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Pity Wellington’s choices in Mayoral election (and news coverage?)

  • July 16th, 2013

The DomPost this morning refers to an email which shows mayoral candidate John Morrison wanted to keep the previous Chief Executive if he would undertake to 'decimate' CCOs.

As reported:

"The council controlled organisations are nine companies or trusts which manage council-owned assets including the capital's waterfront, venues like the TSB Bank Arena and town hall, and Wellington's iconic cable car.

Morrison's email also named a number of CCO bosses, saying "I want to really nail" the executives

The report could be the start of something that helps us vote. Perhaps tomorrow we'll get the rest of the story.

As far as it goes, the story simply tells people there are vigorous internal discussions in colloquial terms. They would hope so. So it hurts neither sitting Mayor Celia Wade-Brown, or challenger Morrison. It adds to name recognition for both.

If this is as far as the story goes it will be typical of what Nick Cater of The Australian described last night – journalism but not reporting. Publishing  the players’ claims and words but not trying to find or explain the truth. He summarised modern political coverage as sports journalism by cultural relativists not interested enough in the truth to be good reporters.

To have real impact the email story must explore the issues. Instead, at present it assumes prissily that pithy language is a story on its own.

 We need to know:

  1. what the relevant CCO’s are doing that is controversial
  2. Whether John Morrison’s  concerns extend to them all;
  3. If not, which ones he approves of, and which he does not;
  4. Which CEO's he names;
  5. Whether others share his concerns;
  6. Whether the concerns have been expressed in public meetings;
  7. If not, why not;
  8. If so, when, by whom and to what effect;
  9. Examples of the events or circumstances triggering concerns;
  10. Whether the Mayor and Morrison differ on CCO governance;
  11. What they think should happen;
  12. How other councillors align on the future for CCOs;
  13. Whether aligned views on CCOs fall along “party” lines (showing enough shared approach to indicate they will work together to provide steady united government);
  14. Whether Morrison (or Wade Brown) want them ‘decimated’ so that Councillors can regain direct rights to play with the trains; or instead;
  15. Thinks  they are inefficient and lose money or perform badly so should be sold or closed down and replaced by contractors.

In other words this could be a story of importance to voters. Instead, without follow-up,  it will be an example of why fourth estate scrutiny is no longer a quality control factor in Wellington local democracy.

I want to know whether Morrison just wants more scope for political interference, or has legitimate grounds to think that CCOs lack effective scrutiny and accountability. What has happened since to them?

It would tell me something if I knew whether his solutions were to find better directors, or to raise the performance hurdles, or to get expert vetting of them for efficiency. Or does he instead just want to manage them himself with his mates.

So far Wellington has a depressing choice in its Mayoral contest. Celia Wade-Brown lead the drive for the deeply stupid ‘living wage’.  The Council was reported to be unanimous in voting for it, so presumably Cr Morrison too supports it.  The incumbent leads her council into expensive indecision on the Basin Reserve bypass.

Today we have a story that shows that Cr Morrison at least expresses himself bluntly in private, as we’d hope, but still nothing to from which we can judge whether he would be a better steward of our assets than the dithering incumbent.




I thoroughly agree with your comments. The Dominion Post and the local newspapers are often glib, careless and more often than not content to rubber stamp the status quo because it is the easiest/laziest option. Dave Burgess was one of the few effective investigative journalists but they moved him on. It is a hard road trying to provide checks and balances / alterantives but still worth a try!

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