4 Apr 2016

The race to be Wellington's mayor

9:46 am on 4 April 2016

Four mayoral candidates have thrown their hat in the ring to lead Wellington, but the race is just getting started.

Wellington mayoral candidates Justin Lester, Jo Coughlan, Nicola Young, and the incumbent Celia Wade-Brown.

Wellington mayoral candidates Justin Lester, Jo Coughlan, Nicola Young, and the incumbent Celia Wade-Brown. Photo: Wellington City Council / RNZ

More are expected to vie for the role, possibly including Porirua mayor Nick Leggett.

Jo Coughlan is the latest councillor to join the race, while her colleague Justin Lester has just officially launched his campaign.

Labour Party candidate Mr Lester chose the waterfront to launch his campaign and announce his first set of policies yesterday.

He said he loved Wellington, and wanted to make it even better.

"I'll come in with fresh ideas to give our people the city they deserve," he said.

Wellington City Council Deputy Mayor Justin Lester at the Singapore Airline announcement  of flights from Wellington to Canberra.

Justin Lester says he has 'fresh ideas'. Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

"I'm going to make swimming pool entry for [children] under five completely free ... Second of all I'm going to get serious about housing in Wellington. We don't want to be another Auckland. As mayor I'm going to offer a $5000 rates rebate to anyone who wants to build their first home here."

"I've managed my own business for 10 years, I know you can't do anything if you don't have new income, so I'm saying let's prioritise our spend within the existing envelope, but lets do things smarter, these aren't big amounts of money that we're talking about, but what they are though is a smarter ways of doing things."

Mr Lester owns takeaway franchise Ka Pai.

He, like all the candidates, said he was driven to prove the prime minister wrong and show Wellington was not a dying city.

The latest candidate to put her name forward is Mrs Coughlan.

Her focus is on infrastructure - the roads and houses needed for growth.

Mayoral candidate Jo Coughlan says her top priority is to improve Wellington's infrastructure.

Mayoral candidate Jo Coughlan says her top priority is improving Wellington's infrastructure. Photo: Supplied

"There are some major infrastructure projects in the city that have not been addressed and in fact we have seen they city go backwards in that regard and I think that's a frustration for people," she said.

Mrs Coughlan wanted a second tunnel through Mt Victoria, the roads through the Basin Reserve sorted out, and said that would be part of the plan to get Wellington moving.

She wanted to champion the city's tech industry, and lead development on a purpose-built 10,000 to 12,000-seat covered arena.

Councillor Nicola Young is also standing on a platform of economic growth.

"We need to focus on developing strong relationships with our tertiary providers, the universities, and tertiary institutions, and working together with developers to build more student accommodation," she said.

Nicola Young - wants Kate Sheppard lights to stay

Nicola Young is standing on a platform of economic growth. Photo: RNZ / Teresa Cowie

"Education is the economic future of Wellington, we need to be an educational hub."

On transport Ms Young wanted a high-level review of how the city's roading worked, because there was too much traffic in the central city.

Most of all, she wanted people to know what she stood for, and that she would not waste the city's time.

"I'm very good at making decisions, I listen and then I make decisions," she said.

"The current council have so many sham consultations, the sham consultation on the Island Bay cycleway, the sham consultation on the Island Bay seawall.

"Consultation is enormously expensive and if you're not going to make it worthwhile then don't do it, be honest about it."

The three candidates all thought current mayor Celia Wade-Brown had her chance to lead the city, and now it was their turn.

But the incumbent was quick to point to her successes: the conference centre and film museum; a living wage for Wellington starting with council staff; shared services for Council; investment in the regional amenities fund; a long-haul flight out of the Capital.

With six years under her belt, Ms Wade-Brown said she knew what the city needed - resilience planning, economic diversification, housing, and transport.

Wellington mayor Celia Wade-Brown

Current mayor Celia Wade-Brown. Photo: RNZ / Michael Cropp

"Resilience is sort of a unifying lens that you look at how is our city going to thrive despite whatever acute shocks there might be - and it might be storms, it might be earthquakes, but also those chronic stresses, so you need to look at economic diversification, you need to look at housing affordability."

Ms Wade-Brown said the reason there were so many vying for the top job was "all a sign that this is a great city and people want to be mayor of it. It's very successful city, a very attractive city and people love it very much".