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Friday, 14 December 2018 02:50 pm

Lester throws council CEO “under bus” says mayoral rival

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Mayoral hopefuls at Whitireia Journalism and Broadcasting, from left, Jo Coughlan, Justin Lester, Nick Leggett and Nicola Young.

Nick Leggett accused Justin Lester of throwing Wellington City Council’s chief executive “under a bus” today.

Leggett was commenting on Lester defending himself in an article in the Dominion Post about the lack of transparency in a deal with Singapore Airlines.

“You threw your chief executive (Kevin Lavery) under the bus today on this Justin,” Leggett said in response to questioning by Whitireia Polytechnic journalism and broadcasting students.

Mayoral candidates Jo Coughlin, Lester, Leggett, Nicola Young, Helene Ritchie and Andy Foster attended the news conference with students.

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Councillor Nicola Young

Leggett took exception to Lester’s description of how decision-making should sit with the mayor and councillors and not with council-controlled organisations.

Lester was quick to justify his comment to media saying he was defending the process under the current delegations.

The lack of any real paper trail for a deal that Councillor Jo Coughlan says has been in the planning for at least five years was questioned in light of best practise.

While Lester and Coughlan were both quick to defend the decision and the process, other councillors were just as quick to voice their dissent.

“Subsidising airlines is one of the most expensive games in the world,” says Councillor Nicola Young.

She cited the failed attempt by Christchurch Airport to subside Air Aisa X which lasted only nine months and saw no return on the multi-million dollar investment.

Long-standing Councillor Helen Ritchie was strongly opposed to both the funding and the process by which it was granted, claiming a different version of facts to Councillor Lester.

Destination Wellington Fund, Events Fund , and the City Growth fund have a combined value of about $9 million a year says Foster.

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Porirua Mayor and WCC mayoral candidate Nick Leggett

“It’s a lot of money to not be properly scrutinised and we do need to make sure that that will happen,” says Foster.

There was a strong call for transparency from those not as closely involved in the deal as Lester and Coughlan.

“If we are prepared to give an international company money to bring people to Wellington, let’s have the guts to front it and say, yes this is why we are doing it, yes we back this, let’s see if it works,” says Leggett.

Lester’s confidence of a “wonderful investment” is based on figures presented to council of a $45 million return each year on an $800,000 investment.

Other councillors who weren’t privy to the private conversations and closed door meetings are less confident in the agreement’s merit.

 

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