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A Labour Mayor for Wellington

Written By: - Date published: 10:00 am, December 3rd, 2015 - 47 comments
Categories: labour, local government - Tags: ,

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Deputy Mayor Justin Lester is running on a Labour ticket in next year’s local body elections. Stuff reports:

Wellington’s mayoral team may be side-by-side for now, but they’ll come head to-head in next year’s local body elections.

Deputy mayor Justin Lester has broken his poker face and announced he will stand for the mayoralty in the October elections.

Lester, who will run on a Labour ticket, will be trying to oust his boss, mayor Celia Wade-Brown.


“Recently, I’ve realised at local government I can have a more tangible effect on the community I live in,” the two-term Northern ward councillor said.

“I want to give back and this doesn’t feel like a job, I enjoy it and I can help out a lot of people.”

Many would be surprised by Lester running with Labour backing, but the party represented the values he stood for.

“People seem to assume that I’m centre right because I wear a tie and a suit and I run a business,” he said.

“It’s not detrimental at all because people think I’m a safe pair of hands, but at the same time I do want to show the values I stand for and that’s Labour.”

If he was to win, Lester has some big Wellington projects on the top of his to do list – the film museum, airport runway extension and a convention centre.

He also said he’d be focusing on housing, economic investment, support for small businesses and building towards a pest-free Wellington.

You can follow his campaign on Facebook and Twitter, or sign up at the campaign website.

47 comments on “A Labour Mayor for Wellington ”

  1. millsy 1

    I thought Justin Lester was centre right…?

  2. Bill 2

    Am I really reading quotes of a ‘Labour ticket’ candidate being comfortable with a ‘centre right’ tag? Oh well.

    • Draco T Bastard 2.1

      Labour is a centre-right party and has been for the last thirty years. It’s unfortunate that the majority of people still seem to think that it’s a centre-left party.

  3. DoublePlusGood 3

    While Celia Wade-Brown has been abysmal (example: she’s a ‘Green’ mayor who is entirely happy allowing a weapons industry conference in Wellington), I’m really not getting the impression he’ll be any better – particularly since he wants the airport extension against all economic sense.
    I hope an actual left wing candidate shows up in time.

    • RedBaronCV 3.1

      I don’t particularly want weapons conferences in Wellington either. But when it comes to renting out council venues I’m not sure that any Mayor has that much power.
      All the council( not Mayor) could do would be to set a general policy ( no hiring for illegal purposes say) and then the officers run to that.
      But would it create a slippery slope – if a left wing council banned say arms groups a right wing council might ban all enviromental or organised labour groups.

      So I do sympathise but I’m not sure Celia is the problem.
      As to Lester , I’ve always thought he was a right winger so am surprised by the labour endorsement and urrgh to the Airport extension. It doesn’t stack up very well on economics although the articles I have seen hide this carefully and in every other way it’s a blot on the landscape. Notice how the extension is always shown as going out at the Lyall Bay end but the engineering is easier at the other end so if there was a go ahead then I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a last minute switch to the Evans Bay side.

      • Lanthanide 3.1.1

        Yeah, very weird idea that if a mayor is elected, they get to rule the city like a dictator.

        Surely you’d hate a right-wing dictator mayor, so why should you expect a left-wing mayor to be a dictator and then be upset when they’re not?

      • tracey 3.1.2

        Agree. Unlike the CEO of one council who gets to create jobs for former Nat Ministers and then not advertise them.

        • RedBaronCV

          Yes in fact council officers take too much of this sort of spending on themselves ( the Auckland City CEO spending $0.5m on the Len Brown investigation without council authority). Coucillours should be passing policy that doesn’t allow this sort of behaviour by paid staff.

      • Draco T Bastard 3.1.3

        Notice how the extension is always shown as going out at the Lyall Bay end but the engineering is easier at the other end so if there was a go ahead then I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a last minute switch to the Evans Bay side.

