Freshly elected Wellington city councillors are walking into their inauguration ceremony amid a cloud of uncertainty.

Some say the shine has been taken off what is usually an occasion of pomp and circumstance, after a turbulent couple of weeks.

It could also be somewhat of an awkward ceremony, considering the tradition is for the outgoing mayor to place the mayoral chains around the neck of the incoming mayor.

The predicament follows a shock election result which saw one term Labour-ticket mayor Justin Lester ousted by 27-year-councillor Andy Foster.

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Final election results narrowed the vote margin from 503 to 62, prompting Lester to file an application for a recount based on the exclusion of 193 partially informal votes in his favour.

The recount

Foster confirmed a Wellington District Court judge has looked at the initial application and papers from various parties.

The judge has asked for a comprehensive report from the chief electoral officer, which would likely take the timeline of any decision into next week, he said.

Foster said the call for a recount was unhelpful and expensive, and the idea it should be done manually was "ridiculous".

Justin Lester and his legal counsel Graeme Edgeler outside the Wellington District Court. Photo / Emme McKay.
Justin Lester and his legal counsel Graeme Edgeler outside the Wellington District Court. Photo / Emme McKay.

Council chief executive Kevin Lavery has sought legal advice on the situation and has confirmed the induction programme would continue and the inauguration ceremony will go ahead, with more than 350 people expected to attend tomorrow.

"It's important that we continue to conduct the business of Council. To this end the Mayor, Councillors, Committees and Council need to be fully empowered to make decisions. Otherwise I would be solely responsible for all major decisions for an extended period."

A lot to lose

Rebecca Matthews, who was voted in on the Labour ticket, has a lot to lose if Lester is granted a recount and the result swings his way.

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She would have to give up her seat at the council table to make way for Foster in the Onslow-Western Ward.

"That does mean I'm a little bit in limbo at the moment but what's most important is not whether I'm a councillor, but whether or not we had an election process that we can all be proud of," she said.

Matthews hasn't left her job at education union NZEI and has been taking annual leave to do the council's induction programme.

Onslow-Western Ward councillor Rebecca Matthews faces an uncertain future on council. Photo / Supplied.
Onslow-Western Ward councillor Rebecca Matthews faces an uncertain future on council. Photo / Supplied.

Labour councillor Fleur Fitzsimons said she felt for Foster and Matthews whose positions may depend on the outcome of a recount.

"However, it's an important part of democracy that we can all be assured the result is accurate and the process is robust."

Getting on with it

Foster has issued a memorandum outlining the council's committee structure putting former deputy mayor Jill Day as chair of the Strategy and Policy Committee, where councillors nut out key decisions for the city.

Diane Calvert is deputy chair after losing her deputy mayoral bid to Sarah Free this term.

Calvert is of the mind that "what will be, will be" in terms of the vote recount.

She said if Lester did find himself in the driving seat once again, he should take heed of the narrow vote margin.

"Ultimately people said they were not comfortable the way the city's heading, they wanted more transparency, they wanted to focus on the big stuff. Smaller stuff can happen but it shouldn't be made out to have more air than it needs."

Calvert pointed to the city's rainbow crossing and the rental warrant of fitness as examples of the "small stuff".

Free is chair of the Annual Plan/Long Term Plan Committee, but it appears Foster will be keeping a very close eye on things as deputy chair.

"If there were be to a change of mayor, and I'm not sure how likely that is at all, I'm not even thinking about it, but if there were, obviously they might want to put their own stamp on things, but we have to keep going.

"So we're setting things up the best we can", Free said.

Foster said portfolios would not be announced tomorrow as conversations around who's getting what had taken "a little bit too long".