Wellington Mayor Andy Foster announces independent review of city council’s governance

Wellington Mayor Andy Foster has announced an independent review of the city council’s governance.

Today he told councillors at a full Wellington City Council meeting it was apparent they have arrived at a crossroads and a significant change in governance was required.

“The time to do that is now,” Foster said.

“A succession of incidents and comments over a period of time has given cause to an environment of public and media speculation and now ministerial comment.”

Foster said the public’s belief in their ability as councillors, and as an elected group to govern, has been shaken and eroded.

“I want us all as elected representatives to seize this moment, dispel the current atmosphere of rancour and partisanship and move to a position where can make better decisions and focus on what really matters.”

Yesterday, Minister for Local Government Nanaia Mahuta said she hasn’t sought advice on whether a commissioner or observer would be appropriate for Wellington City Council – yet.

“I certainly don’t want to be the Minister for Local Government commissions and my preference is to ensure that local government and councils have the ability to undertake other avenues to be able to strengthen their governance or seek advice and support.

“They have their own professional entities that can offer that type of advice and I would urge them to look that way first.”

Foster said the fact the minister has even formally commented should be of concern to all elected members.

It has been a tumultuous few days for Wellington City Council after deliberations at a Long Term Plan meeting on Thursday boiled over.

Foster has found himself in a very public feud with some councillors over his proposal to sell part of the Central Library building.

Meanwhile, Wellington’s local Green Party is convening and set to issue a “please explain” after Deputy Mayor Sarah Free voted against a proposal to triple the cycleway budget.

Foster said the review would undertake face to face meetings, observe the governance and practice of the council, and provide a recommended action plan.

A notice of motion was circulated for councillors to sign, but every councillor stood in support of the move.

“I want to ensure Wellington City retains a democratically elected council,” Foster said.

Foster has faced frequent speculation about whether commissioners should be called in over the course of what has been a bumpy first term in the top job.

At the weekend, councillor Fleur Fitzsimons wrote to the Auditor-General asking for an investigation into a last-minute proposal to sell part of the Central Library building.

She voiced concerns that recent decision-making over the building isn’t consistent with the Local Government Act or in line with good governance.

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