We take a look back at some of the 'highlights' from the political career of Christchurch councillor Sue Wells. She's the woman who once said that her goal was to 'lead' the people of Christchurch....
Christchurch councillor Sue Wells has decided to stand for re-election in October. Clearly the attraction of another three years of six figure salaries was too much to resist. This time though she will be not standing beside fellow right winger Barry Corbett. He has decided to retire and bring to an end a desultory and mediocre council career.
But Wells will be hoping she can convince enough Spreydon ward voters into voting for her again. But, on her track record alone, she should be shown the door marked 'Exit'.
Given that Wells will be out to accentuate the positive we thought it only right that we should delve into the archives and bring forth some of the 'highlights' of her time as a Christchurch councillor.
Come with us, as we take a walk down memory lane....
THE HENDERSON AFFAIR!
It's 2008. When Mayor Sideshow Bob and his faithful right hand man Tony 'Tony' Marryatt decided that they would bail out dodgy property developer Dave 'Hendo' Henderson it was news to most councillors. They were only presented with details of the bailout on the day the deal was to be voted on.
But this no problem for Ms Wells. Possibly Sideshow Bob's most loyal supporter, she voted to give Henderson $15 million for five appalling and over-valued central city properties. It was deal that met with city-wide condemnation. Even Gerry Brownlee was aghast and wanted to know why the Christchurch City Council was acting as a personal bank for Henderson - ironically a long time critic of the Council.
But Sue Wells was unapologetic. She commented that the opponents of the Hendo deal 'just didn't understand what a very good deal it was'. She even went as far as to describe the critics (ie most of the city) as 'stupid'. Wells, it seems, has to bear the burden of being brighter than everyone else.
Henderson was inevitably bankrupted and $15 million of ratepayers money disappeared down a black hole. Strangely, Wells never refers to her 'very good deal' these days. Of course, reminding the good people of Christchurch that she was one of the councillors who voted to waste $15 million of their money isn't exactly a vote-winner. ..
ATTACKING COUNCIL TENANTS!
While she had no problems with lending a helping hand to a property developer, she didn't display the same kind of generosity toward people living in council flats. Despite the fact that they are home to some of Christchurch's most poor and vulnerable people, she still voted to put up the rents a massive 24 percent.
She later claimed that she had 'struggled ' over her decision, a claim that stretched credibility. Wells made her own personal attitudes toward the poor and dispossessed known when she made these observations about British society in 2011:
'When I visited your country a couple of years ago I came home horrified at what I’d seen. I was appalled at your hands-out culture, the level of your public subsidies for housing and transport and education for people eligible for it simply by spawning little urchins and refusing to create themselves a constructive future.'
The Council of Social Services took the Christchurch City Council to court and the High Court subsequently ruled out the increase as illegal.
Speaking of a 'hands-out culture'. ...
Despite receiving an annual salary of some $125,000 Wells has also, since 2005, been holding her hands out for an additional $38,000 for being a director of Christchurch City Holdings (CCHL).
It's estimated that CCHL work - basically attending meetings and reading a few papers - takes no more than 12-15 hours a month. Let's say fours a week. And for that four hours the financially bloated Sue Wells pockets approximately $700 a week.
Former MP and mayoral candidate Jim Anderton had plans to derail the CCHL gravy train but unfortunately lost the 2010 mayoral election to an earthquake and a orange safety jacket.
'It's not as if councillors are being asked to do extra duties. It is part of their day job that they are already being well paid for, he told The Press in 2010
Sue Wells fatuously claimed that her CCHL job was 'outside my duties as a councillor.' and refused to support Anderton's proposal. But she did happily vote in favour of Sideshow Bob 's proposal to cut funding to community groups.
Last year Councillor Len Livingstone (backed by Yani Johanson and Jimmy Chen) attempted to stop councillors getting directors' fees They lost the vote to Sideshow Bob's council groupies.
While, in theory, councillors are supposed to be rotated as CCHL directors Wells appears to have become a permanent fixture - presumably it is a reward for her unswerving loyalty to Sideshow Bob.
2011. Despite being told in no uncertain terms by the good people of Christchurch that it was unacceptable that they should pay for her travel to a five day wine conference in Germany, Sue Wells still went.
She claimed that attending the conference was a 'good use of ratepayers money' because its an 'opportunity to get across the message that Christchurch is open for business.'
Wells also claimed that the wine conference would be 'full on'. 'It's a lot harder than it seems,' she told the Christchurch Mail.
A check of the conference website revealed just how hard it was going to be:
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.
It was also no doubt hard work 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.
This issue kind of sneaked under the mainstream media radar but is worth recalling because it illustrates how Sue Wells will say one thing and then does exactly the opposite.
In 2009 an independent commissioner recommended that the new business area proposed for the old Orion site in St Albans be limited to 3500 sqm and no single tenancy to be over 450 sqm.
The Christchurch City Council adopted the recommendations in October and so honoured an understanding it had with the local St Albans community. But this was all to change when property developer Wakefield Mews Ltd appealed the decision.
The Council, without bothering to consult the local St Albans community, made a deal with Wakefield Mews allowing it to create a 5000 sqm business zone and with a supermarket that was to be nearly twice the size as the one recommended by the independent commissioner.
The St Albans Residents Association described the decision as 'a slap in the face for a community who worked together many years to ensure that any development at the site was in keeping with the nature of the neighbourhood.'
It was none other than Sue Wells who chaired the council's district plan appeals committee which heard the Wakefield Mews appeal and approved the new deal.
Wells 'flexible' attitude toward community consultation was highlighted when she pompously informed the media that she had the right to cut off the community from the decision making process.
Said Wells: 'When we receive advice from council about the merits or otherwise of an appeal we have the right to exclude the public to protect legal privilege.'
Wells failed to explain what she meant by 'legal privilege' but let's just say its a lot like the 'business confidentiality' excuse that Sideshow Bob has often employed to keep details of deals hidden from the public.
She also told porkies when she said that the opponents of Wakefield Mews had withdrawn their appeals and that the St Albans Residents Association had agreed to the final plan.
The true story was that opponents withdrew their appeals because they simply could no longer financially afford to continue the fight through the Environment Court.
On Sue Wells election website (which she shared with Barry Corbett) was this message:
Increased transparency, better ways to have your say, and good process in decision making.
So there you have it, five highlights from Sue Wells' time as a Christchurch councillor. There is, of course, a whole lot more. Like how she presented a shopping show for Canterbury Television on council time. And how she supported all of Tony Marryatt's exorbitant salary increases.
And, like her master Sideshow Bob, she has sat back and said nothing as the residents of the quake wrecked eastern suburbs have endured hardship after hardship. Like Sideshow her priority has always been to support the Key government rather than the people who pay her exorbitant and undeserved salary.