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October 1, 2007 | by  | in Features |
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Having a Mayor: a student’s guide to the Wellington local elections

If you’re a university student, you are by definition, smarter than most people. Statistically, you are also more likely to use the internet, more likely to buy newspapers, and finally, you’re more likely to vote. However, when it comes to local elections, it’s commonly considered that council chambers are for second-rate politicians trying to supplement their incomes and egos. As a result, the vast majority of Wellingtonians do not vote in local elections. Salient Feature Writer and Political Reporter Rob Addison interviews nine of the 11 mayoralty candidates to find out why Vic students should take notice of this year’s mayoralty race.

It’s safe to say that Wellington is a fairly popular place. The reasons are obvious: once referred to as ‘a village with skyscrapers’, Wellington infuses its metropolitan front with a hill-side charm, and is renowned for its diversity of culture and breadth of artistic flavour. Yet Wellington hasn’t always been like this. In fact, Wellington’s popularity has only spawned during the last decade. In 2001, The Evening Post journalist Simon Beattie captured the essence of this when he wrote: “The winds of change have well and truly blown through Wellington. Long gone is the Gliding On image of a grey, dull, windy Capital full of cardigan-wearing civil servants who bumble around in a place where the only interesting events are weddings and funerals.”

Despite this, there are 10 Wellingtonians who hope to wrestle Kerry Prendergast from her throne and create their own Wellingtopias. From aging hippies to nostalgic rockers, from high-rolling business-people to textbook Marxists, this year’s election has attracted candidates from the smallest nooks and crannies of Wellington’s jagged community – so don’t expect it to go down without a fight.

1. Why should Vic students be concerned with whom Wellington elects as its mayor?
2. How will Vic students benefit from you being elected as their mayor?
3. What are the most important issues facing Vic students and students generally?
4. Two really big issues for Vic students and students generally are excessively high rents and having to balance part-time work with study. How will your policies impact upon these two issues?
5. Did you go to university?
6. What do you advise students to do once they finish studying?

Ray Ahipene-Mercer

1. Students are big users of council owned or influenced services, including public transport, parks, pools, libraries and festivals, as well as all the other services everyone uses. Students with family in Wellington, or who live here after their studies, may have an interest in these things for generations to come.

2. To get improvements in the city, we need a mayor who can lead. The Mayor needs to lead not only the councillors (though that’s a good start), but the whole region, because Wellington City is the key city for the region. The environmental issues we face, including public transport, can only be solved with effective leadership from Wellington’s Mayor. As mayor, I will give my support to student campaigns to reduce student debt. I am particularly concerned that students, and only students, are required to borrow to meet their living expenses. This seems to me to be unreasonable and reduces the number of students going on to post-graduate work. We need these students in Wellington if we are to thrive as a university city.

3. Apart from student debt, I think the big issues are wage levels and housing. I am a strong supporter of City Council housing in the city – by and large, the provision of this housing leaves a lot of private rental accommodation free for students. I am committed to continuing this, and eager to work with Victoria and Massey to ensure that more quality student accommodation can be built. With better employment, there are now more jobs for students, but wages remain too low. My policies support business for growth and jobs. I want to see wages go up.

4. See my answer to # 3

5. I went to university many times in the 1960s and 1970s, but always to play music. I guess my tertiary education happened in a guitar workshop in London.

6. You should find a job you love, a partner you love, and a cause you love, and dedicate yourself to all three.

Paul Bailey

1. The effect of local politics on all residents is far more pronounced than those decisions made at the national level. The building policies of the council directly affect the availability of student accommodation. The business policies directly affect the availability of part-time work. These are big issues for students and issues you can influence with your vote.

2. The biggest benefit is my understanding. I still study part-time at Massey.

3. Accommodation. For this there is no simple answer. But, I do want to address the spiraling property values that directly affect the spiraling rents.

4. There is no quick fix to the previous policies that have caused rents to spiral. The infill policy meant that every square metre of land acquired an unrealistic value. This policy certainly has to change. I will ensure this happens. Balancing study with part-time work is never easy. But I intend to keep Wellington progressing to ensure that part-time work is still obtainable.

