Fran Wilde rolled by WRC.
The fallout from Wellington’s super-city rejection is rocking the regional council, with chairwoman Fran Wilde resigning amid accusations of bullying
Wilde quit as chairwoman on Saturday after being presented with a letter of no confidence signed by nine of her councillors. Only Paul Swain, Chris Laidlaw and Judith Aitken did not sign.
The group that rolled Wilde, led by councillor Prue Lamason, told Wilde her advocacy for amalgamation had led to a “climate of tension and mistrust” between Greater Wellington and the region’s local councils.
The coup was sparked by a new regional reorganisation plan drafted without regional councillors’ knowledge, and revealed by Wilde to a select few last week, Lamason said. Wilde was a major supporter of a region-wide amalgamation proposal scrapped by the Local Government Commission on Tuesday.
In “Plan B” Wilde recommended the transfer of major functions from local councils to the regional body, including roading, water, and economic development.
“That was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I am gobsmacked, boggled,” Lamason said.
“Our first submission made it look like we had boxing gloves on. Plan B makes us look like we’ve still got boxing gloves on, and now we’re kickboxing as well.”
The regional council’s very existence was threatened by alternative models, including a Wellington City Council proposal to create three smaller unitary bodies without a regional council, Lamason said.
“It could end up in the demise of the regional council … We need to make an attempt to mend the fences and mend the relationships.”
Wilde had verbally steamrolled anybody who opposed her on amalgamation, which amounted to a culture of bullying, Lamason said.
Donaldson wrote to Wilde that Plan B “will certainly be seen as a power grab and do nothing to help relationships”. She was bemused by Wilde’s suggestion that by standing down she could speak “unfettered” on regional amalgamation.
“My god, if she was fettered before, I’d hate to think what unfettered is.”
Wilde said her opponents were staging a purely political leadership challenge, and correct process was followed in drafting Plan B. She denied any accusations of bullying.
“I’m the fall guy, but I don’t mind. Part of being a leader is taking the rap,” she said.
“I find it rather insulting that people say I’m clinging onto this job.”
Plan B had been written by a council officer, viewed by council chief executives, and was due to be discussed by councillors at a workshop on Tuesday, Wilde said.
“This is perfectly legitimate. There’s nothing secret about it.”
While amalgamation had proved unpopular, Wilde would not back away from her strong belief that centralised functions were best for Wellington.
“You can’t say ‘I didn’t really mean it’. You have to own it, even if it’s not going anywhere now,” she said.
“The thing I’m most disappointed about is that people assume I’m in it for my own self-advancement. When I did gay law reform, people said, ‘oh, she’s a lesbian’. With the stadium, they said I just wanted my name on it. Now, they say I want to be the super-mayor.”
Wilde had not decided whether to run for the council again in 2016, but had taken on consulting work and board memberships, she said. She would remain chairwoman until June 30, then deputy Donaldson would act as chairwoman until a replacement was voted in.
Upper Hutt mayor Wayne Guppy had seen Plan B, and said it was poorly timed and poorly conceived.
“It’s a desperate effort to save the regional council.”
Swain refused to sign Lamason’s letter, but agreed it was time for Wilde to go and the council to make a fresh start. He also called for deputy chairwoman Barbara Donaldson’s resignation, as she had supported the original amalgamation proposal.
Councillors like Lamason, who stood in the deeply anti-supercity Lower Hutt ward, were looking to future elections and distancing themselves from amalgamation, Swain said.
“There is a lot of butt-covering going on here, and I don’t think it’s going to work. People have very long memories.”
Who signed the letter to roll Fran?
Prue Lamason, Barbara Donaldson, Nigel Wilson, Sandra Greig, Ken Laban, Jenny Brash, Gary McPhee, Paul Bruce, Sue Kedgley.
Top contenders for the regional council chairmanship:
Wilde’s current deputy and chairwoman of the council’s Strategy & Policy Committee. She also serves on half a dozen other council committees, making her one of the heavy-lifters when it comes to workload. A great servant to her constituency and a very able leader. Has confirmed she will stand for the role.
A wise head with plenty of political experience, which includes stints as a diplomat to Harare and Wellington Central MP as well as his eight years on the regional council. The former All Black and broadcaster serves on five council committees and holds the important Regional Plan Development portfolio.
Spent 18 years in the Beehive representing the Eastern Hutt and Rimutaka constituencies before joining GWRC. Another councillor with plenty on his plate having been handed the plumb public transport portfolio this term. Was nominated to be council chairman after the 2013 elections but declined to stand against Wilde, and has said he will not stand now.
A first-term regional councillor with an impressive political resume, which includes time as a Wellington City councillor, a Green Party MP and eight years working in the United Nations Secretariat in New York. A strong presence on the regional council who enjoys getting stuck into debate.
What is Plan B?