        Looking at the map I would be as that Evan’s Bay marina would want millions in compensation if the council closes the bay with an airport extension.

    • Liberal Realist 3.2

      Agreed, CWB is completely useless. Let’s hope if Lester is elected he’ll do better that CWB and I second your hope of an actual left wing candidate showing up in time!

      CWBs tenure has been marked by caving to special interest groups against the majority view. An example is the Island Bay cycleway. I’m all for cycleways when they make sense but what’s going on in Island Bay is moronic – it’s an expensive cycleway to nowhere – the problems are the same just moved up the line to Berhampore where it ends. Consultation was a farce and the pro lobby wielded undue influence IMO. CWB also lives in Island Bay, go figure…

      The WMD conference was the last straw for me personally. CWB isn’t left wing or green, she’s an incompetent ‘trougher’.

      While we’re at it can we also get rid of councillor Andy Foster? Everything and anything that guy touches with regard to transport is a complete screw up. See parking spaces drawn in a lane which is in use on Victoria street as an example of Fosters work.

      • Rosie 3.2.1

        I’ve always been a keen supporter of CWB but no more! She will not get my vote again, nor will Justin Lester, for reasons pointed out below.

        My issue with her is that she has proved to be rather hypocritical in terms of her environmental goals and has put profit before people time ad time again. Her support of ongoing mass scale development of northern suburbs greenfeilds sites has been unfortunate. See below about creating car centric neighbourhoods, at a distance from amenities. “Walking to the dairy” is only for someone who is very fit, has a spare hour and doesn’t have any injuries or disability preventing their mobility. Green spaces are disappearing and so are the habitats of wildlife, such as mallards (their numbers are in decline, ref fish and game) spur winged plovers and frogs. We were helping to raise ducklings, but now their mothers can’t even bring to us as their way has been blocked by retaining walls.

        The lovely frog song in the evening has completely disappeared as their swampy area was drained to make way housing. There are no trees.

        Yet, she will go on TV and say how far ahead we are in Wellington at providing housing for the future. No very far ahead with the community though. All this work is carried out on a non notified basis.

  4. Nigel Gordon 4

    He says the centre-right tag is “not detrimental”, and he’s totally right – it won’t. However his values and his actions demonstrate he is a progressive Labour candidate.

    • Rosie 4.1

      “However his values and his actions demonstrate he is a progressive Labour candidate.”

      Not in my experience. He’s totally on the side of the developers. See my post at 7.

  5. Ad 5

    Really good to hear that Labour brand rolled out proudly.

    Gives a positive signal to those considering standing in cities around the country that it’s worth having the brand and the team behind you if you’re going for it.

    What he actually said was “People seem to assume that I’m centre right because I wear a tie and a suit and I run a business”.

    High quality work pajamas are the best camouflage for getting major change done, I can assure you.

    • tracey 5.1

      Like the stuff said about Shaw.

      • weka 5.1.1

        And Norman before him.

        I don’t know Lester though, is he really centre right or centre left?

        • Ad

          Standing for local government is so thankless I’m just grateful he appears to have a functioning cerebral cortex and the ability to roll out of bed.
          Particularly if you are Labour, which is like announcing you’re gay to the ladies of the 1932 Eastbourne Anglican Rose Society.

  6. Many would be surprised by Lester running with Labour backing, but the party represented the values he stood for.

    “People seem to assume that I’m centre right because I wear a tie and a suit and I run a business,” he said.

    Is that because so many people are still clinging to the mistaken belief that Labour are a centre left party?

  7. Rosie 7

    Justin Lester has been very helpful to us in regard to public transport. We asked him to advocate on behalf of northern burbs getting the same deal for the low cost weekend bus fares trial, and he came through on that one, which was great.

    On the down side, we have had a year of hell on the development where we live as a result of the badly behaved developers that run it. I’ve met with officials at the council, had countless phone calls and emails which I’ve documented and quite a bit of that has been with Justin.
    Things are seriously out of hand of The Development (it’s not a neighbourhood, neighbourhood would imply community spirit and some kind of character). I’ve dealt with the Police more times in my life than ever before, Worksafe and WCC due to the problems we are dealing with. None of the issues have been resolved.