5. I have been a student on campus at Massey in Palmerston North as well as currently being an extramural student.

6. Gain experience locally that can be used to refine your skills and make you a more desirable candidate. Then explore. Experience new places and opportunities. Return to NZ and apply that knowledge to keep NZ at the forefront of the world. Keep us at the forefront of the world.

Rob Goulden

1. They should be interested in the future of their city and what goes on in it. I think voting is about expressing one of your most fundamental rights.

2. Hopefully they get to live in the most vibrant innovative city in the world. I hope to make it that way.

3. Lack of public transport, lack of low cost housing and student fees are far too high. Hopefully I can have a major influence on at least the first two issues.

4. Keep the rates down. Reduce the city debt and make sure there are plenty of jobs for people so they can manage their study and some part time work.

5. Yes I studied at Victoria in the ‘80s and completed an MBA from Massey in 1998.

6. I think either find good reliable work or travel and get some experience. Ultimately I would like them to stay here and use their skills and experience and make Wellington a better place.

Nick Kelly

1. In recent years the council have been lowering rates charged to business and increasing rates for home owners. For students this shift results in increased rents, meaning students’ pitiful allowance is stretched further or the loan gets even bigger.

2. I am standing as the Workers’ Party mayoral candidate… We want a City Council that is run by the people for the people – not by a small group of council members who serve business. Mass democracy and establishing councils of workers and students, the modern version of the soviet system that existed in the first few years after the 1917 Revolution in Russia.

3. Over the last couple of years, government funding of tertiary education has been slashed. The Workers’ Party supports using council resources to help students fight against education cuts, fee increases and call on workers in Wellington to support students in this struggle.

4. I am the only candidate who does not support business and does not believe business has a right to make a profit. High costs of living, exploitation at part-time or full time work and generally high costs for students can only be fully solved by putting an end to the capitalist system and building a new socialist society.

5. In 2006 I was President of VUWSA. We achieved a lot in 2006, and I did a considerably better job as President than the self serving Labourite who has been in the job in 2007.

6. “Washing one’s hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless means to side with the powerful, not to be neutral” Freire. The above quote sums it up.

John McGrath

1. The student body as a significant, intelligent and educated part of the city’s population should have a strong influence in the fortunes of the city. A good Mayor and Council should recognise the significance of a student body and their ability to influence positive development of the city. The Mayor and Council need to recognise the needs of a student body, such as better living conditions… I will set up a student think tank made up of students to make this a reality.

2. Essentially I don’t care about politics, but I do care about Wellington City. My policies are all about creating a more vibrant city. To do this we need to encourage more people to live in the city, and have more creative and innovative small businesses in the city. I want to build on that and promote Wellington as the number one destination for educational excellence. I want to sort broadband and increase technology access for students. My business policies will keep big business here and make it more accessible for when students want job experience. My ‘no red tape’ policy will make it easier for students who want to start their own small, creative and innovative business… I want to encourage more sport access for students. I want increased student discounts for public transport, the arts, movies and events. I want Wellington to be affordable to live and study here. I want to make it easier for students to live and survive here economically.

3. Student loan, work and income, balancing everything to survive, slow technology, expensive transportation, not enough accommodation, parking, safety… The Council may not be able to sort out your student loan but it can help with accommodation, facilitating better broadband, increased jobs by increased business activity and tourism, cheaper transportation, make the streets safer, cheaper parking with a student card.

4. These issues must be addressed immediately with more affordable accommodation built for students and potential accommodation subsidies.

5. I dabbled in politics as a member of the Young Nationals and was their Otago/Southland publicity coordinator.

6. Our traditional New Zealand values and the necessity and obligation of feeling we have to ‘pay back the student loan, get a job thing’ is somehow made paramount. Well that is a load of bollocks. Take your time, learn a lot, travel if you can and have no regrets.

Bryan Pepperell

1. Students use council amenities and services like every one else.

2. I will have an open door for students to bring their problems like anybody else.

3. Rented accommodation will increase if the rates differential is shifted further. I oppose shifting the rates from business to residents.

