Andy Foster is bringing back pomp and circumstance to Wellington City Council meetings with the clink of mayoral chains.

Former mayor Justin Lester wasn't such a fan of donning the chains, the original dating back as far as the turn of the 20th century, but Foster has confirmed he'll be wearing them at every full council meeting.

"It's part of the tradition of council, I'm a fan of heritage.

"I think there are some people who said that something was sacrificed in the dignity of the office by not including the chains. I'm not going to wear the robes though", Foster said.


He made the comments in the morning tea break of the council's first proper meeting around the table today since the city's cliffhanger election.

Tingle, tinkle, jingle

The senior democracy adviser sitting to the left of Foster confirmed he threw on a gown at the last minute in line with the new mayor's style.

But it appears Kevin Lavery is having none of it when it comes to the chief executive's regalia.

"There is actually another set of robes and a flash looking hat but Kevin has declined so far, we ought to find that one," Foster joked.

Maybe while he's at it Foster could dig out the mayor's official hat too.

Even the silver-gilt mace, the gift in 1953 of the Borough of Harrogate, had been freshly polished.

The mayoral chain was presented to the city in 1901. The central medallion shows the city's arms in enamel with a sword and mace, and is embellished with jewels. Various additional links have been added to since.


Foster was careful to place a hand over the chains each time he stood, to hold them in place, but his movements were still marked with a gentle jingle amplified by his microphone.

New chief executive appointed

Whether the council's new chief executive is keen on official regalia remains to be seen, she's not giving media interviews until she formally takes up the position next year.

It was announced this afternoon that Barbara McKerrow, the council's current chief operating officer, will replace Lavery.

Prior to her role at Wellington City Council McKerrow was New Plymouth District Council's chief executive for nine years.

Barbara McKerrow will be the council's new chief executive. Photo / WCC.
Barbara McKerrow will be the council's new chief executive. Photo / WCC.

"Barbara knows our city, the local government sector, and knows our Council, its people, and the challenging but exciting work programme we are embarking on.

"She impressed us as being able to drive delivery of this programme and will be able to hit the ground running, not losing any momentum in the changeover", Foster said.

No such thing as a free lunch

Reports of Foster bringing back free lunches at council meetings caused quite the stir last week.

Considering lunch and morning tea has been provided at council meetings for at least the past year or so, the Herald decided to look into exactly what Foster was bringing back.

The best way to describe what has happened is that Foster has formalised the arrangement of these lunches which have been happening on an ad hoc basis.

The menu has not changed.

Council's morning tea. Photo / Georgina Campbell.
Council's morning tea. Photo / Georgina Campbell.

For morning tea there are chocolate biscuits, crackers, cheese and fruit. If the meeting is set to run through the lunch hour, there will be sandwiches and fruit.

It's hardly the elaborate buffet that goes on at some councils, the likes of which sparked a campaign to scrap them by now Hutt City mayor Campbell Barry.

Pay packets

It's a bit awkward when one of the first things you vote on as a city councillor is for your own pay rise.

The base salary for councillors has increased from $86,874 to $111,225.

The deputy mayor and Strategy and Policy Committee chair get more in their pay packet. Foster takes home $180,500.

The Remuneration Authority set the council's most recent pool of money for salaries at just over $1.5m. It's money that can't be refused with Foster describing the situation as a "luxury vote".

Councillor Malcolm Sparrow made a point of saying he thought the pay increase was too large.

Foster acknowledged it was a significant increase and encouraged councillors to go out into the community and earn it.

But he also noted to councillors the "joys of the job" being they had to pay their ACC levies both as an employee and an employer, they did not get superannuation or KiwiSaver and were taxed at 33 per cent.

"And then of course the redundancy provisions are spectacular."

At the end of the day, if councillors are really worried about how much they're earning they can always give the increase away to organisations or charities as they see fit. It's their money.

The maiden speeches

Councillor Jenny Condie's grandmother was elected to Palmerston North City Council in 1968. She was the second woman to be elected onto that council and the only one during that term.

Times have changed since then and Condie is now one of 11 women on Wellington City Council.

Condie campaigned on taking urgent action on climate change.

In her speech today she admitted to driving a SUV and said she understood the convenience of driving and that for many people it was a necessity.

But she said making the city more convenient for cars was a "race to the bottom" because it meant there was less space for people.

"What's the point of making it easier to drive to A to B if no one enjoys spending time in either place?"

Andy Foster says he'll be wearing the mayoral chains at every full council meeting. Photo / Georgina Campbell.
Andy Foster says he'll be wearing the mayoral chains at every full council meeting. Photo / Georgina Campbell.

Councillor Laurie Foon learnt her first lesson at the council at the beginning of her speech- remembering to turn the microphone on.

She touched on a commitment to a zero carbon future, the importance of hearing from and celebrating migrant communities, and the right to work for a fair living wage.

Foon ran over time in her speech and wanted an extra minute or so but Foster was running a tight ship.

"Ok, I'll drop the waste warrior bit because you'll hear a little bit about that in the future", Foon replied.

Councillor Rebecca Matthews painted a grim picture of the challenges renters are facing. She voiced aspirations for making the city more accessible and also talked of fair pay for workers.

She drew a few laughs from a tongue and cheek reference to Britain's now Prime Minister.

"If Boris Johnson with all his other interests and distractions could help deliver a fully living wage London Olympics, what can we achieve as a city?"

Councillor Teri O'Neill struggled through her speech with a raspy voice after coming down with a nasty cold.

She spoke about her school friends who permanently stayed in council housing and their struggle with black mould and respiratory illnesses- a preface for the challenges that remain ahead.

O'Neill paid special tribute to former councillor Peter Gilberd who she described as a mentor and she made a pledge to 'work her butt off'.

New councillor Sean Rush has taken a hammering in the media over his views on climate change. Photo / WCC.
New councillor Sean Rush has taken a hammering in the media over his views on climate change. Photo / WCC.

Along with O'Neill, Tamatha Paul is one of the younger faces around the council table.

"Representing young people is an area I'm obviously familiar with but I now broaden my scope of responsibility to all rangatahi in Pōneke", she told her colleagues.

She skilfully weaved her impressive grasp of Te Reo Māori through her speech, talking about the urgent need for action on climate change and continuing the city's bid to end sexual violence.

Councillor Sean Rush made a point of greeting "new friends in the press" in his speech, after taking a hammering in the media on his views around climate change.

He said the diversity around the council table was something you'd never get in a board room and he looked forward to working together in this context.

One thing is for sure, Rush has transport firmly on his agenda referencing at length the growth in the east with thousands of families relying on infrastructure built in 1931, otherwise known as the singular Mt Victoria tunnel.