdurahman, Afnan AL-Rubayee
So there you have it. If you are a progressive voter it should be pretty clear who you can safely vote for among the new candidates, in addition to the Fab 5 current councillors standing again. But so that there's absolutely no confusion in a few days I'll be making definitive recommendations by ward on who to rank and in what order. Watch this space!
The most important thing of all is to VOTE and encourage all of you friend and family to vote too. Spread the word!