“I’m going to be the next mayor of Wellington,” said Justin Lester at his recent campaign launch on the Wellington waterfront.
Lester made promises of a rates rebate of $5000 for first home builders, a rental warrant of fitness (WOF), and investment in social housing—with more student-focused policies to be announced further into the campaign.
Painting a family-friendly picture, he told the story of meeting his wife in a German literature class 19 years ago, before apologising to her for pursuing a career in politics.
Lester has spent six years as deputy mayor of Wellington, under current mayor Celia Wade-Brown, and is the co-founder of local food company Kapai.
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He spoke of his upbringing in Invercargill, where he was raised by his single mother in a state house. His family did not have a car or a lot of money, but “the community was always there for us.” He wants to ensure that “everyone has the same opportunities” as he had growing up.
He wants to address the gender disparity and ingrained sexism within the council, including a gender pay gap between council members, as well as the fact that there is only one woman on the council’s senior leadership team.
He made a policy promise of free swimming pool entry for children under five years old in the Wellington region, and said it was unacceptable that seven out of ten kids in New Zealand can’t swim.
He said rental housing standards in Wellington are “not up to scratch.” Lester grew up in a cold, damp, and mouldy house, and said that “in 2016 no one in this city should have to do that.” He said he would send a local bill to parliament to secure a rental WOF throughout Wellington, to ensure that homes are warm, dry, and safe before they can be rented out.
“We don’t want to be another Auckland,” Lester said, raising the issue that Wellington is becoming particularly attractive to potential homeowners for its affordability. This was followed by a policy promise of the “$5000 rebate for first home builders.”
He also supports the airport runway extension, saying it will mean “thousands more jobs, students, tourists, and millions more for our local economy.”
Salient was impressed with the Kapai catering on offer, a spread which included brownies, energy slice, kumara hash, and kebabs. There was also face painting, but Salient resisted the urge to join the kids becoming sparkly cats.