17 Jan 2011

Take up dancing, mayor urges councillors

6:36 pm on 17 January 2011

A Wellington city councillor says the mayor's suggestion that they take up ballroom dancing or learn a new language is a joke.

Mayor Celia Wade-Brown wants them to pick up hobbies to sharpen their minds.

Ms Wade-Brown told Summer Report she made the suggestions after reading neuroscientific research which shows physical exercise and learning new skills helps increase brain function.

She says the council is facing some complex issues, including how to pay for its $87 million leaky homes bill, and says some councillors aren't very fast at reading documents and need to lift their performance.

Ms Wade-Brown says she finds it interesting some councillors have told the media her email is a joke rather than looking at the research.

One councillor who's not taking the suggestions seriously is Ray Ahipene-Mercer.

"For the record, I have done ballroom dancing and I have to say that has not equipped me any more usefully for the challenges of some of the personalities round the council table," he said.

Ms Wade-Brown says she suggested at the start of her email that councillors take courses in core issues and skills such as the RMA, speed reading and prioritising.

The national watchdog for local government says it is not what the mayor is saying, but why she is saying it that is important.

Council Watch spokesperson Jarrod Coburn says the quality of councillors has been slipping for some time and it suspects the relationship between Wellington residents and the council is at an all-time low, despite surveys to the contrary.