Councillor Sue Wells wants Christchurch ratepayers to pay for her trip to a wine conference in Germany. She should pay for it herself.

Many people are doing it hard in quake-devastated Christchurch which makes it all the more remarkable that Councillor Sue Wells thinks its entirely appropriate to have the under-pressure Christchurch ratepayer pay her bill to attend a wine conference in Europe.

Sue Wells, a loyal Sideshow Bob supporter, thinks this is more important than doing the actual job she gets paid a lot of money to do. If all goes to plan she's off to a five day wine conference in Mainz, Germany in October. The good people of Christchurch, whether they like it or not, will be paying her travel expenses which could be as much as $5000.

Wells is the outgoing president of something called the Great Wine Capital Network . She claims that attending the conference is 'good use of ratepayers money' because its an 'opportunity to get across the message that Christchurch is open for business.'

This is the kind of flannel we've come to expect from Wells. She was, after all, the councillor that said that spending $17 million on five properties owned by the now-bankrupted David Henderson was 'a very good deal'.

Wells is also one of the four councillors who, despite on salary of some $90,000, is also picking up an additional $35,000 a year for being a director of Christchurch City Holdings Ltd (CCHL).

It's estimated that CCHL work - basically attending meetings and reading a few papers - takes no more than 12-15 hours a month. which is about four hours a week. And for that four hours Sue Wells pockets an additional $670 a week.

Jim Anderton had plans to derail the CCHL gravy train and the double dipping but unfortunately he lost the mayoral election last year to an earthquake and a orange safety jacket.

What is all the more galling about double dipper Wells is that she is one of the councillors who has urged economic restraint on everyone else. She, for example, supported cuts to community funding - while defending Sideshow Bob blowing some $5 million on the naming rights to the Ellerslie Garden Show,

Wells says that the wine conference will be 'full on' . 'It's a lot harder than it seems,' she told the Christchurch Mail.

Yes, it'll be very hard work attending the Gala Dinner. The conference website informs us:

The curtain is set to rise for the grand “Best-of Gala” in the Ducal Palace in Mainz: sparkling wine reception with aperitifs in the vaulted hall, selected premium wines from Rheinhessen, an exclusive buffet menu including fine dessert specialities, prepared by the Favorite hotel star chef Tim Meierhans, and a varied evening programe provide the stimulating setting for the International Best of Wine Tourism Awards 2012.

I'm sure it'll also be very arduous attending the wine tasting:

As part of the International Wine Tasting, more than 100 different wines from Rheinhessen and all over the world will be offered for tasting and comparison; the tasting ticket also includes light snacks.

If Sue Wells wants to go on an overseas jaunt she should simply pay for it herself and stop pretending that its somehow beneficial for a city that has got bigger things to be concerned about than wine drinking.


  1. When we were fighting for the sanity of people living in the ( HUGE) noise impact area around ruapuna racetrack we invited Council out for an afternoon to hear for themselves what residents out there were having to try to live with , ( one of our councillors told us " if you don't put on a feed for them they won't come" so we did...) anyway, Sue Wells didn't come , obviously a 15 minute trip out to the south of ChCh was too hard, but a trip to germany to a frickin wine festival isn't !!!!

  2. I find it odd that the Christchurch ratepayers are footing this entire bill,
    where are the cash inputs from the other South Island wine growing areas that
    are represented under this umbrella group - namely Canterbury, Waipara,
    Marlborough, Central Otago and Nelson. (on top of their share of the $35,000
    annual membership fee of course!)

    Wells may have been President for a year but she has done us no favours
    a simple browse through the Great Wine Capitals website (
    reveals very little that points at Christchurch or Canterbury.

    There is a tourism impact report from 2010 in which we are not mentioned at all

    Many of the drop down menus on the site list only 8 members (not Christchurch/South Island)

    As this link ( indicates
    the other regions are reaping benefits: - why not contribute to the costs then?
    "As Marcus Pickens, General Manager, Wine Marlborough, commented, "South Island wines and tourism
    destinations are already marketed with great success overseas, but there are real benefits in working together
    across our regions to produce even better results."
    - why not contribute to the costs then?

    I also note at least two other council employees are tasked with working on Great Wine Capitals work:
    Elizabeth Wilson
    Great Wine Capitals – Christchurch/South Island Coordinator
    + 64 3 941 8775

    Samantha Sii
    Great Wine Capitals – Christchurch/South Island Administrator
    +64 3 353 6955

    at what further cost to Chch ratepayers and what input from the other SI regions?

    As reported by Stuff back in 2009 (
    France-to-join-wine-group) - The initial trip was another piece of Bob Parker's Too-good-to-miss-seek-
    approval-after-the-fact initiatives: "Parker and Deputy Mayor Norm Withers were unable to accept the last-
    minute invitation, so Parker chose Wells as she "speaks French and is used to working with the media".

    Parker said a council representative had to attend the meeting to accept membership of the network.

    "You can't pull down a major international opportunity like that and not turn up. That would be incredibly
    short-sighted," he said. "We couldn't not send someone over. For the cost of a return airfare, we are able to
    close a deal on a very significant economic opportunity for the South Island.

    "This is part of what a council does and you have to do it well. It is hardly exorbitant."

    The $35,000 annual fee for membership of the network will be shared among winegrowers and the
    Christchurch, Hurunui, Marlborough, Kaikoura and Central Otago councils."

    Looking at their "Best of Wine Tourism" PDF from Wells "Presidency"
    period( only one
    christchurch/canterbury winery (Old Glenmark vicarage) gets a mention, and no mention in that of any
    earthquakes in the area - low marks for honesty or transparency, but then she is in Bob's A team!
    I suspect the Presidency just goes to the city /area the AGM is held in (look for a German president next year),
    and the local council workers do all the graft while Sue take sthe perks.


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