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March 24, 2014 | by  | in Features Homepage |
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Celia Wade-Brown

Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown occupies an office in the Council Buildings in Civic Square. As a person, she’s bubbly and earnest. As a politician, she’s keen and intelligent. She used to be a Green Party councillor, but is adamant that she is an independent mayor, beholden to no party structures and accountable only to Wellingtonians. Her English accent is still faintly noticeable.

 THE PERSON

Do you have a car?

Yes, a Subaru Outback. It stays at home during the week.

 How do you get to work?

I either bike or walk to work. I have three bikes – folding, normal, electric.

What do you have for lunch?

There is no typical lunch. Sometimes nothing when I’m very busy. Sometimes a toastie.

Favourite vegetable?

Fried aubergine.

Have you ever smoked pot?

When I was about 20.

Us too.

 

THE POLITICIAN

On getting involved in politics:

The only reason I’m in politics is because I did a beach clean-up once upon a time. I’ve always had a great interest in botany and zoology and ecology. I’d never thought of myself in politics, and then I did this clean-up for Greenpeace. I organised this adopt-a-beach event back in 1991 at Island Bay. It had a little write-up in the paper. I met a councillor at that time, and not long after that, I was asked if I was interested in running for Council.

On the environment:

It’s a philosophy that you can have a successful economy and a successful environment and an inclusive society. You’ve got to aim for it all working. I aim for a sustainable city. Reducing the impact of Wellingtonians on the natural environment is important, because the environment is a major part of the city. There is an overflow of birds from Zealandia. I’m not sure of any other city where you can hear Kaka flying around. It’s fantastic to be able to go for a kayak in the harbour at lunchtime. Oruaiti Reserve in Miramar is international-award-winning and involves dozens of groups. Wellington is a biophilic city. Contact with nature is important for the health of humans.

On the future of Wellington’s public transport:

The driving force is improving public transport. We’ve had flat patronage for the last few years. The idea of light rail captured my imagination and the public’s imagination. It went through a robust process of assessing routes, patronage, cost, practicability. There were 88 different modes and routes of transport looked at. The top three were light rail, bus rapid transit and bus priority. When we looked at the next stage, bus rapid transit made the most practical sense, and I changed my views to support it as the next significant step. At some point, we will need to move beyond bus rapid transit. Light rail may be a viable option for the future.

On walking and cycling:

Less than half of Wellingtonians drive to work, and more people walk than catch public transport. We’re the most walkable city in Australasia. Almost 20 per cent of Wellingtonians walk to work. This year, we have trebled the budget for cycling expenditure. There has been a 73 per cent increase in people who cycle to work since the last census. We have changed drain covers so that bike tyres don’t get stuck in them.

On fairer bus fares for students:

Yes, but I think that tertiary institutions need to contribute, as they do at Massey in Palmerston North. It must be cheaper for the University than having student carparks.

On the proposed Basin Reserve flyover:

I voted against it.

 On introducing warrants of fitness on rental properties:

Yes, and we are trialling it on a mix of private and council rental properties. We are one of five cities doing it. We have gone out with 31 criteria, but the final checklist will be smaller. We’re checking things like water temperature, dampness, safe electrics. We have to ask questions like do we include an earthquake check? Do we just look at insulation and heating, or do we look at safety?

On ways students can reduce their impact on the natural environment

Get a bike. Find out the walking shortcuts. Use the op shops. I’m an op-shopper. There’s lots of good ones. I’ve got a couple of second-hand dresses that I’ve worn to glitzy functions. Don’t overconsume. Most of all, get involved. Make submissions to the Council and to government. We got into this mess through a series of individual and political and corporate actions; we will get out of the mess by a series of individual political and corporate actions. It’s not all about the individual, and it’s not all about organisations like the Council.

 

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About the Author ()

Salient is a magazine. Salient is a website. Salient is an institution founded in 1938 to cater to the whim and fancy of students of Victoria University. We are partly funded by VUWSA and partly by gold bullion that was discovered under a pile of old Salients from the 40's. Salient welcomes your participation in debate on all the issues that we present to you, and if you're a student of Victoria University then you're more than welcome to drop in and have tea and scones with the contributors of this little rag in our little hideaway that overlooks Wellington.

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