COMMENT: By Georgina Campbell

Wellington's mayor is known for being late to the party but his timing is becoming increasingly problematic.

Last week the Herald revealed Mayor Andy Foster was on a $30,000 leadership course at a luxury five-star resort in Queenstown paid for from the ratepayers' purse.

Foster has faced criticism for his lack of leadership over Wellington's water woes, so by attending a leadership course he is showing a willingness to learn and improve.


His leadership skills will be put to the test this week with the first case of Covid-19 confirmed in Wellington and music festival Homegrown postponed.

Some have welcomed the mayor getting help with his leadership, considering his current track record.

But the fact the course Foster attended was hosted at the prestigious Millbrook Resort at a cost of tens of thousands of dollars to ratepayers has rightfully raised eyebrows.

On top of that pretty price tag there's the timing of the course.

The council's draft annual plan is being finalised and many councillors had no idea the mayor wouldn't be present for those deliberations last week.

The annual plan is like the city's budget and it's Foster's first one as mayor, which presents an opportunity for him to stamp his election agenda on the year ahead.

But an annual plan workshop with councillors isn't the only thing Foster has missed recently.

On Friday, Hutt City Mayor Campbell Barry hosted a meeting between the region's mayors and chief executives over the state of water infrastructure.


It was the first opportunity to have all the mayors in the same room and discuss a regional approach to water issues.

But Foster was still in Queenstown.

The weekend before last presented an opportunity for Foster to escape the narrative of the city's ageing water pipes with the Pride Parade held on Saturday and the Newtown Festival on Sunday.

Foster was scheduled to speak at the launch of the Pride Parade alongside the likes of Wellington Central MP and Finance Minister Grant Robertson.

But Foster was nowhere to be seen and at the last minute councillor Nicola Young had to speak in his place.

A council spokesman said other diary engagements meant the mayor was unfortunately unable to attend the launch.

"But he did attend the Parade and walked in it with Council staff, as he has done in the past."

Newtown Festival is arguably one of Wellington's biggest and most loved events.

Even Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was snapped among the crowds.

But Foster didn't attend.

A council spokesman said Foster was out of town on the day and had sent his apologies.

It turns out he was in Queenstown.

The spokesman said the mayor has attended the Newtown Festival on many occasions and several city councillors went to the event this year.

But it is worth pointing out that Foster's previous attendance was as a councillor, not as mayor.

There's a feeling of growing frustration among Foster's councillors because it's not clear what the mayor's priorities are, or even where he actually is.

Consider Foster's election honeymoon period as over.