    He has expressed his empathy with our situation but says “his hands are tied”. It has been exhausting as there is no interest from Justin in addressing an issue in which WCC is a major stakeholder. It’s been really disappointing.

    Funnily enough I have a right wing councillor from another ward meeting with me tomorrow to discuss just how bad things are here.

    Even as an Ohariu Labour member I can’t bring myself to vote for Justin again. Not after this year.

    • savenz 7.1


      Sounds like Auckland. Everything is about development – the bigger the better.

      Bizarrely in the Cosby Textor style much of the development is unaffordable and taking away from existing amenity, while maintaining how we need to lower standards and regulation to ‘create affordable houses’. (i.e. make greater profits for developers).

      New builds are less affordable, larger, poorly built and badly designed within the site and community, often reducing the amenity of other houses.

      In Auckland we have the added problem of massive immigration which “apparently” has nothing to do with the housing crisis. Likewise the cost of building which has nothing to do with the crisis. Only freeing up land for development with minimal resource consent conditions or notification seems to be the goal. Not actually building something decent on it, for residents reflective on the average wage of a Kiwi working in this country and that integrates good urban design.

    • savenz 7.2


      Sounds like Auckland. Everything is about development – the bigger the better.

      Bizarrely in the Cosby Textor style much of the development is unaffordable and taking away from existing amenity, while maintaining how we need to lower standards and regulation to ‘create affordable houses’. (i.e. make greater profits for developers).

      New builds are less affordable, larger, poorly built and badly designed within the community, often reducing the amenity of other stock.

      In Auckland we have the added problem of massive immigration which “apparently” has nothing to do with the housing crisis. Likewise the cost of building which has nothing to do with the crisis. Only freeing up land for development with minimal resource consent conditions or notification seems to be the goal. Not actually building something decent on it, for residents reflective on the average wage of a Kiwi working in this country.

      • Rosie 7.2.1

        I think there might be similarities between the cities in regard to the obsession with development. They are driven by the same greed for profit and disregard for people and the environment.

        And yes, the housing on this development (bar our house which we got a reasonable price three and a half years ago) is phenomenally expensive. Out here in the sticks, we have several MDH projects either under way or as plans ready to go. These areas are no where near any bus routes (luckily the bus stop is across the road from us), so people will be forced to travel by car to get to work.

        The developers are making a killing. It’s their family farm land and they got their consents ages ago. They will sell a unit, one of a group of 30, with only enough land for a patio, 124 square metres inc single garage for $494,000. Thats right, almost half a mill for a little unit. Granted the price has gone up twice in two years. First they were $465K, then $485K and now $494K

        On the large sections they build ginormous family homes in the $800K range. You can no longer get a 3bdr/1 bth home on land around here. If you want that you only have the MDH option on no land which will set you back $575K

        Granted, most of the designs are good, and the quality isn’t bad at all.

        Cynically, they have jumped on the “affordable housing” bandwagon and have set aside a area of land that is over the hill from the rest of the development and faces south east. Once again no where a bus route.

        It kind of has to been seen to be believed but I’m not putting up links to the site as I don’t want be outed. I am currently under threat from one of the builders because I made complaints to the council about them. I’ve seen what happens to other residents who speak out and it’s not nice.

  8. b waghorn 8

    If we’re going to have politically aligned mayors then we might as well get rid of the mayors and just have the constituency MPs do the job .
    Its a slippery slope to one party taking all the power IMO.

  9. Tiger Mountain 9

    what is it about local government that encourages such wallies?

    it is not over subjective to identify someone with their social being–an SME operator is simply more likely to be aspirational and pro growth and business friendly, which is not necessarily in the interests of the majority of residents and ratepayers

    in the supercity one thing to watch is how over time the council changes the proportion and amount of rates paid by the commercial sector compared to residential, what will Justin’s view be on that for instance?

