28/02/11
by

An Orientation

Welcome back to university 2011: another year to slog away at that degree and to party. To all the first years: bring it. Vic and Wellington are both great—you’ll have a rage of a time here, but unless you’re a huge Pols or Law geek, it probably wasn’t our local politics that attracted you to study here. It certainly wasn’t for me.

In the local elections last October, Celia Wade-Brown was elected as Wellington City Council’s (WCC) first Green mayor. Being an Envi kid, and usually a bit left-leaning, I thought this was pretty exciting. Celia seemed like an approachable person, who was passionate about Wellington and how it could be sustainably developed. She gave me hope that positive changes could be made to Wellington within a community mindset.

This column will follow Celia’s progress through council over the year and cover the going-ons. The wider regional council and central government will inevitably come into discussion also. I aim to write about how WCC are handling their responsibilities, how they’re fixing problems and how they’re perceived by the public. I will be questioning Celia’s decisions, and looking at the impacts that they have. This is a column of opinion: mine. As I’m learning too, this column should be understandable, informative and somewhat interesting. If you have any questions, critiques or suggestions, my contact details are (katefollowscelia@gmail.com) and @kfcelia.

Local government is important. WCC has their activity programme split into seven areas: governance, environment, economic development, cultural well-being, social and recreation, urban development and transport. This gives them a huge amount of responsibility, including beaches and parks, stormwater management, events, heritage buildings, museums, libraries, recreation services, housing, building control, civil defence, transport networks, parking—the list continues, as does my word count. If a body is in charge of all these public services and goods, then their subsequent power contributes greatly to their importance.

The diversification of power is good because it stops one body—the central government, say—or person—such as John Key—from having too much power and going all crazy on us. It means that one person’s power is limited, and can be kept in check.

Local politics are more accessible, though this is less of an issue living in the capital. The councillors live in the territory. They’re representing a smaller area with a smaller population—180,000 odd, compared to 4,200,000. Our city council has be the ability to be more responsive to the people—and it’s easier to tell the council what we want. Seriously, it is super easy to bring up an issue with the council – in their annual plan, through petitions, speaking at a council meeting, emailing a councillor and so forth. So get to it.
Next issue: how does this council business work, who else is working with Celia, and what do they plan to do?

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