5 Aug 2016

Shake-up for Wellington's mayoral contest

5:41 pm on 5 August 2016

A contender for the Wellington mayoralty believes Celia Wade-Brown's decision not to stand again will alter the contest.

Ms Wade-Brown announced today she would step down in October after six years in the job, after apparently aiming for a third term.

She said she was moving on to the next phase of her career, which would involve a mixture of business, directorships and teaching English as a second language.

Wellington mayoral contender and current mayor of Porirua Nick Leggett said an incumbent always had an advantage when running for office, and Ms Wade-Brown's move raised questions about political alliances.

Porirua mayor Nick Leggett

Nick Leggett Photo: RNZ / Adriana Weber

"There is sort of a question mark over whether Labour and the Greens have done a deal in terms of their pact nationally, and whether she stepped aside for Justin Lester as the Labour candidate.

"And clearly there is an alignment taking place with Jo Coughlan very much the National candidate, Justin is the Labour candidate, and everybody else is, sort of, somewhere else."

However, Mr Leggett said that it would not disadvantage his own campaign to be mayor.

At a news conference this morning, Ms Wade-Brown said she was ready to serve the community in a different way.

"I'm really proud of what I've achieved as mayor, together with Wellingtonians, councillors, council staff, volunteers - all the wonderful people who make up this city," she said. "Wellington is recognised internationally as a city with an extremely high quality of life."

The economy was in good shape, she said, and key projects such as the Movie Museum and Conference Centre, the Town Hall restoration and runway extension were under way.

She defended the city's controversial cycleway plans, and said she was pleased to have secured more than $37 million in council and government funding.

Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown

Ms Wade-Brown speaks at this morning's news conference in Wellington Photo: SUPPLIED / WCC

"Around the world changing transport whether it's moving parks, or putting in motorways or taking out motorways or doing cycleways, it's the most controversial thing you can do.

"You're only going to make headlines when you do something controversial."

One of her earliest mayoral pledges was light rail for the central city, and Ms Wade-Brown said that was "still on the medium-term agenda".

Mr Leggett, Wellington deputy mayor Justin Lester and councillors Jo Coughlan, Nicola Young, Andy Foster and Helene Ritchie, and independent Keith Johnson, have said they would stand for the job.

Nominations close on 12 August.

Several candidates paid tribute to Ms Wade-Brown's work and enthusiasm for Wellington.

"Celia came into the job with a clear vision for the city, and she has pursued that vision with gusto," Mr Leggett said.

"She is a woman of sincere conviction, and deserves credit for that."

Mr Lester said he applauded anyone who stood for public office, and Ms Wade-Brown had always done her job with integrity.

"She always stood up for the little person, campaigned hard for the living wage and was a staunch advocate for cycling."

Ms Coughlan said she had valued the mayor's input around the council table.

"I wish Celia all the best with her future endeavours, and look forward to working with her in the future should the opportunity arise."