Wellington City Council shake-up revealed following review

Mayor Andy Foster has revealed a proposed shake-up at Wellington City Council following an independent governance review.

Councillors Diane Calvert, Iona Pannett, Sean Rush, and Jill Day would be the chairs of four new committees under the plan.

In a statement this afternoon Foster said elected representatives were being challenged to reset how they work.

“In agreeing to the recommended structure and practices, we are determined to build trust and confidence in the Council’s governing body,” he said.

Over the past year the council has been characterised as divided with no obvious working majority and to the point Foster decided to bring in a facilitator to help sort things out.

The Herald obtained a copy of the review’s draft report last week, in advance of a final copy being made public today.

Reviewer Peter Winder found the mayor was an ineffective champion for Wellington and said there was an inability to adapt to the result the 2019 election delivered, resulting in a “two-point plug, three-point socket dilemma”.

The review did not reveal fundamental dysfunction at the council, but rather a significant tension, making decisions difficult, challenging, and fraught.

Winder said the atmospherics and tenor of some debate could, or in fact already had, undermined trust and confidence in the institution.

One of Winder’s key recommendations was to overhaul the current portfolio and committee structure.

At the moment, most of the council’s work gets pushed through the Strategy and Policy Committee.

Winder said the council should instead establish four key committees, each meeting once a month with a view to providing shared leadership opportunities and the ability to focus on a forward programme.

He said portfolios should be scrapped and the chairs and deputy chairs should act as the spokespeople for the areas of council business that fell within the scope of their committees.

Foster has proposed councillor Diane Calvert be appointed as chair of the Finance and Performance Committee with councillor Simon Woolf as deputy.

Councillor Iona Pannett would chair the Policy, Planning and Environment Committee with councillor Tamatha Paul as deputy.

Councillor Sean Rush would chair the Infrastructure Committee with councillor Jenny Condie as deputy.

Councillor Jill Day would chair the Social, Cultural and Community Services Committee with councillor Nicola Young as deputy.

Foster said the package of change included reconfirming a shared vision and a high-level work programme aligned to the Long-Term Plan to address Wellington’s most pressing needs.

“To do business more effectively the review has recommended the Council change our meeting practices. This will have major benefits, especially at this critical time when the Council is being called upon to make significant decisions for the future.

Under the plan councillor Rebecca Matthews would take over as chair of the existing Annual Plan/LTP Committee.

An independent chair would be brought in for the Audit and Risk Committee.

Foster’s proposed changes will be considered at a Strategy and Policy Committee meeting on Thursday.

This will be followed by the formal adoption of the Governance Review recommendations, committee structure and respective terms of reference at the full council meeting next Wednesday.

“Personally, I am looking forward to a more streamlined way of working that builds on the potential of my role as chief advocate for Wellington,” Foster said.

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