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July 22, 2019 | by  | in News |
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Accessibility: Teri O’Neill is Running for Council

*Teri O’Neill: WCC Eastern Ward Candidate*

Teri grew up in Lyall Bay in a rental home with her mum. She thinks they did alright. But just down the road, her friends’ families were growing up in damp, mouldy council housing. 

 

Those families serve as a regular reminder to Teri of why she’s running for Wellington City Council. In her words, “the safety net they were told to be grateful for was covered in mould and making them sick… holding them down rather than holding them up”. 

 

It’s no surprise, then, that community-building and housing are key issues for Teri, and eliminating homelessness in Wellington is a primary part of her platform. 

 

Security and quality of housing was a topic that came up regularly in her interview with us. 

 

Within this, she also pointed to the importance of accessibility in the city to both services, and ensuring there is “mad consultation” in the decision-making processes themselves.

 

As a long-time advocate and Young Labour stalwart, a place on Wellington City Council (which she abbreviates to “Dub CC”) would grant her greater sway over the decisions of a city she lives in, and a ward that is “very much my home”.

 

*Housing and Community Services: “Can definitely do a lot more”*

With 50–80,000 more people expected to live in Wellington in the next ten years, Teri considers it unquestionably essential to grow the council housing stock. 

 

However, there are a number of important aspects that she wants to be considered in growing council housing. This includes a rental warrant of fitness, wrap-around drug and addiction services, and the building up—rather than out—of the city to protect Wellington’s green belts and reserves.

   

She also advocates for education support from council, and wants “more free and available community education services. More [free] Te Reo Māori services. Things like making night school more available. There’s so much more we can do.”

 

In short, she believes “we need to be more warm when looking at people and housing.”

 

*Public Transport*

Accessibility is a big part of Teri’s vision in general, but especially for transport. As her home turf, she’s keenly aware that the Eastern Ward was one of the areas worst hit by the Regional Council’s “bustrastrophe”.

 

She asserts that to resolve it, and avoid this happening again, local authorities need to do more listening and place greater emphasis on people with different transport needs, such as the elderly, or school children.

  

“The most vocal majority are the people that harp on on Twitter, and what we really need is for people to listen to the actual community that’s being affected,” she said (Teri’s twitter handle, by the way, is @TeriONeillNZ).

 

While acknowledging that WCC has no direct control over those services, she thinks sitting on WCC will be an opportunity for advocacy, as the council does control some public transport related issues, such as transport hubs. Talking with residents of her ward, she says things as simple as moving a bus stop 100 metres down the road can make a huge positive difference for people.

 

In more tangible terms, she is a supporter of the fully electric bus fleet and accessible roads, and wants to support the council’s push for the most accessible bus stops in the country.

   

*Climate Change*

Teri has an ongoing history with the council and councillors on climate change. She worked with Councillor Iona Pannett to push the recently declared climate emergency, and submitted on the proposal herself.

 

Looking at more tangible action following the emergency, Teri has a number of options in mind. On emissions targets, she wants “more than net zero emissions by 2050. We can do it by 2030.”

 

She also plans to promote council plans being costed against climate impacts, not just economic growth. She wants the issue recognised in the council’s priorities (she acknowledges she’s a “bit of a nerd” for them), and wants to see more funding towards innovations in those reductions, and more community-lead initiatives.

 

*Te Tiriti o Waitangi*

Teri’s belief in Te Tiriti o Waitangi and partnership with Māori was apparent throughout the interview. It was an essential part of her work on the climate emergency, in part because the tangata whenua, as kaitiaki in the region, “have been doing the most work in that area to take care of the land”.

 

When asked about forming partnerships between council and iwi, she said it would need to be built on precedent: “There’s not really a law you can implement, other than recognising Te Tiriti o Waitangi.”

 

On principle, she believes “pretty much everything council does” needs to be in consultation with Māori.

  

*Mental Health*

Teri’s immediate concern with mental health in Wellington is loneliness. And she doesn’t think it’s confined to millennials, as it’s often stereotyped to be.

 

“What I’ve found is that when I’m speaking to people in rest homes, or people in residents associations, and other things like that, it’s actually a really big issue in our aging population as well.”

 

Teri’s proposal? A bigger focus on building community hubs to bridge the loneliness gap. She says a lot of them already exist, but just need more funding and support from the council.

 

She cited the council’s involvement in a Kaibosh community meal in Miramar, which came at little cost to the council and was effectively free for residents to attend. “That’s probably where I’d start,” she said.

 

*The Campaign*

Teri is proud of her position on the Labour Party ticket for the election. Not only do the principles and policies naturally align with her own, but she says it’s about the honesty of her values and alliances.

 

When asked about whether there were any Labour policies that concerned her, she acknowledged the party’s “rocky past” with Māori and Te Tiriti, and prioritising economic development over people.

 

She does, however, think the party’s seen a lot of improvements in policy since then, and also vows to use her ongoing membership to “create change from the inside” if necessary.

 

*To The Haters*

Teri’s response to a potential loss in the election was expected and straightforward: “Keep on working, keep on going.”

 

“I fully intend to hold the council accountable.”

 

***

 

COPY TEXT BOX FROM VIC PROFILE OVER

 

Captions:

  • Teri O’Neill with Interviewer Peter McKenzie, at an event I wasn’t invited to. RIP.
  • A map of Eastern Ward, stolen from the Electoral Commission. If you’re enrolled in this area (basically east of Mount Vic) Teri’s running to represent you.
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