  10. Rosie 10

    PS. No to a convention centre and no to the airport runway extension.

    As to the “focus on housing”, I would believe that. It should read “focus on dodgy developers” though. WCC has bent over backwards to support developers without any regard for the environment, no planning for climate change, and no regard for amenities for residents. The developments of the northern burbs are very car centric and miles away from anywhere.

    Justin Lester was one of the councillors who voted for the SHA accord. Rules are already loose enough regarding development in Wellington without throwing more rules out.

  11. Clean_power 11

    Mr Lester does not stand a chance, and he will not be the next Mayor of Wellington.

    After the antibodies generated by Celia and her profligate administration the city is ready for a face from the centre-right, not Labour’s Lester.

  12. savenz 12

    another conference centre????

    God do these politicians live in reality?

    Cities are actually purposed to be for those that live there, you know residents who pay the rates. His goals….

    ” If he was to win, Lester has some big Wellington projects on the top of his to do list – the film museum, airport runway extension and a convention centre.

    He also said he’d be focusing on housing, economic investment, support for small businesses and building towards a pest-free Wellington.”

    Yep, focus are all on neoliberal ‘things’, real estate, ‘economic investment’, small business and a pest free Wellington (are they going to fumigate the beehive?)

    What about caring vibrant community that values people and the environment and makes Wellington the best place to live for residents, not wasting money on grandiose projects like conference centers, having something actually for the community, kids playgrounds, libraries, social networks, a goal of zero homelessness….

    Nope – but his goals are in line with both the Natz and Labour so I guess he has found the right ticket, don’t invest in people, invest in foreigners and real estate…

    Sadly though.

    • Kiwiri 12.1

      “another conference centre????”

      what else should be suggested then?

      a monorail?

    • Rosie 12.2

      Yes, you would think that the irrational obsession with conference centres was purely a National Government thing but no, sadly not.

      We already have perfectly good conference centres in the CBD.

  13. savenz 13

    Is part of the Green Labour collaboration to improve the relationship?

    It looks more like a Natz strategy to split the votes.

  14. RedBaronCV 14

    Be interesting to see if Nicola Young is still going to stand.(the local Nact type) . Originally I think Justin was going to stand as deputy mayor on her ticket but she was unlikely to win so maybe the 30% of RW will throw their weight behind Justin. Unfortunately supporting the runway, film museum and convention centre all involve giving ratepayer funds to private business. As far as I am concerned they can fund their own businesses.
    If the deals were that good the council wouldn’t be getting anywhere near them – socialising losses.

  15. Petertoo 15

    The only thing that was green about Celia Wade-Brown were the suckers that thought she was. Anyone who thinks Lester is red will see red when they analyse what he stands for. How can a dyed in the wool neo-liberal who readily advocates the privatisation of profits and socialising of the losses, a crony capitalist ex card-carrying member of the Property Council and an employer who uses weasel-words when it comes to discussing paying of his employees a living wage have Labour endorsement. Oh yeah – the name Grant Robertson and the location of Wellington says it all.

    • Rosie 15.1

      Petertoo. Are you able to expand on this comment about Justin Lester?

      “ex card-carrying member of the Property Council”

      I would be interested in this history. It might explain his reluctance and refusal to advocate for residents who are having major issues with dodgy developers.

      Thanks in advance if you’ve got the info.

      • Petertoo 15.1.1

        Here it is Rosie: https://nz.linkedin.com/in/justin-lester-ab613623. He was on the Wellington Executive.

        • Rosie

          Thanks Petertoo. This is interesting and worrying in terms of the refusal to advocate for residents affected by dodgy developments:

          “Director of Property and Investment Management at Wellington commercial property firm JLL
          – Executive member of the Wellington branch of the New Zealand Property Council”

          There are some other more community minded roles, like involvement with SPCA, Onslow historical society. etc. Thats all good.

