Celia loses - again

Politics is often defined as the art of the possible, but in a Wellington City Council setting of a mayor and 14 councillors, politics is the art of getting seven other councillors to agree with you.

It is about building a majority. The previous mayor was good at that. This one is not - whatever the merits of her so called different leadership style.

On Wednesday night she was rolled again - at least the third significant defeat since she took office. And this time she had to assist in her own defeat.

The previous council had backed the broad options in the Otaki to airport transport plan, but New Zealand Transport Agency saw the new Mayor's  stance as ambivalent - hardly surprising as Celia and her green backers oppose the motorways and extra tunnels and want the money - $2.4 billion - to go to light rail instead. The money was at risk, and arguably could have been reallocated to Christchurch

On Wednesday night Celia led the way in re-affirming the council's support - an extraordinary about turn for her, but also recognition that she did not have the numbers to defeat the proposed endorsement.

Plans for Transmission Gully, widening Ruahine Street, a second Terrace tunnel, a second Mt Victoria tunnel, a flyover around the Basin Reserve, and improvements to State Highway One up to Otaki will go out for consultation. The policy is not new in substance, but the political symbolism is potent. A new majority against the Mayor has emerged.

Last year she lost over a fight who would be her deputy. She wanted Andy Foster, but a majority of the council thought him unacceptable. She had to nominate Ian McKinnon who was acceptable.

When Celia suggested changes to a consultation document about the future form of local government in Wellington to remove one of the six options, the other mayors in the region objected.

She opposes a full merger of the five councils in the Wellington region, but the other mayors wouldn't agree to take that option out before the public had had a chance to have a say on it.

The third loss came when the council refused to back Celia's plan to bring the Wellington waterfront project back under direct council control.  Now she can't get her way on transport.

The nine councillors who requisitioned the meeting and worked against the Mayor's attempt to delay discussion of the issue,  included the two Labour councillors, Gill and Eagle,  and the new newcomers, Lester and Marsh, and well as the centrist Ngaire Best and leftish Ahipene -Mercer. They all joined with the centre right grouping of McKinnon, Coughlan and Morrison. 

They isolated the Mayor and her faction, and out manoeuvred them politically. Is this the way of the future for the council?  In politics numbers count. Unless Celia learns how to forge a majority coalition around the council table to support positions she favours, she will have a miserable time as Mayor.  It will also be a short one.