Race briefing: Hutt City, where a 28-year-old might become mayor

In our latest local elections 2019 race briefing (read the rest here), Alex Braae breaks down the surprisingly bitter Hutt City mayoral race.

The Spinoff local election coverage is entirely funded by The Spinoff Members. For more about becoming a member and supporting The Spinoff’s journalism click here.

Where?

Hutt City covers the rapidly gentrifying Petone around the harbour and the wealthy burghers of Eastbourne, stretches up State Highway Two and the Hutt River until about Silverstream, and then East over the hill to the economically hard-hit Wainuiomata, and down from there to the South Coast. To the north is Upper Hutt, and to the west is Porirua. It is both literally and figuratively something of a crossroads for the whole Wellington region.

What are the issues in the election?

Transport: As a crossroads area, people need to get across the Hutt. Various projects have become election issues, in large part because they had their funding binned by NZTA – in particular, the Melling Interchange (a choke point intersection) and a funding delay for a cycleway around the harbour. There are huge flows of people both into and out of the Hutt every rush hour, so candidates should be expected to have ideas on how to better manage that.

Housing. Hutt City has had to manage a lot of the overflow in the astronomical price rises coming out of Wellington, and as a result, housing has become a lot less affordable, both for renters and buyers. That has led to an increase in homelessness. There’s also very little emergency housing provision in the Hutt, relative to other parts of the region.

The Naenae Pool. The thoroughly excellent Naenae Pool has now been closed since April because of earthquake risk concerns, and the community around it is struggling. The bill to fix it is well into the tens of millions of dollars, which is huge for a council to have to come up with. But at the same time, it was absolutely beloved, with hundreds of thousands of visits every year.

Wainuiomata’s redevelopment: The suburb is one of the most poverty-stricken in the region, and that means the economics of housing inflation are hitting really hard. This from Stuff’s Matthew Tso from earlier in the year gives a good explanation – there was a ‘boom within a boom’ for areas like Wainuiomata. That’s lovely if you own a home, but many in Wainuiomata did not, and are now struggling with rising rents. There have also been tensions over a $60 million redevelopment of Wainuiomata’s mall, and a huge brouhaha over whether dozens of homes would be put on the Queen St Reserve – a favourite piece of green space for locals.

Climate change. Ever noticed how huge swathes of Petone are really low-lying? Or how the whole road around the harbour is also pretty much at sea level? Yeah, that could be a problem.

The cleanfill that keeps getting bigger. This one has a few streets around Wainuiomata absolutely furious. A cleanfill which was expected to be shut in 2017 now might get extended, prompting heavy opposition from locals.

Who are the candidates?

There are five candidates running for mayor, though only two seem likely to have a shot. We’ll start with the outsiders.

James Anderson is having another crack after coming 2nd last time around. He came 2nd with about 10% of the votes of the winner, but still, it was a pretty good effort for a guy who was a 24-year-old truck driver pulling 60 hour weeks.

David Smith is also running again, after coming 4th last time. He’s a Wainuiomata local who has owned a business and been president of the local Lions club.

George MacKay is a financial advisor, a long-time Huttite, and is 29 years old. He says he wants to “cement my name into the history of Lower Hutt.”

Then the two leading contenders: Campbell Barry, 28, is in his second term as Wainuiomata’s council rep, and could become the youngest mayor in the country. Barry sits on a range of council committees and has involvement with a bunch of community groups. He’s clearly ambitious, given he was in school a mere decade ago. Barry gets extra democracy points for being the only mayoral candidate who has filled out their Policy Local page.

There’s also the incumbent, Ray Wallace. He’s been around a while, first getting elected to Hutt City Council in 1995, has been mayor since 2010, and hasn’t really faced a serious challenge ever since. In that role, he has been one of the leaders in the campaign against amalgamation that regularly crops up, saying the Wellington region should not become a Super City. Has a very close relationship with current deputy mayor David Bassett.

Party affiliations

This one has been a super-weird mini issue throughout the campaign, particularly between Campbell Barry and Ray Wallace. Barry is running as a Labour candidate, in part because… he’s in the Labour Party. Meanwhile, Wallace is running as an independent, despite standing for National in a general election back in the 90s. The heat that this has generated among supporters has occasionally spilled over (including into this correspondent’s inbox) but it may just be a proxy issue, standing in for the fact that the two men clash all the time and really don’t seem fond of each other. Also, it’s debatable whether party affiliation would hurt or help a candidate – in recent general elections, there hasn’t been much between the two major parties in the Hutt South electorate.

What do I get a vote on?

First of all the mayor. Then it gets a bit tricky. Voters can pick a ward councillor for one of the six wards, as well as cast a vote towards six ‘citywide’ councillors, who have a more roving brief. This is a change from 2016, when there were merely ward councillors. Many of them were much more onto it about filling out their Policy Local pages.

Join us and help make
independent journalism happen!
Find Out More

As well as that, there’s the Greater Wellington Regional Council, the DHB, the Hutt Mana Charitable Trust, and a few community boards.

Where can I find out more?

On Policy Local, our nationwide candidate comparison tool, of course. Beyond the Spinoff, there’s one broadcaster out there doing a whole lot of incredible meet-the-candidates interviews for races all over the Hutt. That’s Sally-Ann Moffat, who is also behind the cleanfill campaign. Seriously, go to her Facebook page and watch some of the interviews on the sofa, with her dog Diva sitting in as well. They’re really good.

What voting system gets used?

The bad one – First Past the Post.

The Spinoff local election coverage is entirely funded by The Spinoff Members. For more about becoming a member and supporting The Spinoff’s journalism click here.



The Spinoff is made possible by the generous support of the following organisations.
Please help us by supporting them.