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Tuatara sex, the Sanctuary shortfall, and Wellington Central’s MP

  • November 1st, 2008

Good news that the Sanctuary’s tuatara are nesting, the first time on the mainland for a very long time. Wellington Central’s new MP may need a lot more of that kind of news to buttress a case for more public funding of the Sanctuary, if it becomes a victim of Wellington City Council’s economy drive.

I’m surprised that it has taken this long for the cost over-run in the $16.6m building project to become public. At the ceremony to celebrate the launch of the project I thought the plans looked ambitious for the site, tucked hard in against the steep hill, to avoid having to build on dam fill.

In discussion then, project technical advisors were quite open with me about their worries over the site. Among other things, they’d discovered the mouth of the tunnel dug by our forebears to take the water main to the Aro Valley, and the source of much fill.

They said the tunnel seemed still to be negotiable. We joked about reorienting the building project to use the tunnel as a privileged route for bikers and others wanting to avoid the Karori tunnel bottleneck. I wondered whether anyone had thought seriously about developing the tunnel as alternative access to Karori. Fifty years ago planners had Aro Valley designated for the major road access to Karori. Opposition to that proposal energised Aro Valley residents into forming their current association.

The engineers said the tunnel was very steep.

The Sanctuary’s money needs highlight for Wellington the critical value of having your local MP within government.  The $6.5m secured by Marian Hobbs was frequently (and deservedly) cited by the current Labour candidate as a high point of Marian’s advocacy for Wellington within the Labour government. 

Mr Robertson seems to have stopped stressing that success recently, talking instead of his determination to stay in touch with "our diverse communities" and to fight for ‘social justice’.

Highlighting Marian Hobbs’ success put the spotlight on the benefits of having an electorate MP within government. She was able to use all her connections within government. There were reports that she’d threatened to resign and cause other strife for Labour if the project was not supported.

It is not easy to see that a new National government would be moved by any threat by Mr Robertson to resign, were he to become the Wellington Central MP.  As a quintessential Labour party insider he is scarcely known outside its  specialised circles.

Indeed, given the way Labour has abused its appointment powers to load public bodies with party hacks, there is likely to be a period of deep suspicion of all Labour people from the new government.. That could be exacerbated if the new government uncovers concealed grenades when the true state of our finances emerges after the election.

Welllington is going to need every scrap of internal championing it can get in a new government. The rest of the country will be hunting for people to blame for fiddling through our golden years of high export returns and tax receipts.and leaving nothing in the kitty when the cold winds came. "Wellington" must not become the shorthand answer for the scape-goat hunters attacking the new government because the old one has gone.

I want to be there where the decisions are made, to protect the interests of the people in this city I love.  

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