Compare Wellington's mayoral candidates

5:05 pm on 29 September 2016

The local government voting deadline is just over a week away and deciding which box to tick in Wellington's mayoral contest can take right up to the last minute.

With Mayor Celia Wade-Brown deciding not to stand again we're taking a look at the candidates who want to replace her and their plans for the city.

They veer from rates to a runway extension, roading to cycleways and housing to homelessness.

Watch four of Wellington's mayoral candidates battle it out in an RNZ video debate here.

Jo Coughlan, Nick Leggett, Justin Lester, Nicola Young, Helene Ritchie, Andy Foster

Wellington mayoral candidates, clockwise from top left: Jo Coughlan, Nick Leggett, Justin Lester, Andy Foster, Helene Ritchie and Nicola Young. Photo: supplied


Jo Coughlan

Improve traffic flow by four-laning Ruahine Street and adding second tunnels under Mt Victoria and the Terrace. It's already in the regional land transport plan and part of the state highway network, but Ms Coughlan says it takes the leadership of the mayor to drive the projects.

Focus on an 'iconic' harbourside cycleway rather than commuter routes.

Council should lead the way on electric cars and associated infrastructure.

Nick Leggett

Sort out four-laning from the airport to create an "economic super-highway" from Wellington to Manawatu.

Wants a formal alliance of Wellington City Council, Greater Wellington Regional Council and the Transport Agency to better manage transport in the city.

Mount Victoria Tunnel.

Mount Victoria Tunnel Photo: SUPPLIED / NZTA

Justin Lester

Supports second tunnels at Mt Victoria and the Terrace and wants Grenada Link Road completed - all need to be addressed by 2025 as per the Regional Transport Plan.

Confident in the success of the "Let's Get Welly Moving" programme - a joint initiative between the city and regional councils and the Transport Agency to have a fresh look at the city's transport system and come up with solutions.

Worked on a truce with Island Bay residents to help the suburb work on a new transport plan.

Nicola Young

In favour of a "cut and cover" for Vivian Street (like the Arras Tunnel near the Basin Reserve) saying it will ease congestion through the CBD. Says such improvements will help increase walking and cycling, and allow Lambton Quay to be pedestrianised.

Awaits the outcomes of the "Let's Get Welly Moving" process.

Thinks the cycle network should have started in the CBD.

Helene Ritchie

Wants an increased focus on water transport, such as harbour ferries.

Hopes the "Let's Get Welly Moving" process comes up with some good ideas, but says there are things the council can do in the meantime.

Says safe cycleways throughout the city need to be prioritised over the Great Harbour Way.

Andy Foster

Getting people into public transport is the best way of reducing congestion and the city council should work with the regional council on that.

Will stick to the "Let's Get Welly Moving" process.

Working on delivering the already-agreed city cycleway network.

Keith Johnson

Says fixing problems with Basin Reserve and State Highway 1 is essential to the long-term economic health and social wellbeing of the city.

As a former Principal Adviser at Ministry of Transport, says he's well-placed to work with the government's transport agencies.

Johnny Overton

In favour of a totally new, integrated, more environmentally friendly transportation master plan.


House for sale in Titahi Bay, Wellington.

Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Jo Coughlan

Work with the government on solutions.

Work with IT developers on an application to connect those in need with people who are willing to help them.

Does not want to expand council housing.

Nick Leggett

Work with central government on a warrant of fitness (or similar) for rental properties.

Would seek urgent advice on quality of city's housing if elected.

Says a lot of housing is central government's responsibility, and does not want councils doing things outside their responsibility.

Justin Lester

Would introduce a rental warrant of fitness through a local bill in Parliament.

Has been supportive of Te Mahana (ending homelessness) strategy, and would set up a 'wet house' in the inner city for homeless people with addiction problems.

Says the city's proposed Urban Development Agency could step up to build residential homes to ensure affordability.

Nicola Young

Supports a rental warrant of fitness, but wants it to be optional to stop it pushing up rents across the city.

Thinks proposed Urban Development Agency could facilitate better building.

Says there is nothing compassionate about having people sleeping rough. More is needed from central government because council cannot provide the solution to every social problem. Should look at global best practice and long-term solutions.

Helene Ritchie

Supports a rental warrant of fitness.

Says money saved by not paying for runway extension could be used for extending council housing.

Andy Foster

Supports rental warrant of fitness.

Would continue current strategies of dealing with homelessness, and says building more homes is essential.

Urban Development Agency will help manage house building, ensure supply matches demand thus bringing down the cost.

Keith Johnson

Supports rental warrant of fitness. He says it's unlikely to raise rents or reduce supply.

The $90 million earmarked for the runway extension could be better used on housing.

Inadequate supply is pushing up the cost of housing in general. He says encouraging home ownership, even if through rent-to-own schemes, will also help.

* RNZ couldn't find a policy from Johnny Overton on homelessness.


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Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski

Jo Coughlan

Fix the roads to make such transport more accessible. Push for integrated ticketing across all modes.

Nick Leggett

Wants Bus Rapid Transit saying it's cost effective, flexible, and can be extended when needed. Pushing for integrated ticketing.

Justin Lester

Advocating discounted fares for students, freezing bus and train fares for next three years, push for integrated ticketing, fully electric bus fleet.

Nicola Young

Wants a single transport authority for the region. Bus shelters need to be designed for the weather. The realtime MetLink data should be made public so the IT development community can use it, too. Has campaigned for fare freezes.

