Andy Foster, flanked by the two most likely candidates for deputy mayor Fleur Fitzsimons and Sarah Free

The Bulletin: Foster faces fights with new Wellington council

Good morning, and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Wellington’s new mayor faces difficult three years, Zero Carbon bill select committee report comes back, and extremist preacher barred from NZ

Partly because it was a widely unexpected result, the opening days of Wellington mayor Andy Foster’s tenure have been gripping. He has inherited a Council which roughly leans left, and faces a difficult three years if he wants to get his campaign agenda through. The next three years could be a reminder to Wellingtonians about the drama and importance of local government.

Picking a deputy will be an early test of the balance of power. It was reported last week by the NZ Herald’s Georgina Campbell (paywalled) that there were moves to get the (relatively speaking) right leaning Diane Calvert or Nicola Young in the mix. But now Stuff’s Tom Hunt reports an ultimatum has been made, and that neither of those choices are acceptable to the bulk of the Council. Fleur Fitzsimons from Labour or Sarah Free from the Greens are considered the frontrunners. Fellow Green Iona Pannett was also mentioned, but that would be surprising as she can sometimes be an outlier, for example when she accused all of her colleagues as being climate change deniers. Foster could of course try and push through his own deputy anyway, but that can have less than desirable results for any mayor who tries it.

The new council features six new arrivals, scattered throughout wards across the city. The average age is brought down sharply by Tamatha Paul and Teri O’Neill, both in their early 20s, who were part of a wider wave of young candidates who got elected across the region. A fascinating subplot of the wider politics of greater Wellington will be how closely the wider cohort of young people work together, and who among them will emerge as leaders.

Over and above the personalities, what are the policy battles? Wellington is a city with as many opinions about transport as residents, and wrangling over the Let’s Get Wellington Moving plan will be full of detail. Among Foster’s ideal outcomes is a reprioritisation of the second Mt Vic tunnel, ahead of the development of a mass transit network. Either way, the idea that LGWM (or any elected politician) will fix congestion in a hurry is fanciful, and other ideas could be looked at in more immediate terms, for example this suggestion around the implementation of busways from the TraNZport blog, or a wider discussion of how public transport needs to be integrated into tunnel plans from the Traffic Jam blog.

Foster will also now be in a position to actually deliver some sort of Shelly Bay solution. The Inside Wellington blog has identified urban planning as an area where he will have huge struggles, and predicts it will be impossible to find “a way forward for Shelly Bay and the Miramar peninsula fully involving the community”. The author also foresees continual headaches over public buildings like the closed central library, and the new spatial plan for anticipated growth.

As always, the city will need to find money from somewhere. Rates will be an issue for Foster, with projected rises far higher than he promised. He told Newshub Nationthat the current projections would be too much for businesses and homeowners to manage, though didn’t give a direct answer about what to cut instead. In terms of the Council’s wider budget, the airport will play a key role in it all. Foster campaigned on removing funding for the airport extension, and has now tested the waters on a selldown of the Council’s stake in the airport.

After all that, there’s still a remote chance Foster won’t be mayor. He has won according to the final vote tally, but we’ll wait and see in the next couple of days if Justin Lester asks for the 62 vote margin to be challenged via a recount.

Finally, there’s a quick point I want to make about this coverage generally of one city council. It’s made possible by the fact that Wellington has many strong and competing journalists on this beat, and a thriving ecosystem of bloggers and commentators. Per capita, it is uniquely well covered, and while many other places have people doing quality work, it is rarely matched in quantity. For local democracy to work best, there needs to be more than one media outlet paying attention.


The select committee report into the Zero Carbon bill has come back, and the originally proposed methane targets are unchanged. The NZ Heraldreports this means the range of targets (between 24% and 47% reduction below 2017 levels by 2050) will still be in place. National won’t say whether it’ll still support the bill, due to have a second reading soon. There’s conjecture over whether it’ll mean stock reductions, or whether technological developments will be sufficient to bring down emissions. You can read the full report here.

Among the other recommendations, there is a loosening on the requirements around offshore mitigation, though it stresses that emissions mitigation should happen domestically as a priority. There would also be the explicit requirement for the minister “to have regard to the potential implications of land-use change for communities,” particularly around rural land use. Finally, the report also had an interesting bit around “mandatory consideration” of the 2050 emissions target in legislation, saying “there would be merit in enabling the Government, through a regulation making power, to identify specific decisions, under specific Acts, where consideration of the target and budgets should be mandatory.” How that gets interpreted by the government of the day could seriously impact whether or not the targets are reached.