4. By stopping the transfer of business rates onto residential property. This will lessen rental increases.

5. I went to Victoria and ran my own Samizdat Publication.

6. Go and experience the diversity of the world. Learn to think outside the square and be adaptable.

Kerry Prendergast

1. Because young people will, hopefully, come to take over from the generation currently running the city, and should take an interest in what is currently being done with their inheritance.

2. Under my leadership of six years, safety and quality of life in Wellington City have improved. The economy is solid and your chances of a career-advancing job on completion of your degree have improved.

3. Getting a good degree which will allow you to then make quality job decisions. Creating a great quality of life in the city attracts companies and people who can provide those jobs for young graduates.

4. Our support for the tourism, retail, and hospitality sector gives part time job opportunities. The cost of rent is not within our control.

5. Not involved in Campus issues.

6. Get your OE to enhance your CV, then return to Wellington and help build our economy and enjoy our lifestyle as the best little place to bring up your family.

Helene Ritchie

1. Local politics are about you, your life and where you live.

2. I am used to student life and I love the enthusiasm of young people. I will benefit from them and they from me – in dialogue and in support and funding for significant student facilities such as the National School of Music.

3. Student loans. Food. Enough money to live on. Sex and relationships and all the things that make for a good life which without don’t! Climate change and the sustainability of the environment, the City and the planet, public transport, car parking, the next exam or assignment, what’s for dinner. I have long been a strong advocate on environmental and social justice issues, initiated and drove the Moa Point sewage campaign, and the declaration of Wellington as a nuclear weapon free zone; and drove the Civic centre Project – the project that gave Wellington a heart – Civic Square, and that is a melding of world class architecture in the Athfield library and the Civic buildings, and the retention of our historic buildings which we nearly lost – the Town Hall and the City Art Galley. We created a wonderful space for events and a unique City to Sea Bridge. My other priorities are all important for students; health is paramount.

4. Some students are able to take advantage of Council housing. I am proposing income related rents so that people have certainty. Market rents as at present are high and unfair for people on fixed incomes. I can do little about high private rents. Balancing part-time work with study is a personal issue.

5. I was involved in some international issues and various clubs.

6. Have a ball. See the world. Take a break. Find some work they really enjoy, but realise that nothing is forever. Live life to the max as I do!

Nick Wang

1. Vic students are important in our communities and city. The City should look after the youth well.

2. One of my key policies is: Youth Paradise [which] will be in Courtenay Place in Wellington by end of 2009. It would be ideal if Courtenay Place could become a weekends enclosed pedestrian precinct. The koha of 50c per person per trip weekend trains and buses will bring lots of young people from Hutt and Porirua and even from Manawatu to the Capital. This would increase opportunities for business and festivals and play an important part in this vibrate city’s life. The centre will attract teenage and university students to have more options to understand their communities. Use of the centres well may help to eliminate social problems such as youth suicide with programmes to build confidence and self esteem in young people. The centres can provide classes that those are not available at schools e.g. New Zealand and foreign histories, foreign languages and cultures, etc. run by local communities, especially ethnic communities. All the communities/associations can receive one free car park ticket from the WCC to park their cars in Wellington City.

International Universities & College Students Festival – IUCSF: As a trial youth project WCC will support the students’ associations of Massey and Victoria universities and link with the two polytechnics in Hutt City and Porirua and include high school students to organise IUCSF in Wellington. This would encompass a cultural festival, sports games, academy seminars, youth fun, etc.

3. Affordable housing policy to lower the rent.

4. The social reform, make home ownership affordable, will cap the rent well. My effective ways to bring more businesses back to Wellington and bring the huge business opportunities of this century to Wellington. To use increasing business to promote more cheap and quality council housing.

5. Yes, I was a class head to work between the department of the university and the classmates.

6. If the students do not want to take a further study, then they should find a job for a very important thing which is gain work experience and social experience and skills.


The two remaining mayoralty candidates, Carl Gifford and Jack Ruben, did not respond to Salient’s request for interviews.

The Election is held on Saturday, October 13 2007. If you would still like to vote but haven’t enrolled, you will need to apply for a ‘Special Vote’ by Friday, October 12. To do this, visit a local post shop or call: 0800 ENROLNOW (0800 36 76 56).

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