Helene Ritchie

Upset that trolley buses are being taken away especially as they don't pollute. Would lobby central government to take back responsibility for the rail budget so bus fares can come down. Wants to start planning for light rail.

Andy Foster

Proud of the city's already high public transport use. Says electric buses are best for capacity, frequency, weekend and evening services. Wants discount fares as soon as possible. Council should work with the regional council to identify key congestion points for buses.

Keith Johnson

Prioritise a bus-based solution in the medium-term, but start planning for a light rail spine now.

Johnny Overton

Public transport should be integrated and use innovative technology.


The planned new building, as seen from Wakefield Street.

A new Movie Museum is among big ticket items on the cards for Wellington City Council. Photo: Supplied

Jo Coughlan

Committed to the current rates rises as set out in the annual and long-term plan. Won't be delivering a new budget in her first year. Would try to keep future rises around three percent.

Supports the Movie Museum and convention centre - on budget, on time.

A new 10,000 to 12,000 seat covered arena.

A new 50m pool at Kilbirnie.

Nick Leggett

Thinks rates increases should stay within 2-3 percent annually.

Would re-direct money from the City Growth Fund, often called the "slush fund," to the Wellington Regional Economic Development Agency so politicians weren't controlling it and 'picking winners'. The fund is aimed at supporting initiatives that will contribute to the capital's economic growth.

Offer rates deferral for people over 65.

Justin Lester

Agreed on current 3.6 percent rates increases, but believes rises should be between 2 and 3 percent longer term.

Living wage for all council staff.

Invest in Movie Museum and convention centre, and the airport extension for economic growth.

$5000 rates rebate for first-home builders.

Setting up a 'wet house' (see 'Housing & Homelessness').

Nicola Young

Wants to freeze rates at inflation by "cutting waste" and "sham consultations" - she says core services would be maintained.

Would scrap the secret spending in the council's City Growth Fund.

Pedestrianising Lambton Quay.

Supports the Movie Museum and convention centre.

Helene Ritchie

Supports the Movie Museum and convention centre.

Not a fan of current rates increases, saying Rates Rebate Act needs revision and stopping the runway extension would help relieve the rates bill.

Andy Foster

Two new inner city parks (paid for by reducing the cost of the Basin Reserve lights upgrade).

Supports the Movie Museum and convention centre.

Keith Johnson

Restrict rates increases to rate of inflation.

Opposes the 'rapid' accumulation of debt by the council as it could push rates up in the future.

Supports the Movie Museum and convention centre but wants to see how the business case stacks up.

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Johnny Overton would freeze rates Photo: WCC

Johnny Overton

Would freeze rates based on his expectations that there are substantial savings to be made in ending spending on "grandiose projects, exorbitant salaries and public relations campaigns".

Against funding the Movie Museum and convention centre.


Jo Coughlan

Has supported it so far, and will look at the business case if it gets resource consent. She says funding should be reflected by shareholding but doesn't explain whether that should be a commercial investment.

Nick Leggett

Supports the extension. If resource consent is granted, focus should be on central government support, and building up the business case.

Runway Wellington Airport

Wellington Airport Photo: Supplied

Justin Lester

Has held the airport portfolio this term and supports the idea. But he has caveats: resource consent, committed airline, financial structure including significant contributions from central government and the airport company.

Nicola Young

Was in favour, but now against. Says it could be a costly "white elephant", and unless Infratil contributes in line with its 66 percent shareholding of the airport company, the council should not be expected to fund the bulk of the costs.

Helene Ritchie

Against. Unnecessary, unjustified expenditure, and won't bring the long-haul flights the airport claims. Calling it corporate welfare.

Andy Foster

Supports the resource consent process, but wants to see more evidence of the public benefits.

Wants the extension owned by a new company, held in the names of the funders according to their respective levels of funding.

Keith Johnson

A registered objector. Has written extensively against the project on his blog.

Johnny Overton

Totally against.


Wellington's town belt will grow by 120 hectares.

Photo: 123rf

Jo Coughlan

In favour of more roads and will push for electric cars and associated facilities.

Wants to make the city pest free.

Nick Leggett

In favour of more roads.

Justin Lester

Says council can do more to lead on climate change issues.

Wants electric vehicles and to make public transport cheaper so more people use it.

In favour of a broad cycleway network.

Wants more/better roads.

Nicola Young

Wants cheaper public transport so more people use it.

Encourage sustainable living in higher density housing.

More green spaces for the central city.

Helene Ritchie

Wants the city to become the "greenest capital in the world" by learning from other environmentally friendly cities, such as Vancouver.

Relieve traffic congestion, but focus is on public transport.

Andy Foster

Two new inner city parks.

Council can lead on climate change issues by reducing emissions, and practical things like insulating its housing stock.

Must also consider resilience of sea walls, flood risk, and infrastructure.

Proponent of cycle-friendly city.

Wellington mayoral candidate Keith Johnson.

Keith Johnson proposes a 25-year transport accord Photo: RNZ / Michael Cropp

Keith Johnson

The Council can lead by example on climate change by creating progressive policies.

Proposes a multi-interest/multi-modal 25-year Transport Accord.

Cannot build out of congestion, but must build some new roads and improve existing ones.

Cycling network is dependent on community approval.

Johnny Overton

A self-styled "guerrilla gardener".

Profiles of all mayoral and ward candidates are here.

* To put together this guide, we looked over candidates' responses to community surveys and their public statements.

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