An extremist Baptist preacher has been barred from entering New Zealand, reports Josie Adams for The Spinoff. Steven Anderson of the Faithful Word Baptist Church was rejected on character grounds, along with his deportation or blocking from 33 other countries. Anderson preaches a profoundly violent, racist, anti-semitic and anti-LGBT doctrine, and has threatened the “wrath of God” will fall upon New Zealand as a result of Immigration NZ’s decision.


The two leading MPs on either side of the cannabis legalisation debate have thrashed out the issue in detail. Chlöe Swarbrick and Paula Bennett appeared on Q+A, and were subjected to rigorous tests of their arguments from Jack Tame. Our TV editor Sam Brooks decided to review it, and came away impressed the grasp of the issues held by both MPs, and interest in getting the best outcome for the country.


A vote is likely today on a 30km/h speed limit on roads in the Auckland CBD, reports the NZ Herald (paywalled.) It’s part of a wider package of speed reductions across the city, aimed at having cars kill fewer people than they currently do – between 2014 and 2017 there was a 78% rise in deaths and serious injuries on Auckland roads. Speaking personally, I think it’s a great idea in part because it would increase the level of safety for cyclists sharing the road with cars.


A vaccine against whooping cough has seen a “dismal” uptake, reports Farah Hancock for Newsroom. Cases of the disease remain stubbornly common, and the outcomes for babies who get it can be severe. A booster shot of the vaccine during pregnancy results in antibodies being passed through the placenta to the baby, but in 2013 when it was made available for free, only 13% of those carrying children took it up in the subsequent two years. The reason given for those low rates was a lack of promotion of the vaccine, and a lack of follow up with mothers from the health system.


Hamilton’s representatives are looking ahead to the city becoming the second largest in the country. That’s one of the takeaways from this Waikato Times feature on the various infrastructure projects now underway around the city, at the heart of a rapidly growing region. It is also expected that over the coming decades the labour markets of Auckland and Hamilton will start to merge, particularly with the development of commuter rail between them.


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A 2016 photo of the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra (Image: apo.co.nz)

Right now on The Spinoff: Alice Neville writes about efforts to reduce the amount of plastic waste in the oceans. Alice Webb-Liddall has a useful cheat sheet on the current terrorism suppression legislation going through parliament. Tara Ward introduces the contestants on the Great Kiwi Bake-Off. Josie Adams writes about what advanced internet technology has meant for an Otago ag-tech company. Josie Adams also recently sat in during a filming of Have You Been Paying Attention?

Plus, in my opinion the must read piece of the day: 12 year old piano enthusiast Harper Chapman got to go to the orchestra, thanks to a shout from his aunty Madeleine. I think anyone who can remember the bewilderment and wonder of their first experiences of classical music will find something relatable in this review.


A recent film industry summit on the ‘Power of Inclusion’ was criticised as anything but that by one of the speakers. Filmmaker Julie Zhu was unimpressed by a lot of what she was seeing and hearing, both at the event itself, and around the wider film industry. What she then told the summit has been republished by the Pantograph Punch, and it’s a storming discussion of racism, economic exclusion and power. Here’s an excerpt:

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I don’t doubt the goodwill and genuine intentions of the organisers behind this event but we’ve reached a point where good intentions aren’t enough. And we aren’t going to give people a pat on the back for every good attempt or good intention anymore.

Nowadays I don’t get mad as much at overt racism. I think covert and institutional racism is much more insidious, and the way to solve that is not just inclusion but it’s about those with the power actively giving that power up. In order to dismantle the systems that we have now, it’s not just about bringing others in, it’s about those with power and privilege making space and giving up some of that power. And if that statement makes you uncomfortable then it’s clear your interest in this idea of diversity and inclusion is only when it serves you, not for the benefit of others.


With their season now underway, it’s time to check in on the Breakers. They’ve lost two from two so far, the latest being a 10 point defeats to the Sydney Kings. The NZ Herald’s Christopher Reive saying overly-aggressive pushing of lower percentage shots was the reason they fell apart later in the game, particularly with the hastily assembled roster yet to find a solid groove together.


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