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Friday, 14 December 2018 02:45 pm

Council candidates challenged on collaborating as leaders

Sep 26th, 2016 | By | Category: Editor's Picks, Front Page Layout, Lead Story, News

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Eastern Ward voters and candidates gather for the meeting at Hataitai. Front page image: Chris Calvi-Freeman

Wellington city councillors should be shut away together for a weekend to thrash things out, according to a candidate for the Eastern Ward.

The comment was made by Chris Calvi-Freeman at a Hataitai meeting for Eastern Ward and mayoral candidates.

Calvi-Freeman and fellow ward candidates Sarah Free, Rob Goulden, Lynda McGregor, Simon Marsh and Robert Murray were asked how they would manage disagreement in a constructive way and ensure the councillors worked efficiently as a team.

“If I was the mayor, I would lock us all away in a hotel or somewhere for a weekend and I think we’d come out smiling.”

Calvi-Freeman’s response drew laughter from the audience of about 50 people.

“I’m absolutely quite serious,” the Hataitai resident said.

He said he was horrified to learn that councillors do not dine together between council meetings.

“I think it’s high time they did get together and figure out they’re all being paid to represent you people.

“Dissension is good but in the end we need to come together as a council and make the right decisions and if that means locking people away for a weekend to really hammer out what you want for Wellington, then go and do it.”

The next speakers drew banter and more laughter when they continued the theme.

Goulden said he did not want to be locked away in a hotel room with most of the candidates, and Murray suggested he knew just the place they could go  – Miramar’s Mt Crawford Prison.

Sitting councillor Marsh said the media had misrepresented the current council environment with the “toxic” label, and it is not the “battleground” the press represents.

He used he and fellow incumbent councillor Free as examples. They have ideological differences but they work together.

The question was asked by Adrian Parkyn, a marketing consultant from Hataitai, who believes politicians must be able to negotiate, collaborate and reach agreement.

He wanted to see whether the candidates would bring leadership to the council table rather than just defer it to the mayor.

Parkyn said he did not disagree with Calvi-Freeman’s comments.

He had not prepared the question beforehand or done any prior research into the candidates, but was aware of reports a toxic environment existed within the previous council.

“It was good to be able to put a question to the candidates,” he said.

“I was quite pleased to have asked it.”

However, he was frustrated that candidates seem to rehearse answers to fit what they think voters want to hear.

Parkyn commended the Hataitai Residents’Association for the way the meeting was moderated and managed.

Retirees Peter Rankin and Theresa Riev of Roseneath also felt the meeting was well-run and Rankin said that was part of the reason he got more from it than expected.

He also felt candidate responses tended to reflect what they thought people want to hear.

For example mayoral candidates were asked for their response to the fact that two-thirds of public submissions reject the proposed airport runway extension.

Four of the candidates qualified their stance but two were cautious, saying they needed more information, he said.

Riev said the meeting gave her more of an idea of what the candidates stood for, beyond what she read in pamphlets.

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