          I’m going to look more into what the NZ Property council does and what investments JLL have.

          Thats really helpful. Ta. 🙂

          • Rosie

            Furthermore, the NZ Property Council is pro the extension of the airport runway. No wonder Justin Lester has this project in his sights. It would be very convenient to certain interests if he were Mayor:


            PS, there is nothing “ex” about his place on the executive…..

            • Petertoo

              If Lester is still on the executive of the Property Council, how often has he declared a conflict of interest and not voted for the likes of Site 10, SHA’s, District Plan Changes etc.? Do you have any idea Rosie?

              • Rosie

                Not sure if he has declared a conflict of interest Petertoo. I mentioned it to the councillor I met with yesterday to discuss development issues and he seemed to be interested in having a look into it.

                From memory Justin Lester voted for all sites earmarked under the SHA accord. There was only a handful of counsellors that didn’t.

                And regarding conflict of interests. The person who is the manager of city planning and design, and has been in that position for almost 15 years was formerly married to the developer of the subdivision I live on. How convenient being married to such a person when you’re getting consents for a swathe of non notified basis residential development eh?

                This person did actually declare a conflict of interest in regard to this but it does not stand – the mayors office directed my complaints about our development to this very person. When I responded saying that puts me at risk as I’m under threat from a contractor of the developer AND the fact that you have referred the matter to this very person is a clear case of conflict of interest.

                The mayors office denied there was a conflict of interest.

                I have all this documented.

                There are very real problems with the relationship WCC has with residential and commercial development.

  16. Philj 16

    Right, left, centre… Time to ditch these outdated labels for what they are… Misinformation. Just tell me what issues you stand for and let the voter decide.

  17. Sirenia 17

    Justin Lester and Celia Wade Brown were both strongly in favour of the Living wage for council workers. Nicola Young and the other National/Act aligned candidates were and remain strongly against it, yet are happy with ever increasing wages for some of the already well paid council officers such as the right wing chief executive Ken Lavery. Lavery advised against the Living Wage for the lowest paid such as secuirity officers. There are some very strong and powerful right wing offciers in the WCC and they have made things very hard for Celia and the others on the left.

    • RedBaronCV 17.1

      Yes Nicola was telling election meetings last time that a living wage was totally unaffordable. It seemed to escape her that a small drop/standstill for the upper wages would have more than paid for it and left some over for the ratepayers.

      I can believe that about some officers too, there seems to have been some selective briefing of councillors and a real lack of interest in finding ways to support items that clearly have been voted for if they are non right wing.

      As to the convention centre, there was one proposed that required a large ratepayer subsidy. The briefing papers were less than adequate as they didn’t even cover possible revenue loss from existing wellington venues.

      FWIW with respect to conventions I think the council would be better to package it’s existing venues, (some of which are restored /historic) ensure that they are all as green as possible and then market them if possible as green/sustainable venues with great tourist/shopping pursuits/family friendly outings on the doorstep and go after the smaller high value conventions for companies that are looking for a green solution to offset long distance travel costs and who want to combine the conference with a perk holiday for the staff. After all conference attendees get the boring day inside it’s the partners and kids out spending money.

    • Rosie 17.2

      Yes, and that was excellent that JL and CWB were strong on the living wage. Nicola Young was truly awful saying the poorly paid can depend on benefits to supplement their income , duh, Nicola, thats counter productive to creating financial independence and it burdens taxpayers. Thought you guys didn’t like that sort of thing.

      You do realise however, JL doesn’t pay his own staff the living wage?

      • Sirenia 17.2.1

        I thought JL did but another councillor who is not standing again, doesn’t

        • Rosie

          I heard it was him, but if he does pay a living wage then that’s excellent. Guess we won’t know for sure unless a staff member publicly speaks and out praises their boss for paying living wage.

          Maybe he pays well above minimum but not quite living wage, who knows.

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