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Tuesday, 26 March 2019 06:11 pm

Young and restless for mayoral future

THE LAMBTON WARD councillor’s reinvigoration of inner city Wellington was what we were here to talk about, but it became clear Nicola Young’s plans didn’t stop at shining a light on the capital’s poorly-lit laneways.

Councillor Young

Councillor Young

“My bid for the mayoralty was always part of my plan when running for council.” Young says breezily.

2016 is an election year.

“I believe that you only have three terms in which to affect change in council. If you can’t do it in that time, you’re not likely to.”

Young had been elected to the role of councillor in 2013 when she’d made her first bid for the mayoralty.

She’s coming to the end of her first term.

The council’s Transport and Urban Development portfolio leader has left a planning meeting to be interviewed during the lunch break.

Her appearance stirs a memory from a former French teacher who said, “A woman is naked without two things, lipstick and mascara.”

Madame Colombard, who put the femme in feminism, would have approved the shade of cerise and the coquettish appliqué of lash.

Young has a sense of mischief about her, and doesn’t miss a trick as another councillor slips out of the meeting room.

“Comrade Eagle!”

The eye contact between Wellington South’s Paul Eagle and Councillor Young spoke of anything but camaraderie.

The odd couple had been running mates on a joint ticket, with Eagle as deputy.

Eagle later backed out of that agreement in favour of his support for the incumbent deputy mayor Justin Lester, both on the Labour ticket.

Young is politically independent and a proud Wellingtonian who says she’s enjoyed a part in enlivening the city.

“My first term was all about putting life back into the central city.”

She talks about lighting up the city’s previously dark and often forbidding laneways, of making the ward more pedestrian friendly, and of the central city’s mini property boom.

“Te Aro has experienced the fastest population growth rate in the country.”

Young has charm and energy that belie her 61 years; her assured nature tells of someone who is comfortable in her own skin.

She speaks confidently but without arrogance.

“I get things done.”

Another mischievous smile flashes briefly when talking about a contretemp with an inner city landlord who wouldn’t submit to her will.

“We offered to go halves with the building owner in the removal of the dreadful canopy that covered the lower part of Mason’s Lane.

“They said they simply didn’t have the money for it so I asked if they were sure we wouldn’t find any compliance issues if we reviewed the structure against council building codes.”

Young pauses for effect with a glint in her eye.

“Miraculously they were able to fund its removal themselves.”

Young grew up in the central city, in both Mt Victoria and Kelburn.

After a catholic high-school education at the Catholic Erskine College in Island Bay, she chose to study news-journalism at Wellington Polytech.

Working first as a reporter and feature writer for the capital’s Evening Post, she eventually heeded the call of travel to Europe via Asia in the mid 70’s.

During her time in London she held posts in the insurance and public relations industries.

In 1996 she returned, with her two children, to Wellington where she carved out a consultancy niche in communications and political strategy.

Politics had always been in her blood.

Her first taste of campaigning came aged seven when out door-knocking with her father Bill Young, the National candidate for Miramar, who held that seat from 1966 to 1981.

Her family has been living in Wellington for six generations.

This heritage gives Young the desire to enhance Wellingtonians’ pride and knowledge of the historical side of the inner city.

She talks about the reinvigoration of Wellington’s laneways as having a multi-faceted strategy that focuses on making them lighter, safer and more fun, and of giving an historical narrative.

“I want people to know what has gone on in the heart of the city, to show what makes Wellington unique.”

Young tells of the Leeds St Hannah’s Factory laneway not just being known for its boutique gastronomic retail like Six Barrel Soda, Wellington Chocolate Factory and Fix & Fogg Peanut Butter, but of linking to the past when it was a sawmill and shoe factory.

Hannah's Factory shoe motifs.

Hannah’s Factory carpark shoe motifs.

“Trudy Whitlow and team have used design features that recall this heritage with shoe motifs used in the car parks and circular saw blade murals in the lane.”

Whitlow is the council’s manager of urban design and says Young is a great champion for her small team.

She says key anchor projects underway in the council’s Central City Project – including a major initiative in Lombard Lane, a review of Bond St, an overhaul of Cable Car Lane, a new look for Egmont St, and a streamlining of Garrett St & Swan Lane – have all involved the councillor.

“We’re a small team and Nicola, as portfolio leader, really helps us get things done.”

Nicola Young is standing for mayor as an independent on a platform of economic growth for Wellington.

“I want to get the city pumping again. We have the highest per capita income and the most university degrees on average. Let’s make sure these people stay here.”

Images: Dominic Godfrey

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