A Wellington city councillor resorted to expressing breast milk in her car with the dedicated parents' room at council headquarters turned into a massage room.

Fleur Fitzsimons has spoken candidly about the challenges of balancing the commitment to her role as a councillor and the birth of her fourth child.

Documents released under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act reveal the parenting room at council headquarters on The Terrace was turned into a massage room with the view that mums needing to breastfeed or express could use the first aid room instead.

A public policy researcher has slammed the move, saying it sends the wrong message and the decision should be reversed.

Advertisement

Fitzsimons brought her daughter Kate into the world in December 2018.

After councillors moved to new premises on The Terrace early this year, the decision was made to turn the dedicated parents' room there into a massage room.

Fitzsimons was still expressing breast milk for Kate, which was usually two or three times a day when council had long meetings.

She chose to express in her car in a carpark because there were no obvious council facilities.

"Expressing in my car was not particularly pleasant or practical, I went through a lot of batteries and there was no cool storage for the milk.

"I am not blaming anyone for this particular situation, I could have pushed and ensured that a suitable private room was available but I just felt like I really didn't want to make a fuss or draw attention to myself."

The parenting room at council headquarters on The Terrace was turned into a massage room. Photo / Google
The parenting room at council headquarters on The Terrace was turned into a massage room. Photo / Google

Fitzsimons said she didn't want any future councillors or officials to be faced with the uncertainty of where to express and has asked for the situation to be addressed.

"We have a long way to come if we are going to be a city which genuinely supports parents. Properly equipped parent rooms and expressing space should be the norm and available at all times to make sure we do everything we can to support parents."

Advertisement

Public policy researcher Dr Jess Berentson-Shaw said she was flabbergasted by the situation.

"Especially for a public organisation like the council, it's so disappointing, and it shows some very bad decision-making."

She thought the council was likely supportive of people balancing work and parenting life, but the decision hadn't been thought through and sent the wrong message.

"If you don't create the space then the message you're sending is that you don't care."

A council spokesman said the room was only used for massages a couple of lunchtimes a week, and being on level 16 of a building on The Terrace, it was less frequented than the room on the ground floor of the council's former Civic Square premises.

While there was currently no plan to have a full-time dedicated parents' room, council officers were more than happy to meet with Fitzsimons, he said.